How Brunette equips Montreal – and saves eating places too!

The restaurant t-shirt is the new band t-shirt. When Dave Rose brought Hot Sauce to Montreal two years ago as the founder and producer of Smoke Show Hot Sauce, he had an idea that would transform Montreal gastronomy.

At the time, Rose oversaw his own online sales platform, as did other restaurant owners he knew. Rose’s realization that everyone was operating on their own led him to a eureka moment! He began to create a common online community platform for the Montreal restaurant scene. Rose knew from ten years of experience at Joe Beef that in order to get goods and items out of a restaurant, you had to have a reservation, which is often highly sought after and difficult to come by in Montreal’s top restaurants. Realizing that there was a growing food culture fueled by social media coupled with an increasing mainstream interest in Montreal’s best restaurants, Rose realized that “the restaurant t-shirt was like the band t-shirt of the 2020s is! “

One of Brunette’s many offers. Photo by Brandon Harrar

The result was Brunette, a one-stop shop for everything Montreal-related. Rose worked with Brandon Harrar, the founder of HRVST, a Montreal-based creative agency. Harrar, now President of Brunette, laid the foundation for the company and led the development of a consolidated online store for Montreal restaurant apparel and products. With its bold, modern and fresh Aesthetically, Brunette represents the energy of the Montreal food world. Now, two years later, this streamlined platform has proven to be a lifesaver for the Montreal dining scene.

The Bull & Bear sat down with Dave Rose to learn more about Brunette and his developing role. Rose explained that when the pandemic broke out in March, Brunette was in a unique place to help restaurants. The website had to close its doors, allowing owners to sell their goods and reach a wider consumer audience while still complying with COVID-19 restrictions.

Photo by Brandon Harrar

Growing awareness that as the pandemic worsened, brunette would be a lifeline for restaurants, prompted Rose and his team to launch the “Pay Now, Eat Later” campaign. Brunette was selling virtual gift cards for the brands on their website and they accepted all of the restaurants that were interested in participating. This company did not generate any income for the company, but it did benefit tremendously from the restaurants as they could use the money from the gift cards they sold immediately and knew that their customers would be there to support them when they reopened.

In addition to supporting local restaurants, the campaign attracted a lot of attention for Brunette. It inspired them to keep using their platform to support restaurants hit by the pandemic. As part of this initiative, they partnered with the Montreal Restaurant Workers Relief Fund to support restaurant workers in need. Brunette has also partnered with some of their favorite restaurants, such as the trendy brunch spot Arthur’s and the Loïc wine bar, to sell merchandise, the proceeds of which will go directly to the fund. Together they raised $ 40,000 and continue to sell goods for this purpose to this day. Rose described this initiative as a way to give something back to the restaurants who helped sell their goods through online retailers.

Photo by Brandon Harrar

Brunette has an impressive selection of brands whose t-shirts, sweatshirts, hats, tote bags and even a limited edition “Fish Wacker” by the famous Joe Beef make up the majority of the offerings on the website. Joe Beef is their most famous customer, and Rose’s relationship with the restaurant (and its other affiliated restaurants) prior to the formation of Brunette made a meaningful collaboration possible. While Beauty’s, the grande dame of Montreal’s luncheonettes, is one of its most established customers, Pizza Toni and Mon Lapin represent some of the city’s newer restaurants. Other favorites include dry pasta and jar sauces by Stefano, St Viateur bagel spice and beef and steak spice by Schwartz’s, in addition to the great clothes.

Photo by Brandon Harrar

As we all know, restaurants in Montreal have been closed to personal dining since moving to the red zone in early October. Now that a curfew is in place, Montreal restaurants are struggling more than ever to make ends meet as many are forced to close permanently. Realizing that the internet and the restaurant industry are not two separate entities, Rose sees the future of Brunette through increasingly creative avenues as essential to the survival of the Montreal restaurant scene. He looks forward to adding more restaurants to the website and to continue serving as a safety net and alternative source of income for restaurants in any situation.

Rose emphasized the importance of supporting local restaurants right now. His top picks in Montreal are Paul Patates for a hot dog lunch, Les Street Monkeys for a Cambodian dinner and of course Loïc for fabulous drinks and snacks. The flavors and fashions offered by Brunette provide a way to both support the places you love and enhance your work-from-home look.

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