Empire Buys Underworld and Ultimate stores

Retail Giant expands in Quebec and possibly beyond.


“We’d like to see as many as five new locations within the next five years.”

                           —Phil Grisé, Co-owner and Development Manager Empire


Empire has expanded its doors in Quebec through the acquisition of Underworld shop in Montreal and Ultimate in Bromont and Granby. Empire purchased The Underworld Montreal location in winter 2013. Former owner Alex Bastide still owns and operates the Vancouver BC Underworld location and continues to lease third floor bar location in the newly remolded Empire store on busy St Catherine street in Montreal.

            “We’ve spent the last few years developing the Empire retail experience. During that time a number of store owners had approached us regarding buying or merging with their stores.” Explains Phil Grisé Co-owner and Development Manager of Empire. “ Alex wasn’t really feeling the retail vibe in Montreal anymore and he wanted to get out of the business. I’ve known Alex for over 20 years. We worked out a good deal that allowed him to walk away with something and we’ve since done a partial renovation on the store, which is now up and running under the Empire banner. We sort of took Alex’s concept and turboed it. We’ve started to promote the location and we’ll also be carrying snowboard products in there which is something Underworld did not have before.”

            The situation between Empire and the Ultimate stores is a bit different. The owners of Ultimate had a partner that was getting out of the business. They approached Empire and worked out a merger deal that allowed owners Nick Dubuc and Frank Gagnon to continue to run and manage the two locations. The locations are still under the Ultimate banner but a complete transition to the Empire banner will be finalized by fall 2013. “Empire has always respected and had a close relationship with Ultimate. They are the reason we never pursued expansion in those areas. This deal was perfecting timing for all of us.” Says Grisé.

            With this expansion comes more inventory. Currently Empire occupies a warehouse space of approximately 10,000 sq ft but will be moving to 30,000 sq ft at some point in 2014. Grisé says that when the new stores and warehouse are up and running smoothly they will then look into furthering their retail presence in Quebec and other parts of Canada. With these additions Empire currently has 10 locations under the Empire banner as well as a D-Structure store catering to the ski and BMX markets. “ We’d like to see as many as five new locations within the next five years.” Says Grisé. “Making sure stores are profitable and our infrastructure and logistics are as good as they can be in the most important factor in our business. Expansion is great but only if it makes sense.”

            These acquisitions and mergers will put Empire in an even stronger buying position moving forward. Although the store has seen substantial growth, Grisé stresses that Empire has always been dedicated to skateboarding and snowboarding. “I’ve been and skater and snowboarder my whole life. We’ve only carried brands that have supported those markets and I’ve never expanded outside of those markets in Empire. We don’t sell surfboards, wakeboards or little wee-wee bikes. This is a core skate and snowboard store.” Says Grisé.

            Grisé did not give any hints as to where Empire would be expanding outside of Quebec but did mention that he really enjoyed riding the mountain and skating the bowls in Whistler BC.