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BIG COOL 3RD PLACE: Classic Creations | Toronto, Ontario

Labor of Love

Family enlists client — a world-renowned interior designer — to translate their brand into a physical space.

OWNERS: Ami, Shari, Jordan and Daniel Freiberg | URL: classiccreations.com | FOUNDED: 1984 | OPENED FEATURED LOCATION: 2018 | EMPLOYEES: 15 full-time, 2 part-time | AREA: 5,000 square feet (3,000 square-foot showroom) | SHOWCASES: Unique Store Fixtures | DESIGN FIRM: Cecconi Simone | TOP BRANDS: Classic Creations (in-house brand), Chanel, Montblanc, Baume & Mercier, Nomos | ONLINE PRESENCE: 8,978 Facebook likes; 15,700 Instagram followers, 4.9 stars on Google with 278 reviews


THE STORE doesn’t match the jewelry.” If owners Ami, Shari, Sam, Jordan and Daniel Freiberg heard these words once, they heard them a thousand times over Classic Creations’ first 34 years in business.

Since Ami, his wife, Shari, and his brother Sam opened Classic Creations in 1984, it had always resided in the same plaza, moving once in 2001 but staying essentially the same. (Ami and Shari’s sons, Jordan and Daniel, grew up in the business and are now part of the ownership team.)

“We had too much merchandise and everything shoved together,” admits Jordan. “I’m sure a lot of people who knew our reputation thought we would have a Bloor Street location [which is similar to Fifth Avenue in New York].” Instead, he says, customers were dismayed at the overcrowded, old-looking store.

Founders Ami and Sam Freiberg

But that all changed last October, when Classic Creations moved into a 5,000 square-foot space just off one of the main highways in Toronto. It’s been a successful move, although it took two-and-a-half years to construct the store of the Freibergs’ dreams.

For years, the family kept a collective eye out for the perfect location, when suddenly, good fortune struck. The City of Toronto decided to convert a subway parking lot into retail shops — something it had never tried before. The Freibergs saw the listing and jumped at the opportunity.

“It’s central, it’s off the highway, has plenty of parking, and is very accessible, whether you’re driving or taking public transit. And it’s across the highway from one of the largest malls in Canada,” Jordan says.

The location was a slam dunk, and the family’s good fortune continued when one of the store’s best clients — a world-renowned interior designer named Anna Simone — heard that the store was moving locations and asked why she was not being considered as its designer. “We thought it was a small project for her and we could never afford her,” says Jordan. “She does things all over the world — she does retail, she does condos. She knows our family, knows our merchandise and understands who we are.”

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The first thing that Simone told the Freibergs was that she was going to design a store that truly communicated its brand through the physical space. “She said that walking into our store without knowing us, you would never get who we are. She had only become a client based on a recommendation, but she said that honestly, if she hadn’t had that recommendation, she probably wouldn’t have come back,” says Jordan.

Simone’s vision was to incorporate a European flair while translating the store’s colors of black, gold and white into a modern space. Since the store sells materials found in nature, Simone wanted the store itself to be taken from nature as well.

Black wooden fixtures with gold trim pop against a luxurious backdrop of swirling marble walls and floors.

Clients are awestruck by the end result, says Jordan. “They’re in shock; they’re talking about how beautiful it is, how modern it is compared to our old location.”

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But it didn’t happen overnight. Perhaps Simone’s biggest job was navigating the family dynamic of ownership. “Unfortunately, because you have my mom, my brother, my dad, myself, we all had ideas, and sometimes it took longer than anticipated because we changed a lot of things,” says Jordan. “But in the end, she led the ship and showed us what she thought we should be, and we agreed. It may not be exactly what I pictured initially, but she put all of our craziness together and made it work.”

The primary debate between the Freibergs involved whether to include branded shop-in-shops in the store design or not; half the family wanted them, and half didn’t. Finally, they decided not to include shop-in-shops, but rather to feature all brands within the Classic Creations décor.

“We’re not a department store,” explains Jordan. “If a brand pulls out, you have a hole in your space. The Classic Creations brand has always been about us: it’s our jewelry, it’s our family, it’s our staff.”

The Freibergs also mulled over the cost of the project, and considered nixing the marble walls to save money. But then they saw the renderings without the marble, and it didn’t look as good. “We decided we would be here for a long time, and we put it back. We wanted people to have their jaws drop when they walk in,” Jordan says.

If the marble is spellbinding, so, too, are the showcases, which present product at various eye levels, including some that “float.” The idea, according to Simone, is to encourage customers to take their time, walk around and see all the different areas and product that the store has to offer. “At first, we were a little worried: are people really going to want to look down at jewelry? But the designer said, ‘Yes, your jewelry is so interesting, and you have to make people curious.’ And sure enough, people love the way it’s laid out,” Jordan says.

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At the end of the day, as Simone said, the jewelry has to be the focal point, and the Freibergs have always been proud to make most of the jewelry they sell on premises. Jordan explains, “I used to ask my dad why didn’t we carry this brand or that brand, and he would say, ‘Take a look at this piece compared to our piece. Here’s how much gold they use, here’s the diamonds, here’s what the piece should cost.’ His philosophy was always, ‘It’s not how you sell, it’s how you buy.’ If you buy right, you can sell it more affordably to your customers.”

As such, the Freibergs are able to control the quality of their jewelry — and Classic Creations distinguishes itself from the competition by having different jewelry that can’t be price-shopped.

The primary lesson learned throughout the process of building their dream store? “The store’s your store,” says Jordan. “Don’t let other people dictate who or what you are.”

Judges’ Comments

Benjamin Guttery: The social-media-worthy wall is an ingenious way to get content from their clients at the point of contact, now instead of later. Having a “lounge” from day one is also a smart way to have the customers spend time in the space doing other things than shopping. Lastly, the interior of this store feels like a museum gallery: sleek, modern, perfect for framing their custom work and fine brands in a luxurious way.

Elle Hill: The sleek interior is stunning. The atmosphere they create, the “family vibe” adds a homey touch to this very high-design interior!

Michael Roman: Sophisticated, sleek design. Having an Instagram wall in-store is a great idea.

Bob Phibbs: Loved the Champagne diamond giveaway idea and that customers had to come up to get it checked. Very smart.

Mark Tapper: This shop just looks rich! I love the use of the marble for not only the flooring, but on the walls as well. The gray veining is really dramatic and again just looks rich. I think it’s super-cool and fun that the team wear suits with sneakers, adding to the relaxed high-end vibe.

PHOTO GALLERY (17 IMAGES)

5 COOL THINGS ABOUT CLASSIC CREATIONS

1 Lovely lights. Jordan Freiberg had always wanted a chandelier in the store. But when he told store designer Anna Simone his idea, she said, “A chandelier is going to take attention away from the jewelry.” So instead, she designed two custom pieces that represent Classic Creations with conjoined Cs — and they also look like rings, which is what the store sells.

2 Suits and sneakers. Daniel Freiberg is a confessed “sneakerhead,” and he started wearing suits with sneakers at work. The look caught on, says his brother Jordan. “Clients recognize it and remember it. It’s defined who he is. And you know what? At the end of the day, it’s a fun occasion; people are getting engaged or coming in for happy things. You can’t be so serious. You don’t want to intimidate customers, especially given how our store looks.” That said, he does admit that “Dad hasn’t really caught on with it yet.”

3Instagram wall. The Freibergs decided that the store needed one feature wall where bridal clients could take pictures of their jewelry and send them to their friends or post to social media. It’s been popular so far, but Jordan says they plan to change the wall up eventually, adding different elements to represent each season of the year or in-store events.

4 Lounge for leisure. Classic Creations featured a store lounge before store lounges were cool. “Now it’s really trendy to have a lounge,” says Jordan, “But we do it because we’ve always been known for offering cappuccinos, espressos, desserts. People joke that we’re the most expensive café in town.” The Freibergs want clients to feel like family, he adds. But he jokes that at least one competitor may not appreciate the lounge: “We’re across from a Starbucks now; we joke that they might be upset because people always come for our coffee. If they start giving out jewelry for free, we might be in trouble!”

5 Designer handbags. In addition to jewelry, Classic Creations now offers designer handbags. It’s a strategic decision to compete with all types of luxury providers, says Jordan. “We want to be thought of for gifts. So if we can capture this category, why not?” He adds that it’s a category requested by customers in the past, and it makes sense for Classic Creations to carry handbags so clients don’t have to visit department stores. “We already have the relationships, we have profiles on our clients and we know what they like.”

Trace Shelton is the editor-in-chief of INSTORE magazine. He can be reached at [email protected].

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