Part of our ongoing series of interviews with Oliver Spencer customers and friends. Our Toronto store manager Jon McCann met up with Donnell Enns, the man at the helm of menswear store stalwart, Uncle Otis for a chat.
Uncle Otis has been running for over 25 years and still remains to be the best menswear store in Toronto (and arguably Canada). What does it mean to be a shopkeeper in this day and age compared to the early days and what motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
Thanks for the argument, that’s very kind.
Well, the early days were so different (when I took the reigns in 2000), no ecommerce, and hardly any digital influence like we have today on IG and blogs and whatnot. I’m an old school retailer where my bricks and mortar is key to the overall Uncle Otis experience. Where clients can come in and feel human with an honest and seasoned approach by staff while getting a good sense of the fit and fabric of the goods while enjoying the aura of the shop. Word of mouth advertising is so very important and we try to make that happen as much as possible.
Working with a collectively motivated team really inspires me to do better all the time. We’ve got a really tight crew right now that on the front end on the sales floor understands what it takes to give new and existing patrons that amazing experience, and then on the back end constantly refining yet evolving with our buys.
What is it about Oliver Spencer that you think resonates with your customer?
I think Oli truly embodies the meaning of presenting timeless pieces with a contemporary twist. He’s serious about the design aspect but likes to have fun with it and be whimsical at times. The textiles and patterns he chooses are always very interesting and non-generic and guys enjoy and appreciate that. They know they are investing in a piece that has a lifelong aesthetic.
How is Toronto right now? What is it you enjoy about living in the city?
Toronto is incredible right now, while going through some serious growing pains. I’m really loving all the fantastic food. Because Toronto is growing so immensely, the quality and competition are very high – hence almost too many great eating options!
Is there anything in your wardrobe that you couldn’t live without?
Jackets, lets go by season and sport. Winter; the robust charcoal quilted Loro Piana Canada Goose x Uncle Otis collab parka... Spring/ summer/ autumn; a one wash dark denim trucker jacket. Motorcycling; my black heavy leather Belstaff sample jacket with almost no branding that I scored from a local rep when we used to carry the brand.
What do you like to get up to in your spare time?
I love motorcycles and have a few. So with any free time, I’m definitely riding. When Oli was in town for his store re-launch event last fall it was a great opportunity to ride with him around the city on some roadways and through some parks. He mounted my favored R9T and I took the Duc. I think we were both pretty giddy after.
If a friend was visiting Toronto for the weekend, what you recommend doing?
I’d definitely suggest hitting up bar Isabel to feast on Spanish inspired delicacies accompanied with fine Cocktails. The half octopus is a must… Eating at Terroni for Southern Italian is a must as well, the back patio is a treat at this institution. Just don’t ask them to change any ingredients…
A visit to the Aga Khan museum to soak in the beautifully appointed grounds and magnificently designed building… For some nature and less crowd venturing, I would suggest cycling and taking the ferry across to the the island, or stand up paddle boarding over. Take some wine and a blanket and spend the day taking in views toward the city, or on the opposite point staring waterside.
Learn more about Uncle Otis here.