It was the mid 2000s. Ador Cochingco was managing several stores for a national headwear retailer. But he wanted to do something different than stock Yankees caps. He thought Edmonton was ready to embrace streetwear that was uniquely its own.
With partners from that headwear chain, Seven80 opened its doors in West Edmonton Mall back in 2006. It carried streetwear from some popular international brands, and its own collection of Edmonton gear.
The Edmonton gear did not sell.
“The city didn’t have a lot of pride yet,” says Cochingco. “People were just not ready for Edmonton to be a cool thing.”
The store survived on the strength of sales of all that other stuff. But Cochingco didn’t allow the dream to die. He offered the partners a deal: He’d slowly come up with the means and buy them out. By 2018, the store was his — and he relaunched the line of Seven80 gear. And, this time, shirts and caps and hoodies that celebrated Edmonton… flew off the shelves.
Cochingco now has four Seven80 stores and a Clothesline shop (located at the Premium Outlet Collection at the Edmonton International Airport). He’s opened two new stores, taking advantage of lower rental rates offered through the COVID-19 pandemic. The new West Edmonton Mall store has moved to a location that offers four times the space of the former location.
And while the irreverent Seven80 gear anchors the stores, it also stocks the work of many Edmonton makers, from cotton candy to handmade soap. Cochingco believes in being transparent with Edmonton vendors, letting them know right off the top what kind of split they’ll get on their sales.
What’s really become a signature is the Oilers-themed goods, which have the sort of personality and irreverence that NHL merchandise sorely lacks (“buying a jersey, it’s boring,” says Cochingco). While the NBA and MLB have made great strides in promoting the personalities in their games, the NHL still promotes the “aw, shucks” faux humility which does not connect with the younger fan. Seven80’s gear mythologizes the Oilers of the ’80s, enshrines the players of today and, most importantly, celebrates the simple act of fandom — all while not breaking copyright rules.
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But it’s not like Cochingco isn’t struggling with the challenges of the last couple of years. The plummet in oil led to a retail slowdown in 2019, followed by COVID-19 in 2020.
“When COVID came, I was left crying in my bedroom for a week,” he says. “But, after that week, I got a bottle of whiskey, smoked a couple of cigars and said I have to do something about it.”
Cochingco embraced the charity angle; he reached out to Alberta Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw (remember how much we used to love her?) and asked for permission to use her image on merchandise, with the money going to charity.
He was also able to secure space in malls, as they were hurting as well — looking for ways to fill space. Last fall, he negotiated a deal with Londonderry Mall to take over a spot that a major retailer had just vacated, and quickly put together a Christmas market with over 35 local vendors. And, then, he decided not to close the market after Christmas. If the venture could break even month to month, the market would remain. It did.
And, taking advantage of low rents, he expanded the number of stores and launched the Clothesline concept.
“I had to expand or die,” he says. “The choice was to go out of business, or to start swinging.”