Jesse Girard is the embodiment of the creative, active entrepreneur. He embraces the fact that his ideas, his responsibilities, his challenges change every day. A key trait of any successful entrepreneur is the ability to embrace change. Born with expansive ideas and creative abilities, the entrepreneur must merge his or her vision with realistic constraints. How to translate ideas to conform to reality is a constant struggle. Every new venture, every new day is a new beginning. As the owner of three successful and distinct ventures –(The Hoxton, Parts & Labour, and Dog & Bear), Jesse is always looking for the next big thing, the next project, the next inspiration, deriving inspiration from Ezra Pound, who wrote, “the artist is always beginning.”
Jesse learned to manage change from a young age. He was born to artistic parents in a cabin on the lakes of Thunder Bay, but left with his parents shortly after his first birthday. From there, he trekked across Canada, living in Saskatchewan, Vancouver Island, Vancouver, Calgary, Edmonton, Kingston, Montreal, and Toronto. He went to school at McGill, but during his studies he spent a weekend in Toronto and never went back. He then enrolled at Ryerson, but quickly left to wait tables and bartend. It was then, through a restaurant colleague, Jesse met his eventual business partner, Richard Lambert.
Together, Jesse and Richard decided to save up some money to feed their entrepreneurial desires. But where to start? Shortly after some kids in Kensington Market asked them to buy vintage clothing, they took off. First, they found connections to vintage clothing throughout the city, and then they travelled to England to look for customers. Wholesaling led to online success, which led to a move back to Toronto rent out a space on Queen West.
At the time, the Queen West neighbourhood was still empty and unattractive. Their desired location (1100 Queen Street West) was filled with old, used restaurant equipment. They took over the space in order to open a vintage clothing store, called 69 Vintage. When the space next door became available, they opened a new club, called The Social.
But true to their nature, eventually they welcomed a change. A new project, a new experience was calling and Jesse and Richard decided to expand their palette. They sold 69 Vintage and then, in 2010, they opened Parts & Labour in Parkdale. The restaurant was designed as a place to eat well and listen to live music in their underground garage. In 2011, they took over the space at 69 Bathurst Street to open The Hoxton, a club and entertainment venue that invigorated the Toronto club scene. Finally, after seven years with The Social, Jesse and Richard decided to completely revamp the space, and in 2012, they re-opened as the Dog & Bear, a relaxed, homey pub more fit for the newly gentrified Queen West neighbourhood.
The establishments cover all avenues of entertainment. Parts & Labour has quickly become one of the most popular restaurants in the city with great, distinctive food in a cool space and an added emphasis on little things, such as lighting and design, care of Castor Multidisciplinary Design. P&L has recently added a catering arm to their business, with the same focus on exceptional food.
The Hoxton serves as an incredible event space. Since it first opened as a night club, The Hoxton has been packed, working with Embrace Productions to bring in some of the top DJs in the world. The Hoxton keeps its reputation as a top electronic music venue by having one of the best lighting and sound systems in the city, while also offering an optimal space for corporate events. In complete contrast, the most recent addition to the team, the Dog & Bear was designed to be a place to relax and hang out in a laid-back atmosphere.
Most recently, Jesse and Richard have incorporated The Social Group, which takes its name from the original Social night club. Despite their innate desire to move forward and shake things up, Jesse and Richard have decided to pause and let their three establishments grow. Through their successes, they have learned that in order to be prosperous, they had to build something that they thought was great and find a way to inspire people to come through the front door.
Although their ideas have changed a lot along the way, Jesse Girard and Richard Lambert are still living the entrepreneurial dream. Never satisfied with sitting still, they are always looking for the next thing. Next up, The Social Group will be focusing on summer festivals with its Hoxton partners, Embrace Productions.
WORDS: BRIAN SWEIGMAN
PHOTOS: ALEX BROWNE
HAIR & MUA: MICHELLE SILVERSTEIN, EMILY O’QUINN, SARA FRATIA
NINA MULLER, NATALIE SHEMUEL & MICHAEL FRESH
STYLIST: DEAN L.G. ELLIS
CLOTHING BY: GOTSTYLE, KINGPIN CHIC, CABARET VINTAGE & FREDA’S
MODELS: ANDREA KELLY, HAYLEY MILES, JESSE GIRARD, JOSE SILVA, LILY, MEG SETHI, NICKY MARKS & TYNOMI BANKS
LOCATION: THE HOXTON