By Craig Patterson
When French luxury bakery and sweets maker Ladurée opened its first Canadian location in Vancouver in the spring of 2016, there were lineups for weeks along Robson Street. That prompted a second Vancouver location to open inside of Holt Renfrew in the spring of 2017. In December of 2017, Toronto’s first Ladurée also saw lineups when it opened at Yorkdale Shopping Centre. To mark Ladurée’s entry into the Toronto market, Ladurée’s President David Holder visited the Yorkdale location last week along with Canadian licensee partner Olesya Krakhmalyova, store designer Claudia Ravnbo, and other attendees including dignitaries such as the Consul General of France in Toronto, Marc Trouyet.
It was David Holder's first visit to Toronto, and we sat down with him to discuss Ladurée’s Canadian operations, including plans for the future. He says that we might expect to see more Ladurée locations in Canada, as well as a pastry bakery that will open in Vancouver this spring, followed by a Toronto bakery about a year later.
Vancouver was chosen for Ladurée’s first two Canadian locations, in part, because local licensee Olesya Krakhmalyova is a resident of Vancouver. With her knowledge of the city, and working in partnership with brokers Mario Negris and Martin Moriarty of CBRE in Vancouver, Ladurée selected popular Robson Street for its first store. Ladurée has "a new Canadian family," Mr. Holder said, and the company is now on a journey to educate itself on the rest of the country in order to determine where other locations could open.
[Below: Videos of Ms. Krakhmalyova introducing Mr. Holder]
The Toronto market is large and the Yorkdale salon is rather small, spanning not even 1,200 square feet on one level. Mr. Holder said that the Yorkdale location is something of a ‘teaser’ to the Toronto market, and that the company could look to opening something a bit larger closer to, or in the downtown core. When Ladurée opened its first location in New York City, for example, it was only about 700 square feet -- that was followed by a considerably larger Soho location measuring about 4,000 square feet.
Targeted locations could include the Bloor-Yorkville area, as well as something closer to the city’s thriving Financial District. Yorkville, he explained, features a European-like scale of low-rise commercial buildings with character — if Ladurée were to locate there, it might seek space with exterior patio seating for warmer weather. Yorkville is also known to be an affluent neighbourhood that is growing quickly, with luxury stores and condo towers being added with no end in sight.
If Ladurée were to locate in or near Toronto’s Financial District, it might take on a more ‘masculine’ look, according to Mr. Holder. Ladurée’s Yorkdale location includes liberal use of the colour pink, creating somewhat of a more feminine aesthetic. Mr. Holder pointed out that Ladurée is being open minded by opening locations that are unique, describing a future Mexico City location that will feature a restaurant, rooftop bar, and a 3-4 room boutique hotel.
Ladurée is also looking to expand its 'Ladurée Picnic' grab-and-go concept, and Toronto's Financial District could work for that as well, he said. Ladurée Picnic currently has one location in Paris, and London's core will be next, he noted.
While finding street-level space in Toronto’s Financial District could be a challenge to Ladurée, it has options nearby. The charming St. Lawrence Market neighbourhood is located directly to the east, and the Entertainment District is to the west. The stretch of Queen Street West near the TTC Osgoode station could also be an option, given its proximity to the Financial District as well as to the Toronto International Film Festival, CTV Studios, art galleries, museums, sports facilities and other attractions.
As part of the endeavour to grow its Canadian operations, Mr. Holder said that the company might look to Montreal to open a Ladurée salon. This could be done through a local partner that knows the area — he explained that Ladurée will be calculated and careful with its expansion in Canada, and that it’s not in a rush to open too many locations at once. He also said that the company doesn’t necessarily have a goal as to the number of locations that it might open in Canada — much of it will be based on opportunity.
Ladurée is expanding its offerings in Canada, made possible by opening a dedicated bakery space in Vancouver to provide both of Ladurée’s Vancouver locations with fresh baked pastries. The bakery will be off-site and outside of the downtown core, where real estate is a bit less constricted, not to mention not as pricey. Expected to open this spring, the Vancouver ‘pastry laboratory’ kitchen includes a seasoned pastry chef who is moving to Vancouver specifically for the job. Mr. Holder explained that, as Ladurée’s operations expand further in Toronto, a bakery in the area would become necessary as well — that is, if a larger location with an on-site kitchen isn’t secured in the city’s core.
Designer Claudia Ravnbo discussed her vision for Toronto’s first Ladurée, which was the first in the world to reflect a new design aesthetic with an interior inspired by the colonial style of the 18th century. The pastel pink tea room is decorated with a white marble sales counter that is accentuated with gold lattice details and gold Lattice is also present on the walls of the salon. A Classic crystal chandelier contrasts with contemporary madeleine lights hanging from the ceilings, as well as the geometric marble tile flooring and velvet-accented furniture. The store’s soaring ceilings are dramatic with plaster ceiling treatments.
[Video: Ms. Ravnbo describes the Yorkdale location's design, which is a first in the world for Ladurée]
Ladurée has a 500 square foot concession at Holt Renfrew in Vancouver, and it might not be the last in Canada, Mr. Holder noted. While there are no immediate plans for more Ladurée shop-in-stores, Mr. Holder said that he's open to opportunities as they might present.
Mr. Holder said that the Toronto Ladurée is already a hit, and that the Vancouver locations are both strong performers. It speaks to the success of the brand in the eyes of consumers, which includes a diverse demographic — Mr. Holder explained how Ladurée is looking to not only cater to the refined tastes of an established clientele, but also to attract a new, younger consumer that desires fine food in a refined environment. Ultimately, Ladurée's strategy is to cater to the tastes of local markets and as such, it will continue to educate itself on the Canadian market as it continues to expand.