Quebec hobby store to occupy two-storey location in Rideau Centre, opening slated for October

Concept art previews for the new store include sections for every niche, from Marvel's Avengers and Harry Potter to Manga and Pokemon. Photo provided

Imaginaire, a Quebec-based collectibles and hobby store, has chosen Ottawa’s Rideau Centre as its first location outside its home province.

The retailer will occupy 20,000 square feet bridging the third and fourth floors, next to Simons in the Rideau Centre, representing a $3-million investment. It plans to open its doors in October and expects to hire 50 to 60 employees.

Owner Anthony Doyon said the nation’s capital could be a prime location for Imaginaire since it gives the retailer the ability to access markets in both Ottawa and Gatineau.

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“We wanted to see how Ontario would respond to our brand and we found that Ottawa was good — so close to Quebec and French people — and Ontario customers so they can experience the products,” said Doyon. “So we make sure we’re on track before opening more stores.”

The CF Rideau Centre shouldn’t be a new environment for Imaginaire, since its six existing stores are in similar malls. Doyon said he is prepared to thrive in Ottawa since the market in Quebec City, which is predominantly government workers, is already familiar to the company.

While Imaginaire already has large online markets in Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver, Doyon said he anticipates the in-person store will bolster online sales.

“Our online store gets better once people come into the stores and know we’re a real business, see the experience we deliver in-store, so they have the confidence to shop online afterwards,” he said. “We want to increase sales over the internet by being in person.”

The retailer sells a wide selection of products in English and French, including sports cards, board games, trading cards, action figures, books, comics and other pop culture merchandise. Imaginaire is an authorized dealer of numismatic products by the Royal Canadian Mint.

Brian O’Hoski, general manager at the CF Rideau Centre, said he expects the store to be “wildly popular.”

“We really think it’s something Ottawa will enjoy,” said O’Hoski. “It’s hard to explain to someone who isn’t into (hobbies and collectibles), but they have a lot to offer. Customers will travel to see it.”

Cadillac Fairview and Imaginaire are familiar with each other since the hobby store occupies a store in the CF Promenades St-Bruno in Montreal. O’Hoski said Cadillac Fairview is happy to see Doyon enter the Rideau Centre with this “unique offering for Ottawa.”

“When we have a client looking to expand, we can make their life easier because we already have these assets,” O’Hoski said.

Ottawa seems to be a niche market for collectible retailers. Hobbiesville, a local hobby store, recently announced it will be opening a second store in Toronto thanks to its rapid growth. Stores outside the city are also seeing great success. 

Due to Ottawa’s location, hobby store owners see customers travel from Montreal, Toronto and Gatineau to shop.

Although Doyon’s stores already have locations in Quebec City, Sherbrooke, Levis, Trois-Rivieres, Montreal and Laval, Ottawa might have some unique opportunities, he said.

“We think since we’re not known in the region the first few weeks and months will be quiet, but we’re excited to see people at the grand opening,” said Doyon. “If it’s like the other stores, it will be more popular than we think.”

The new store will require escalators to be built to bring shoppers up to a showroom and will be a “big, long construction project,” said O’Hoski. “But everything is lining up well. It will truly be a place to gather, to play, and to have fun.”

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