Vancouver’s Herschel Supply opens its first North American store in Gastown

Backpack manufacturer focuses on home growth before opening other stores across Canada or the U.S.

Brothers Jamie (left) and Lyndon Cormack founded Herschel Supply Co., which has opened a flagship store in Gastown, its first North American retail location | Photo: Submitted

After opening more than 40 stores worldwide through third-party distributors, Vancouver-based backpack and accessories manufacturer Herschel Supply Co. has opened its first wholly-owned retail location close to home at 347 Water Street in Gastown.

The 5,000-square-foot store had a grand opening June 16 and is Herschel’s first store in North America, as well as the company’s largest store in the world. It has the largest available selection of the manufacturer’s popular backpacks and luggage, as well as accessories and apparel, previously only available in Canada through other retailers such as Hudson’s Bay.

Co-founder Lyndon Cormack gave Business in Vancouver a tour of the new store, only a few minutes away from Herschel’s worldwide headquarters in Railtown, and spoke about the advantages of the company’s first North American retail location.

“Gastown is an area in this city where tourists and locals unite,” Cormack said. “I think it caters to everybody, whether it’s a tourist who’s never heard of our brand or someone who’s a loyal fan.”

Searching for the right location in Vancouver took the company a long time, but eventually it found a space that fit its ambitions for a large, accessible store with a view.

We really wanted a location that went from street to waterfront,” Cormack said. “A lot of times [downtown locations] stop halfway and then you can’t see the mountains.”

The store has an open-concept design by Vancouver artist Omer Arbel that includes a panoramic view of the North Shore made possible by replacing the back windows with sliding doors. Although Herschel is likely to consider opening locations in other parts of the city, Cormack said the first store had to be in Gastown.

“Our first office was in Gastown; Water Street is our favorite street in the city. We’re more Water Street shoppers than Robson Street shoppers.”

Herschel is looking at possible locations in the city and North America to open further locations but hasn’t yet committed to anywhere except Vancouver. Cormack said the company will see how the first store performs before focusing on new locations, adding that the jump from being a manufacturer in Vancouver to a retailer has already been a learning experience.

“We are always looking at other [cities],” said Cormack. “A bunch of data pointed that [Vancouver] would be a great choice, and I think there’s no better place to start.

“The city probably has to loosen up regulations for people who are trying to do great things, but that’s OK. This is our home, I don’t think I would have had it any other way.”