Serial Entrepreneur - Vintage Frames, Montreal, QC
“You can’t hire a company to do your social media for you. You are the brand. If you’re not a social person and you’re not in touch with your clientele, that’s pretty ridiculous.” Successful businesses are no longer detached from the person behind the idea. “You go to school for Fashion and the instructor’s first rule is ‘don’t design for yourself, make it for somebody else’. I think that’s wrong now. My customer is me and my friends.”
Corey Shapiro has been dominating St.Henri venture by venture. Montreal born and bred, but more so internationally renowned, Corey brings a fresh flavour to the entrepreneurial scene. With Vintage Frames, Notorious Barbershop, and a real estate company under his belt, Corey is now taking on a new juice bar, a sushi shop, and a jamaican patty restaurant. It appears there’s nothing Corey can’t conquer. He’s ambitious, driven, and unapologetic for his loud style. “My look’s a bit harsh. My gold car, all these chains, my grills… but I’m the nicest dude.” Corey had been exposed to different forms of fashion throughout his upbringing. His grandparents were in high-end menswear, his mother in visual merchandising, his father in licensing. “I had a very broad view on fashion. I never really wanted to go into it, I actually wanted to go into a business where there were no sizes. If I was going to take all of my money and put it into something, there was always a medical use for them.” This idea birthed Vintage Frames. “Glasses had always been apart of my image.”
L’Archive store opening was a celebration of Vintage Frames’ 10th anniversary. Previously, they had been operating by appointment, their website, or getting flown out to clients. “The goal in the beginning wasn’t necessarily the business, it was just for me to find something that I would enjoy doing everyday. By building an environment that was heavily eclectic, heavily visual and stimulating, there would be less chance of boredom.” At Vintage Frames, Corey Shapiro and his team are purveyors of design and vintage goods. “I wanted the front space to feel awkward. We have two very different personas, we have the historical/fashion relevance and then we have the craziness. It’s like Batman, you can move through the front, you go through the wall then you’re in the insanity.” This provides a shopping experience that is really one-on-one. “Unless you really know exactly what you want when you walk in the door, it really takes us to guide you through what we do. We size people up, it’s all about their personality.” In Corey’s opinion, a frame allows you to step into a different personality in a non-invasive way. “We want people to really feel confident in what they’re wearing and educated in their purchase.” Amber Rose, Lady Gaga, T-Pain and Pharrell Williams are among their growing celebrity client list.
Vintage Frames (and his production line, Vintage Frames by Corey Shapiro) is the only company Corey Shapiro owns alone, it’s the anchor for everything. The balance of his ventures are in conjunction with Patrick (P-Thugg) Gemayel from Chromeo. “He’s a great partner, we’re like-minded dudes. We would always travel and end up in the same place, we’d go to these barber shops and realized there was this void in Montreal.” Together they filled that void with the opening of Notorious Barbershop, Montreal’s premier barber emporium. Notorious has been operating for a year and a half and is now one of the most well known barber shops in the world. “Even though I’m bald, there’s quite a bit of grooming that goes into maintaining a bald head. [There are] very few people that can do it properly. Montreal never had a place where you could meet all walks of life and feel accepted under a luxury environment that wasn’t necessarily a luxury price.” Notorious’ concept derived from Gianni Versace’s dinner parties in the 1990s. “Gianni would host these dinners with black dudes, gay dudes, actors, models, all of these communities that were not friends. At the time it was not socially acceptable to be having dinner together, especially not to be wearing the same label. That’s what we wanted to do with the shop, we wanted a non-segmented luxury place where everyone felt welcome.”
It is clear that Corey is a huge supporter of St.Henri, the area that houses most of his operations. “It’s a very nice area where everybody works together. If I want to start a project and I’m under financed, I can ask someone to buy 5 or 10% and they’ll do it.” Corey expressed his camaraderie with the owners of Campanelli’s, Off the Hook, Rickey D Events, Tuck Shop, Rustique, and Grumman 78. “I really try to support people who are doing their own thing. 90% of the artists come here (Vintage Frames) when they’re in town. In turn, we can flood them to different businesses. We can bring them for coffee at Campanelli’s, it creates more of a community.”
Another upcoming venture, a juice bar called Juicyyy Lab, sprung from his love of travel. “When I travel all I do is drink juice and eat sushi. There are places available but not up to the caliber that I want. That’s just how I live, I like to live.” In other words, Corey doesn’t settle for subpar quality. With so many accomplishments to his name, it seems he’s perfected the recipe for success. But as with any entrepreneur, Corey has seen his set of struggles. “I think Montreal is a very interesting place where very few things can succeed because the culture doesn’t believe in themselves. It wasn’t really until everyone saw what a huge international following [Vintage Frames] had, that they wanted to rally behind the company. That’s kind of the ‘canadian way’. If I relied solely on Montreal to finance me, there would be no way. Entrepreneurs are not set up to succeed.”
In any case, Corey has proven his resiliency and continues to forge ahead, with a little help from his friends. “There were various mentors during different times of my life. Glasses were always very indicative of my grandfather. I was very close with DJ AM before he passed away, he was a mentor towards certain other aspects of my life. I guess my inspiration comes from adversity. If someone says it can’t be done, 100% I’m going to do it. Actually, the only factor, is that I’m absolutely not afraid to fail. I’ve had failures, big failures, and it’s a way of learning. If you’re not prepared to accept the failures then you won’t even know when there’s a success.”
If you could be the love child of any two people who would that be?
“Dikembe Mutombo, he’s a huge old school basketball player, and Janet Jackson. So I can still shoot a basket and pop a tittie out. Then I can be Corey Jackson Mutombo – I’ve always liked the name Mutombo.”
What is your ideal day?
“I would probably fly out to New York, much like I normally do, and go for sushi. I’d pack the plane with eight close friends who are all from different walks of life. That experience is very indicative of my life and how overwhelming my future may be. You’re taking on the insanity.”