Daymon Green has definitely earned his retail street cred. At age 19, the Toronto-native had already launched Lounge, his first boutique venture, which remained active for 15 years. Through the expertise he gained, he founded Elite Agents, a lifestyle branding consulting firm. Just a few years later, he returned to his first love and opened Community 54, a lifestyle boutique inspired by vintage street wear, contemporary arts and social connections. The brand, which counts locations in New York City’s trendy Lower East Side and in Toronto’s Parkdale Village, is also on the verge of expanding. As if he had any free-time left, Daymon is also currently studying at the New York School of Interior Design. For fun.
After you founded Lounge, you moved on and started Elite Agents, a consulting firm for the fashion and entertainment industries. Do you feel it was a natural progression?
‘‘Elite is our consulting arm. As a company, when you operate boutiques, you meet different people and you end up giving a lot of advice. We were doing consulting indirectly so Elite was a formal way of saying: ‘Hey, if you want to work with us, we’re able to offer different services!’ We do a lot of events, parties, launches, merchandising, etc. Community 54 is also involved in Elite Agents.’’
What convinced you to own your own brand again with Community 54?
‘‘Lounge was a real fixture in the Toronto scene, but then I moved to New York and started spending more time and energy down here. My partner at the time and I decided it was time for something new. When the concept ended, I thought I was out of this boutique thing. But then, through my corporate job, there was a designer that I worked with who had a space, and one thing led to another. Community 54 was created and I was back into the boutique world.’’
Being from Toronto, you opened Community 54 in New York first. Did you feel the clientele was more ready for the ‘Hip-Hop Nostalgia’ style that you push forward?
‘‘New York is always ready for something different and fresh, but so is Toronto I guess. They’re a bit similar in that way. And really, the New York location opened on October 30th, 2011, while the Toronto one opened at the end of November of that same year.’’
So you knew you were going to open two locations right off the bat?
‘‘It’s crazy because both concepts were executed independently and to be totally honest, we didn’t even have the budget to do one. An opportunity for a space inToronto happened and then a couple of factors lead to us opening both locations so closely together. In the end, it created a special thing because we built two communities simultaneously. They both have their unique vibe. What’s more is that they offer different products because the local designers are different. They just both sit under the Community 54 umbrella.’’
What is different between the Toronto and New York vibe?
‘‘It’s in the culture of the city. New York is very fast-paced. The vibe in that store is more street, kind of like the city itself, and the lifestyle is skewed a bit more towards the hip-hop culture, whereas Toronto is more contemporary, more laid back. The store has more of a hipster vibe to it – a term we all use but don’t want to be associated with – it’s more hip.’’
Your stores incorporate art galleries, venues, arcades, film studios, on top of being first and foremost retail locations. I’ve read that the thinking behind implementing such a versatile space was to bring people together. Has this conveyed fulfilling creative discussions that turned into real projects?
‘‘Yeah, definitely; that’s the purpose behind Community. It’s based around musicians, artists, photographers, etc., coming together and basically building something. We also have this thing called ‘Finale Fridays’, where we showcase independent brands, and feature their products for the weekend. It’s sort of a mixer, a chance to converse with other entrepreneurs. We could’ve done just an online store: it’s less headaches, but that would eliminate this meeting space, and this idea of people hanging out together.’’
Are you afraid?
‘‘As you get older, you second guess yourself more. I’m really blessed to work with a lot a young people, so when I get scared, they push. I’m definitely the more conservative one now, but I turn to those people that I trust and sometimes you just need to hold your balls, so to speak, and run with it. The reality is you can get yourself out of anything because of fear. So many good ideas die because of that. As an entrepreneur, you need to create your own opportunities.’’
What’s your motto?
‘Community over everything. It’s something we all believe in, and it encompasses more than just us! ‘Community’ has been a buzz word in the last few years, but we’re not a private club; it’s not a place exclusive to the coolest of the cool. We’re open to everybody.’’
What’s the next milestone for you and Community 54?
‘‘We’re opening a new location in Toronto, on Ossington, and it will be more of a women and kids’ space, whereas the other locations are more men-focused. There really aren’t any boutiques in that area, so it will be great to showcase a lot of cool products, many of which no one really sees in Canada.’’
What does Hennessy’s #ArtofTheChase mean to you?
‘‘The chase is a lifestyle; we’re all chasing the next idea or concept. For us, it’s less chasing, and more working with the concepts. The hustle mentality and the creativeness of Hennessy’s campaign are really meshing with the Community 54 DNA. Being entrepreneurs, you need passion, and you must love that hustle mentality. Growing up in Canada and moving to New York, you realize there are a million other people that want to do what you do. You have to hustle to make it. Basically, without the hustle, you don’t eat!’’