New Brunswick duo aims to have Maritimers looking sharp

Posted on June 10, 2024 | Atlantic Business Magazine | 0 Comments


Marittimo co-founders Zach Dallaire (left) and Andrew MacDonald (right) and spend time with their Italian suiting partner Andrea Benedini (centre). (Submitted photo)

Co-owners of Marittimo custom clothes, Zach Dallaire and Andrew MacDonald have spent years quietly building their business in New Brunswick, learning as they go and leaning on word of mouth to build their customer base. Now, the pair are pushing to become recognized within their province and across the region.

As Dallaire told Atlantic Business Magazine, they are more confident than ever in their custom shirts, suits and experience. They are in the process of adding two employees to help with recent additional demand for appointments.

“For us in the future it’s really to expand and be a household name in Atlantic Canada for some of the best suiting in the world (…) and just have the privilege to be serving Atlantic Canadians,” he said.

Marittimo co-founders Zach Dallaire and Andrew MacDonald spend some off hours sailing together. (Submitted photo)

Suiting up

The business has been around for the better part of a decade. As for how it began, both Dallaire and MacDonald are from Moncton. They found they both held an interest in custom clothing and clothing manufacturing. MacDonald worked in clothing retail for 11 years prior to the decision to start a business, while Dallaire was in a corporate setting for about seven years and was ready to make the leap into entrepreneurship.

“I just wanted to do something different (…) something that I had ownership in and some control and creativity over,” he said.

Together they looked for what they considered gaps in the clothing or fashion scene. They particularly thought about what they could do in the world of clothes without taking on large amounts of inventory and overhead.

Then Dallaire had an experience in Montreal of having a suit custom-fitted, readied and delivered to his door. “I realized there could be a gap in the market in custom wears on the East Coast,” he said.

They stuck to their operational approach — focusing on custom orders as opposed to racks of pre-cut inventory. They were and remain, as Dallaire describes it, “bespoke back shop.”

After settling on that as a starting point, the pair was left to tackle the learning curve on operations, and the exact physical set-up. For operations, they connected with a shirtmaker out of Montreal and opted to focus mainly on custom shirts to start. By 2016, they were up and running. But it was hardly Main Street frontage and billboards to start.

Technically, it was Main Street. They welcomed their first customers inside of Dallaire’s condo on Main Street in Moncton. They told friends and family. Those individuals told friends, who told acquaintances. By appointment, people would drop by to have a session that included a review of fabrics and different shirt cuts. The clothiers would take the customer’s measurements and send the choices and numbers off for manufacturing in Montreal.

Over time, the Marittimo duo moved to a small retail space in an old Masonic Temple downtown Moncton. They stuck to their operational approach — focusing on custom orders as opposed to racks of pre-cut inventory. They were and remain, as Dallaire describes it, “bespoke back shop.”

Once operating out of Dallaire’s condo, the suiting partnership set up shop as Marittimo in a former Masonic Hall. (Submitted photo)

New digs, new horizons

After initial consultations and fitting, orders are made with a deposit to cover the suit maker. Customers are charged in full for their orders only on final delivery. The turnaround is usually about five weeks.

Even in their new space, Dallaire said it took a lot of time and effort to build trust and establish a local customer base. “People aren’t used to booking appointments in Moncton to have to buy clothes,” he said.

They were still growing organically. And they made new contacts, including an Italian suit maker with ties to Montreal who agreed to work with the duo on full suits.

They also spread their wings. Around 2018, the pair packed up fabric samples and made stops in New York City, taking orders from the Wall Street set, as well as Chicago, Montreal and closer to home in Halifax. They were doing “trunk shows,” Dallaire says, explaining the operation. It was a means of adding to their clientele but also their knowledge in fabrics, approaches to fittings and suit styles.

Inside Marittimo. (Submitted photo)

Requests for appointments in New Brunswick drew them home to “The Habadashery,” their location at 115 Queen Street in Moncton. And the pandemic led to a renewed interest in becoming more firmly established in Atlantic Canada and growing their reach.

Custom shirts from Marittimo start at around $350 and suits around $1,700. Dallaire said he appreciates it’s a luxury item but still sees a place for it.

“We like to think the special suit for the special day. And sometimes all you need is one good suit or one good shirt in our closet just kind of as a piece of armor when we have special meetings or occasions,” he said.

He added there’s an interest in being as affordable as possible but also respecting the demand for “something special,” with the appointment-based, custom experience.

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