Releasing the Kraken has never happened in this many different forms.
On Friday, Seattle’s NHL expansion franchise opens its official team store in South Lake Union, a waterfront location in Chandler’s Cove at the site of the former Joey Lake Union restaurant.
“This was obviously a restaurant space, so converting it into a retail space was a challenge,’’ said Janiel MacKay, the Kraken’s retail director, who since February has helped plan a hockey-themed look inside the store, with rounded walls lined with rink boards and a rubber mat floor similar to those used to protect skate blades when players leave the ice. “We were trying to create that arena feel.’’
The flagship store will sell more than 43,000 items covering about 1,200 styles of clothing and accessories, including Kraken-themed T-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets and pullovers as well as accessories including baseball caps, water bottles, keychains and pucks.
The Kraken wanted everything about its name and color choices kept top secret before the announcement four weeks ago, which meant nothing could be sent beforehand to vendors to begin making the merchandise.
“We didn’t want there to be a leak,’’ she said. “So, we released the logo on the launch date, and the vendors had to quickly turn it around.’’
The store opens 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. after that from Tuesday through Sunday, with weekly Monday closures.
About the only merchandise not yet available is the official team jersey, or sweater in hockey parlance, which won’t be out until next year.
This won’t be an ordinary store launch, given COVID-19 precautions. Kraken merchandise has already been a top-five national seller on the Fanatics online retail website, and given the design’s popularity, team officials don’t want hundreds of people forming huge lines when the store opens Friday morning.
So, shoppers can only book appointments for time windows on the Kraken’s official website in lieu of showing up randomly. Fans on the team’s email list will be sent links to the appointment portal Thursday morning.
Once inside, there will be temperature checks and hand sanitizer near the entryway and all shoppers must wear face masks. The team will also sell Kraken-themed masks inside.
Shoppers also won’t be allowed to try on clothing because of COVID-19 concerns. All displays are at least six feet apart, and directional floor arrows will assist in social distancing, while Plexiglas screens are already installed to separate cashiers from customers.
The retail space has a distinctively white-colored design to it, both to emulate ice and boards as well as to highlight the Kraken merchandise sporting four shades of blue with a splash of red.
“It’s all about the product popping,’’ MacKay said.
The team is exploring additional ways of using the space, especially the rear portion facing the water. A row of yachts docked just outside the venue were seen sporting Kraken flags.
This weekend, a photo booth will be set up on the deck facing the yachts for fans to pose for pictures with the water as a backdrop. There will also be food trucks parked outside the front entrance.
The restaurant’s former bar area — unofficially dubbed “Ron’s Place” by the team in tongue-in-cheek honor of Kraken general manager Ron Francis — is curtained off for now, but will likely become a gathering spot for fans to watch games on a giant screen once the debut 2021-22 season begins.
For now, it’s about getting fans something to wear while watching those inaugural games.