The Block is exactly where it has been for years – on the corner of Homer and Cordova. I had the chance to catch up with owner Jennifer MacKay where she shared with me her secret to staying in business for as long as she has.
Adele Tetangco: The Block has been around for a long time. How long exactly? What’s your secret?
Jennifer MacKay: The Block turned 14-years-old April 1st! So crazy, the time has gone so fast and I still love it.
I think the secret is partly what I just mentioned. I still love it! I enjoy doing the buying, but my favourite part is still working on the floor with our customers. I think if you are going to own a store, you need to work in it for it to be successful. We have also always tried to have a wide range of price points. We may have a great $30 t-shirt, but also an amazing pair of $600 boots, with a lot of other prices in between. I do not want to have a store where everything is $300 and up. If you want to stay in business, the bottom line is that you need customers to shop. Having options makes that happen.
AT: What are your top 3 selling lines for women?
JM: For women, it is difficult to pick three lines. That said, I would say, A.P.C., Filippa K, and Surface to Air are always very strong and we carry a lot from each of those collections. H. Fredriksson, Dace, Tucker, Ulla Johnson and Tocca are lines that may not be as large as the ones I previously mentioned, but have been selling very well the past few seasons.
AT: I love the shoe room in the back. What types of shoes can we expect for spring / summer?
JM: We built the shoe room for the 10th anniversary. Best thing we ever did. This season there is a real variety in styles. There are a lot of boots, shoes and sandals and a lot of colour too (corals, blues, pinks, oranges). There are a few wooden, stacked and platform heels which are great because they are different, but really comfortable. There’s a lot of suede and nubuck that customers have not been afraid to buy, which is great. Vancouver typically does not like suede, which is too bad, as it can look so rich and beautiful! One thing we are very excited about is the Loeffler Randall / Tucker collaboration. Men’s shoes are also really fun this season. Great colours, textures, leathers, but also a lot of canvas. Once again, a lot of price points. Many shoes are $100 and under…and plenty more!
AT: What’s something that men always look for when they shop at The Block?
JM: Lately we have been selling a lot of suits, but usually guys come in looking for a great shirt or a pair of jeans/pants. Often guys come in because they need something to wear that evening. Women do that too though!
AT: Is there a best selling accessory for women?
JM: Picking one women’s accessory is hard. J.W. Hulme bags, Hansel from Basel socks, anything from Wendy Nichol and Anna de Courcy jewelry is always a fave though. Broken English Airplane necklaces are also hard to keep in stock.
AT: Name one thing that you get every season that you always look forward to getting.
JM: I love getting a new pair of boots, oh and a bag.
AT: Is it hard buying for men + women at the same time? Do you prefer buying one over the other?
JM: I don’t find it too hard to buy for men and women at the same time. Buying for men is more difficult in general though. I prefer buying for women. Who can blame me? That’s the stuff I get to wear!
AT: What’s your favourite line that you carry in the store?
JM: I love Surface to Air. They make classy, special clothing. They do everything well, be it shoes, dresses, jeans, blouses, coats, etc. Surface to Air is also a very good company to work with. I love them. We carry the line for men and women.
AT: I always ask so people can get a feel for the type of store it is – what songs are playing on the store’s playlist?
JM: Our play list is all over the place. Sometimes we stream other people’s playlists, which is fun because you never know what you’re going to get. We try to keep it upbeat, no one wants to shop to slow, sad music. I often revert to old rock like Television or David Bowie. That always makes me happy.
350 West Cordova Street
Vancouver, BC V6B1E8