January 15, 2015

Behind the Deal:
Oliver & Bonacini Buys The Carlu

Andrew Oliver has been coveting The Carlu for years. So Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants' president was in fine spirits when Bisnow caught up with him to ask about his company's acquisition of the iconic College Park event space that once played host to Duke Ellington and Frank Sinatra.

“It's a massive deal,” says Andrew, noting that The Carlu—a lovely specimen of Art Moderne architecture that's designated as a National Historic Site of Canada—is a perfect complement to O&B's other historic event spaces, particularly Arcadian Court at Hudson's Bay Queen Street flagship. “Now we have two large-scale venues where we can have clients. That's the big draw for us.” The deal was made official late Friday, Andrew tells us. “We had to postpone the celebration until the wee hours. But it was well worth it.” (While he won't dish on how much O&B paid, Andrew says “both sides ended up winning.”)  

Dating to the 1930s, and originally known as Eaton's Seventh Floor, The Carlu was painstakingly restored in an effort led by Mark Robert and outgoing manager/venue co-owner Jeffry Roick, who calls The Carlu the "gem" of the city's event scene. “We have a huge responsibility to do justice to what The Carlu is and what it has been to Toronto,” Andrew says. O&B first approached the venue's ownership group five years ago seeking a partnership, though things didn't work out. Andrew got back in touch a year ago, this time seeing if they wanted to sell. “And the rest is history.”

O&B, which operates 12 Ontario restaurants—including Canoe, Auberge du Pommier and Jump—has been making a serious push into the events sector. In 2009 it acquired and renovated The Arcadian (shown above); it's opened event spaces at TIFF Bell Lightbox (Malaparte); Windermere House in Muskoka; Westin Trillium House in Collingwood; the Toronto Region Board of Trade; and, most recently, Trump tower. O&B is also building new venues in Calgary and Montreal. “We want to offer more spaces to our clients so we can be a one-stop shop,” Andrew explains.

Designed by French architect Jacques Carlu, The Carlu—with 47,500 SF of space and capacity for 1,500—is in “peak condition” and “move-in ready” thanks to the care taken by its erstwhile owners. That said, the kitchen will need to be “enhanced” and turned into a full-fledged catering facility that meets O&B's exacting requirements. As for rumours the buyers plan on adding a restaurant at The Carlu? “We're not,” Andrew stresses. “And we're not changing the look of the space. We love it for what it is—that's why we want to be there.”

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Target's Leaving Canada

Following a rocky launch in Canada and a disappointing holiday season north of the border, Target Corp this morning announced it will be ceasing operation of its 133 Canadian stores and has filed for creditor protection. “We were unable to find a realistic scenario that would get Target Canada to profitability until at least 2021,” said Target chairman Brian Cornell, pictured above at right during his first week on the job last August with Target Canada president Mark Schindele at the Cloverdale Mall location.

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Despite Target Canada's team having “worked tirelessly to improve the fundamentals, fix operations and build a deeper relationship with guests,” Brian said the company did not end up seeing the “required step-change in our holiday performance.” With more than 17,000 employees in Canada, Target said cash costs to discontinue its Canadian operations will be between $500M and $600M, but it expects the decision to leave Canada will increase earnings in 2015 and beyond. Brian said the plan now is to focus on “driving growth and building further momentum in our US business.” 

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Canada Goose Gets Another GTA Factory

Parka purveyor Canada Goose has acquired the 45k SF factory of Grand Harbour Clothing, one of its production contractors. The company will transform the facility at 33 Commander Blvd in Scarborough into a “world-class manufacturing campus” with new technologies and processes aimed at increasing efficiency by 25%. This is the second Toronto production facility owned by Canada Goose. “I'm proud to be leading the charge in rebuilding apparel manufacturing infrastructure,” president/CEO Dani Reiss said, noting the “growing demand" for Canada Goose products worldwide.

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In October, Canada Goose opened its global HQ in Toronto, which includes a new 96k SF factory that is intended to double the company's previous production capacity. (Dani is shown at the facility's grand opening with federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver and Eglinton-Lawrence MPP Mike Colle.) The 70 employees working at the Grand Harbour Clothing factory, which has produced Canada Goose outerwear, will stay on in the transition, with ex-owner James Tang overseeing operations as plant director.

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How Bauer Hockey Plans to Own the Moment

In a bid to attract more puck-heads to Canada's beloved winter pastime, hockey equipment manufacturer Bauer Hockey plans to install indoor ice rinks at many of its North American stores. Bauer, a subsidiary of US-based Performance Sports Group Ltd, will launch the first “Own The Moment” location later this year in the Boston and Minneapolis areas, with six to eight more coming in “key hockey markets” across Canada and the US in coming years. It'll let customers “try before you buy,” and allow staff to more effectively (and interactively) demonstrate product features. (Will the rinks include in-store penalty boxes?)

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Are you surprised Target is upping stakes? Is this a big loss for the Canadian retail market? ryan.starr@bisnow.com