Armoury co-founder Mark Cho filled the fifth floor of a historic Central District building with pop-ups, a cigar lounge, and a new flagship store.
Throughout the 19th century, covered “shopping arcades” appeared in Europe, creating a new kind of retail experience—and planting the seed of the modern mall. Those that survived, such as Paris’s Passages des Panoramas and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II in Milan, exist today as beloved landmarks and reminders of a more elegant past.
Surely, the Pedder Arcade in Hong Kong deserves mention among those icons of yesteryear—save for the fact that it opened in 2023. The everything-old-is-new-again concept is the brainchild of Mark Cho, who’s already made his mark on modern retail as co-founder of The Armoury, the multi-brand men’s store with locations in Hong Kong and New York.
His latest venture occupies an entire floor of the Pedder Building, a slim Beaux-Arts landmark completed a century ago and the last pre-WWII structure on its street. The Grade I historic building is no stranger to Cho: The Armoury is one of its longtime occupants, having opened its first outpost there in 2010.
In 2021, Cho pitched his longtime dream to the building’s owners. He wanted to recreate an old-world shopping arcade, drawing particular inspiration from London’s Princes Arcade and Burlington Arcade, on the Pedder’s fifth floor. The Armoury flagship would relocate there, where it would be joined by a host of similarly inclined shops and vendors.
“I love the idea of making a secret neighbourhood with its own community of like-minded people who want to enjoy beautiful goods and services in a relaxed and considerate way,” Cho tells Robb Report.
To build his “secret neighbourhood,” Cho tapped Katherine Wong, founder of the Hong Kong-based interior design studio Katherine Wong Design. Tasked with rebuilding the gutted floor from scratch, Wong had an unusual assignment: to recreate the look of a street-level shopping arcade five storeys up.
Aided by high ceilings and existing arch windows that spilt natural light, Wong further cultivated an outdoor feel by using external materials like blue tile and giving the units curved, café-style windows in addition to their own door lamps, lit signage and even post boxes. Wong also utilised cocomat—a soft woven fabric made from coconut fibers—for flooring, to give shoppers the feel of walking on an organic surface like grass.
The arcade’s permanent retail denizens include the re-opened Armoury flagship and a Phillips Perpetual boutique. A number of pop-ups operated under the Armoury umbrella will run through December, including shops showcasing the cult British designer Nigel Cabourn and the knitwear label Drumhor. Also operating until the year’s end is Drapers in Residence at Atelier Pedder, a concept in collaboration with the fabric merchant that will showcase and sell its cloths to clients.
There is, of course, more to life than shopping. Other needs may be satisfied at the bar-restaurant JK on 5th, or The Study, a partnership between The Armoury and Davidoff of Geneva that gives visitors a sophisticated setting to enjoy a cigar—and maybe even get a little work done.
Event programming will also play a crucial role in Cho’s community-based vision. In the near future, The Pedder Arcade will host artist talks, whisky and cigar tastings, and watchmaking classes held by the Horological Society of New York.
“Ultimately, I want to create a community of brands and people who enjoy crossing paths in this comfortable space,” Cho says.
It helps, of course, to have a space where people will want to congregate in the first place—and that’s precisely the promise of the Pedder Arcade.
This story was first published on Robb Report USA