Sarah & Tom Gift Shop has all you need to satiate your K-pop and anime cravings
The gift shop eases access to K-pop and anime merchandise for Hamilton fans
Sarah & Tom Gift Shop is a Korean pop merchandise store with many locations across Canada. The story of Sarah & Tom began in 2009 when the first store in Toronto opened. Sarah Milberry, one of the co-owners, explained the store had started as a place for Korean and Japanese stationery products which are often difficult to find in North American markets.
“We first opened in 2009 in Toronto. My husband’s Korean and I spent a year teaching English in Korea. The main draw or excitement that we wanted to bring to our business idea was Korean or Japanese stationary products,” said Milberry.
Interestingly, the shop did not always have K-pop merchandise, but as its base grew they noticed more customers seeking K-pop related items. When Milberry and her husband first introduced K-pop merchandise, they received positive reception and over the years, they collected a large stock of different K-pop albums and anime merchandise for customers.
“If they are a K-pop fan, [we have a] wide selection of K-pop albums . . . If you’re more on the anime side of things, we have a lot of figurines and posters related to a wide variety of different animations,” Milberry said.
In May 2022 they opened a location in Hamilton’s International Village area. They expanded to Hamilton because they noticed a large group of their customers were from here, including students from McMaster University. It was such a regular occurrence that it made them step back and consider opening a store.
“We really saw customers living outside of Toronto coming into our shop pre-COVID. [And] many customers said they came from Hamilton or that they go to McMaster,” Milberry said.
Milberry has loved the International Village’s engagement. She found they have a big social media presence which has featured Sarah & Tom Gift Shop as well. It’s helped with spreading the word of the Hamilton location and bringing in lots of customers. Milberry and her partner hope their business continues to prosper.
The Hamilton location has similar merchandise to the other of the Sarah & Tom Gift Shop locations in Toronto and Montreal. However, one difference that makes the Hamilton location stand out is that it has the greatest stock of K-pop albums across all locations. Milberry and her partner found it is very popular in Hamilton and they are doing their best to match their customer's interests. With artists like Black Pink with a large fanbase coming to Hamilton to perform, the store has noticed hikes in their sales during their concerts.
“We do have about 50% of the store set up just for K-pop in Hamilton and the other shops have a little bit less of that. In Hamilton, we are really pushing the K-pop products,” Milberry said.
Ultimately, Sarah & Tom Gift Shop has been embraced by the Hamilton community, even before they opened a store here. As they continue to grow in Hamilton, they hope to see more McMaster University students here.