Co-founders, Ethan Song and Hicham Ratnani, have been friends since they were children. Both earned degrees in engineering and took jobs as consultant in a big firm before making a pact to start their own company.
I had the opportunity to chat with Ethan last week and ask a few burning questions – like what inspired the name? I thought the answer would have something to do with the dogs in the logo. I was wrong.
“I used to live in Vancouver and I went to school at UBC. The Oak actually came from Oak Street. We wanted to make it sound friendly so we tried different combinations to see what might work and landed on Frank.”
When it first hit the market, Frank & Oak was an innovator, integrating design with technology. And, in the last couple years, the founders have taken their online concept to the street, opening eleven brick and mortar stores in Canada and the USA.
“Our community of customers was always a big part of the brand. We were hosting local events, so the decision to have permanent locations was an extension of that. It also speaks to our focus on personal service. It’s great to have boots on the ground.”
Frank & Oak launched in Vancouver with a pop up last year. It was great for exposure, but not the right space for a west coast flagship. The search for a new spot kept them in the area.
“Gastown aligns with the values and the spirit of our brand. Our customers tend to be creative people and we knew that this was their neighbourhood.”
The F&O man cares more about quality than chasing trends. He might work in technology, marketing or head a start-up. And for him, the shop offers community and camaraderie. Style advisors are on hand with advice, there’s an in-store barber, juice bar and a living room atmosphere. It’s the man cave reimagined.
“About 95% of our products are private label, with rest coming from unique partner brands like Red Wings and Baxter of California.”
They’ve even produced their own magazine.
“It’s about content. We always want to be investing our dollars in things that have value. It furthers the culture our brand, doing things that are counter-intuitive, and shows respect for a dying art form. News magazines might be disappearing, but there is opportunity to make them work for brands.”
If you’ve been in the Gastown shop, or on Instagram, there’s one piece of pop culture that’s sure to catch your eye. It’s pink. It’s neon. And it’s awesome. As I wrapped things up, I asked Ethan whether there was any significance to the ‘Stay Gold’ sign hung significantly on the shop’s rear wall.
“We like things to have meaning behind them, but don’t want to hit our customers in the face with it. It’s about being different and being comfortable with being different.”
I think Ponyboy would approve.