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Interview: Scott Meleskie of Clark Street Mercantile
The humble start to a versatile lifestyle shop focused on Montreal's discerning creative community
by Mike Giles
on 07 August 2013
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Opening just over a month ago, Clark Street Mercantile is a modest boutique in Montreal aimed at the discerning gentleman. Clothing, footwear, apothecary, pens and paper, magazines, accessories, artwork, bags, blankets, tonic and grenadine, razors—the inventory is a panoply of products from brands that either have a respected history, or are in the process of writing one. The quality of goods is always tried and tested, with the focus on sourcing items that maintain a high level of craftsmanship and have been built to last. We caught up with owner of Clark Street Mercantile, Scott Meleskie, to learn more about his inspiration for the shop.

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What is the concept behind the store?

With a past life in the blogosphere, I've always wanted to have a shop or space to showcase the products we were blogging about. Because we tended to write about limited edition or hard-to-find products, I thought it would very interesting to have a space where people could come see the physical products. I've always been a hands-on guy, and I think we've lost that experience you get when you hold the products in your hand —you smell the leather, feel the fabric, see it in your hands. Everything is online now, and while it gives us all a lot more options when it comes to what we can purchase, we give up a lot on the flipside.

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With the current economic climate, what led you to open up now?

I had previously spent years in the advertising world, working at agencies and was getting sick of the daily grind. I kept seeing all these motivational videos about following your dreams, asking yourself what would you do if money wasn't a factor. I mean, it would be all over our social media feeds—we'd all be reposting it, believing it, yet most of us were in jobs we hated, not doing what we truly loved. Around that time, I was traveling for a month in China with my wife and we would just start talking about it. Long story short: We both came out of that trip with a new outlook on life. She was in a job she loved, she was making decent money and she really pushed me to take a leap of faith and just go for it. That's when the project was born.

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I "quit" my job on my return, though I was planning to do freelance work for a bit while I planned the shop concept. I still do a lot of video production, photography, motion design and overall content strategy—and I love it. Eventually, I wanted to combine the two—shop plus agency and studio. Just so happened that around Christmas last year, we stumbled on the perfect location to do both. I knew exactly what I wanted to do with the shop, but I hadn't planned on opening up right away—maybe after a few years or so of doing freelance, but everything just kind of fell into place and was too perfect to not jump on the opportunity. I just had to compress about a year's worth of work into a few months, that's all! In the end though, it was all worth it.

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Montreal is a known artists' haven, what made you think that a menswear boutique would work here?

For such a fashion-forward city, I felt that Montreal was really lacking good menswear shops that carried a variety of brands. It has gotten better over the last couple of years, but it's still slim pickings—especially in terms of selection. One of my main objectives was to bring new brands to Montreal. I didn't want to open another shop and carry stuff everyone else was carrying. That was important to me. The other thing was to focus on craftsmanship, heritage and the story behind the brand, because a lot of these brands are not carried elsewhere and they perhaps aren't as known to consumers here. So part of my job is to try to tell each of their stories. I purposely designed the shop a little like a gallery, giving each product enough room to breathe, so to speak. I didn't want to jam-pack the shop with product, I wanted people to be able to look, touch, feel, smell everything and not feel overwhelmed.

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So did that concept really resonate when designing of the store's layout and feel?

For sure, I also wanted the shop's aesthetic to reflect that seemingly old-school mindset of building things by hand, and building them to last. So pretty much everything in the shop is handmade by myself. Of course I had some help along the way. Some of the furniture in the shop is designed by an interior designer friend of mine, Caroline Gaudet, and it's all built by myself and my father, who came down from Edmonton for a couple weeks to help out. The branding, done by a great small ad agency in the Mile End called Deux Huit Huit, also draws inspiration from all this—not only in the design, but in the way the design is applied: Hand-stamped business cards and labels, hand-painted window signage. It all comes together.

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It's still early days, but where do you see the shop in five years?

I would love the shop to be the Reed Space of Montreal—by that I mean a space creative individuals, companies and artists can rent out and host events. Everything was designed to be moved around, so we can empty everything out and host many different types of events.

We're also in the process of designing our own clothing line, working with some small family-run factories in the USA, mainly using Japanese fabrics for our pieces. It's actually a pretty fun process. I'm collaborating with a buddy of mine from New York, Matt Gorton of CXXVI, Stalward LTD, and we're getting ready to launch our first small collection. I would love this to become an integral part of our offering. It's an amazing creative outlet—the design process, that is—and I'm trying to learn as much as I can about the production process.

Visit Clark Street Mercantile at 5200 Rue Clark Montréal, QC

Images courtesy of Scott Meleskie

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