Why Roots is the venue of choice for so many special events

By Robert Sarner, The Source, Nov. 2006

When Russell Smith and Peter Coish, the principals behind the new Canadian web site, decided to launch their online men’s lifestyle magazine this month, they chose the Roots flagship store in Toronto as the venue for the evening.

When writer Noah Richler and McClelland & Stewart, the publisher of his recent book on Canadian literature, decided to launch it in Toronto in September, they held the event at the Roots Rosedale store.

When CTV wanted a temporary home for eTalk where host Ben Mulroney could tape interviews for the popular entertainment news show during the recent Toronto Film Festival, CTV contacted Roots to use the flagship store.

When Matthew Teitelbaum, CEO of the Art Gallery of Ontario, was looking to have an exclusive AGO fundraiser involving 35 people last summer, the indoor and outdoor facilities of the Roots Head Office proved the perfect setting for the evening.

When Nikki Byrne, Campaigns Manager at the Rethink Breast Cancer charity, wanted to launch their 2006 campaign, she and her team chose the Bloor St. store for an evening last spring, for the third year in a row.

When writer and acclaimed health practitioner Xiaolan Zhao and her publisher Random House planned an evening to celebrate the publication of her book Reflections of the Moon on Water last January, they held it at Roots.

The list goes on, with good reason. Roots is much more than a retail business. With its longtime involvement in the arts, entertainment, amateur sports and countless good causes, Roots goes way beyond being simply a purveyor of fine leather goods and stylish apparel. For as long as anyone can remember, Roots has supported people doing things worthy of recognition. It’s part of the Roots ethos.

“We’ve always believed in being active in the community in different ways,” says Roots Co-Founder Michael Budman. “Part of that is supporting creative people who are doing interesting things. We like to pay tribute to them by hosting a special event in honour of their recent achievements or an important cause. We feel fortunate to have the opportunity and ability to use Roots as a venue to bring good people together for the right reasons and to help make things happen.”

Already in its earliest days in 1973, Roots was involved in different creative pursuits and connected with personalities from the world of arts and entertainment. The first store in Toronto seemed at times like a hub for future stars including actors/comedians Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Bill Murray and John Candy who were frequent visitors and often lent a hand attending to customers.

Ever since, Roots has attracted and supported scores of performers, directors, musicians, athletes, and environmentalists, many of whom have become close personal friends of Roots. Many have been the focus of an evening in their honour at Roots.

Hosting special events has multiple benefits. It generates a lot of attention for people, projects and causes that Roots feels deserve the spotlight. It brings together an interesting group of people, creating a sense of community with Roots as the common ground. In so doing, it’s not exactly been bad for the business either. Invariably, these events, and the media attention they attract, add considerable luster to the brand, further enhancing the perception of Roots.

Few businesses in Canada rival Roots when it comes to regularly staging original and engaging events that attract a good crowd and excellent press. Roots may make it look easy but it’s not. Putting on a successful evening is all about getting the big and small details right.

There’s a lot more to it than most people realize. Raymond Perkins should know. As the Director of Public Relations and Special Events, he’s been organizing all kinds of special events at Roots for the past 20 years. “If Roots has a reputation for
throwing great events, it’s because we first try to make sure that the focus of each event has a connection to the Roots ethic,” says Raymond. “Whether it’s the launch of a new book or movie or in support of a certain cause, it’s important that it be congruent with Roots values. Second, it’s essential to have the appropriate mix of guests with people from different walks of life who share a common interest, who have a connection to and care about the event, not people who just go to any event.”

Other components help determine the fate of an evening. “There’s no real mystery to the winning recipe,” adds Raymond. “In addition to the right people and right theme,
you need appropriate food and drink that are simple but the best; lighting that creates ambience, good music that people can hear without inhibiting conversation. Also vital to the mix is to surprise the guests with a great gift, a celebrity, or an idea or thought that stimulates and makes an ordinary event extraordinary. You also need a team of people you can count on to make everything seem effortless.”

Last week’s event for xyyz is the latest case in point. All the necessary ingredients were in evidence – good food, good music (not too loud), good lighting, a good mix of guests, and money being raised for a good cause. It was no ordinary reception, in part thanks to the slew of sponsors who wanted to make the scene and to be associated with Roots and They ranged from Pfaff Porsche, which parked a fleet of Porches in front of the store, to Johnnie Walker, which installed a special drink station with several attractive hostesses serving JW concoctions and Sony, which had half a dozen of its latest laptop computers on display connected online for people to consult In addition CBC’s pop culture specialist Jian Ghomeshi did a masterful job as emcee for the evening, which included a raffle benefiting prostate cancer research.

“Having the xyyz evening at Roots seemed a natural match,” says Russell Smith,
Executive Editor of (and a columnist for the Globe and Mail). “From the beginning, Roots has been very supportive of us and our vision of what modern guys in Toronto want and need. Roots seems to share our vision of where media is going. We’re a site for ordinary guys who live busy lives and who want to be more sophisticated. We think a soft, luxurious leather briefcase or travel bag from Roots pretty much represents that personality type. We were pleased to be able to hold a party in such a glamorous space like Roots on Bloor.”

Regardless of the specific theme of the evening, the great thing about these special events is that they are a win-win for everyone involved. Let the party continue.

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