By Craig Patterson
Upscale Toronto-based multi-brand leather goods and luggage retailer Betty Hemmings has rebranded and relocated its Yorkville operations to an impressive new store across from its former location on updated ‘Yorkville Lane’. Now called ‘B Hemmings & Co’, the retailer carries a range of exclusive brands with impressive histories of craftsmanship, some of which are only available at the store in Canada, in a retail space inspired by luxury train cars.
B Hemmings & Co was established in 1978 and has operated in the Yorkville area for the entire time, retailing a range of of business, travel and lifestyle essentials – luggage, briefcases, wallets and luxury handbags of singular quality by some of the world’s leading artisan brands. Some of the brands carried in the store are not available elsewhere in Canada and a couple are exclusive to the store in North America. B Hemmings & Co’s philosophy of “investment in quality” delivers long-term value is one of the table-stakes that has amassed a loyal following of on-the-go professionals.
As part of its 40th anniversary celebration this year, owners Michael and Alexandra Warwick explained that they wanted to rebrand/refresh the store’s retail operations by adding several new luxury lines in a new retail space that would better showcase the exclusivity of the product. This fall, B Hemmings & Co relocated to a retail space across from its former store in ‘Yorkville Lane’ at 162 Cumberland Street which is also being updated with new paving stones, lighting, and several new tenants including Bar Alo, ranked as Canada’s top restaurant.
Broker Samuel Wygodny of City Commercial Realty negotiated the B Hemmings & Co deal, and The Pearl Group is a partner in the Yorkville Lane project that has seen the walkway overhauled to create an updated pedestrian connection in the neighbourhood.
The new B Hemmings & Co is in a stunning retail space that was designed by Toronto-based dkstudio, which has worked with many luxury brands on their stores across Canada.
The design inspiration came from products carried in the store — dkstudio recognized that a high-end store carrying world-class brands such as Globe Trotter (which produces the Queen's luggage), Smythson of Bond Street (Royal Warrant holders since 1887) and Serapian (used by select world leaders) deserved a luxurious space to showcase its wares. Quiet luxury and elegance were a theme, contrasting to the heavily branded luxury goods that permeate today's market.
“A recurring theme of the brands is that they all represent a tradition of hand craftsmanship from what some would call a by-gone era. It was an era of travel by boat and train where the luggage was hand stitched and crafted as were the train and boat rooms and cabins, one would take to embark on a journey like the Orient Express,” according to dkstudio. The resultant design is one based on the concept of a luxury train car similar to what one would envision from the 1930’s but with a modern feel and warmth, that is used throughout the store, with each of the three rooms based on a different compartment of a classic train.
The central room of the new B Hemmings & Co features a vaulted ceiling, bronze trim, wood and leather that are reminiscent of the grand days of train travel on the Orient Express. Flowing arched ceilings are framed by riveted bronze trim plates. The central room houses B Hemmings & Co’s most iconic brand, Globe Trotter, which is only available in Canada at this store.
A central feature wall utilizes 480 pressed and molded corner pieces of the luggage, fitted on a sculpted 3-dimensional backdrop, a sculptural composition alluding to a stacked wall of luggage.
A common theme throughout the store is the arched train car roof and each room entrance features a curved portal highlighted with metal frames like compartments of a train. The store’s facade features train-inspired arches as well as the feel of a classic train station, with riveted steel girders that were re-invented with new materials.
Furniture in the store was also designed by dkstudio to coincide with the overall theme.
Several new brands have been added to the new B Hemmings & Co space. French luxury brand Lancel, which is making a comeback, is carried exclusively in Canada at the new store. Smythson of Bond Street is another exclusive-to-Canada brand, and the hand-made Moreau brand from Paris, with some bags priced at over $4,000 each, is only available in B Hemmings & Co in Canada.
Other brands carried in the new store include names such as Pineider (since 1774), Hartmann, Araldi, Bric’s, Ettinger (London), Troubadour, Swaine Adeney, Brigg, The Bridge, and Tumi. Many of the Tumi pieces are curated from Tumi’s premium collections and are generally not found in other stores carrying Tumi outside of some of the brand’s flagships, according to Mr. Warwick. B Hemmings & Co also has its own line of high-quality leather goods which Mr. Warwick explained feature the best leathers and craftsmanship available, sourcing tanneries used by some of the world’s top luxury brands.
B Hemmings & Co is located in Toronto’s Yorkville area, which is a high-end, high-density neighbourhood featuring a roster of luxury brands as well as residences, and the neighbourhood is growing quickly. B Hemmings & Co serves the local market as well as a clientele of shoppers from Toronto and even beyond. Given the rarity of some of the pieces carried at B Hemmings & Co, the retailer’s e-commerce site is a source for customers across the country as well as even globally.