By John De Genova
It’s a warm autumn day, sun ablaze, temperature north of 24 when I enter Top of the World (TOTW), the tastefully designed, well-presented skateboard and snowboard shop at 581 Bank Street. The store, taking over the old sewing and yarn shop, is updated with black tin ceilings, copper lights, a wall of boards and well-displayed racks of clothing, watches, socks, shoes, bags, knapsacks, sunglasses, hats and more.
I am met by co-proprietors Corey Hackett and Eric Dionne. They are both long-time boarders and former employees of the original store on Rideau street, which first opened in 1993 as a tribute to The Grateful Dead before becoming a board shop. In 2011, they finalized a deal to buy the store and decided to move it to the Glebe, opening the new location this past June 1st after a month of renovations.
Hackett, who has a background in graphic and web design as well as marketing, crafted the clean, professional website (topoftheworld.com) which replicates in real-time the products on the floor. Whether an item is sold on the website or in store, the website automatically updates the current stock of products. Hackett and Dionne also put tremendous effort into making the store welcoming, with cool, funky music and tastefully designed decor and display materials. The overall effect is professional and friendly to both youth and adults.
“Top of the World sells fun,” Hackett cheerfully informs. “We won’t sell you anything you don’t want or need. You can come in, sit down, look around, ask questions. This is a place to meet and share ideas. If the product isn’t right, the customer can let us know. We will try to get a new item in that meets their needs.”
Hackett explains that it was difficult at first to contemplate a move from Rideau Street, where he and Dionne had worked since the mid ’90s, but after years of LRT construction, lack of parking and accessibility issues, they knew it was time to go. They picked Bank Street because like Rideau, it is a commercial street. Accessibility from the Queensway is excellent, there is plenty of parking in the area, and the street is safe and clean – all good attributes for a destination store that caters to clients of all ages. Needless to say, Hackett and Dionne love the Glebe and are thrilled with its community feel and neighbourly businesses.
“TOTW stocks high-quality gear you won’t find in box stores or malls,” says Hackett. They offer not only name brands but also their own brand of boards and those of other Ottawa firms. The clothing, shoes and accessories are not just for boarding either – brands like Brixton, Dickies, Patagonia and Nixon appeal to non-boarders as well.
As the winter season approaches, the stock will migrate from skateboarding to snowboarding. However TOTW is in the process of building a skateboard ramp at the back of the store so enthusiasts can skate at the store all year round. TOTW is also adding women’s and children’s clothing to their offerings.
Hackett and Dionne see their customers as friends, people with whom they hope to create a lifetime relationship. Some loyal customers include Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who was in a few weeks ago to pick up helmets for his family, and snowboarder Tobias Lütke, co-founder of Shopify.
“Some customers have been shopping with us for twenty years,” Hackett says, “and many are now bringing in their own kids to shop here.”
As Hackett finishes his point, a long-time customer walks in, looking for a rare skateboard accessory for his son. Within minutes, Dionne is on the phone with a supplier, finding and ordering the product. It is a marvellous example of why this company has been on “Top of the World” for 26 years as a premier skateboard and snowboard shop.
John De Genova is a poet and retired public servant with a penchant for small business.