Zach Macklovitch talks Saintwoods and his rise up the nightlife ladder
If you live in Montreal and enjoy all the city’s nightlife scene has to offer, the name Zach Macklovitch undoubtedly rings a bell. At 27, he and his partner, Nathan Gannage, have successfully made St-Laurent Street the go-to place for the best parties.
Their promotional brand, Saintwoods, takes on an array of roles including event curation, artist management, design and branding for bars and clubs around the city.
The duo also co-owns Suwu, Apt. 200 and École Privée, all hot-spot bars in the Plateau.
Walking into the interview, I expected to meet a young, successful guy with a big ego and the words “big shot” written across his forehead. To the contrary, I was faced with an extremely gracious entrepreneur.
“I’m blessed,” Macklovitch said. “I don’t think about my failures or successes very often because until you’re at your peak, it doesn’t make a difference.” This humble tone carried throughout the interview, perhaps one of the crucial reasons for his rapid success.
“I started working in clubs at around 16 years old. Montreal was different back then—it was easy to get into trouble and I did,” he said. Despite his “bad boy” side, Macklovitch is also a self-proclaimed nerd—a participant of Model UN— an academic competition where students learn about diplomacy and international relations—and a graduate from Concordia University on the honour roll with a BA in political science and philosophy.
“I got to university thinking I didn’t want to be a club promoter forever. Fast-forward, and I have ended up in the same industry. But I like to think I took the critical thinking I learned and applied it to what I do,” Macklovitch said.
By 21, the entrepreneur held the title of marketing director at TIME nightclub, and had just met Gannage, who started the Saintwoods brand straight out of McGill University.
Over the next few years, the venues grew and evolved. “We [organized] deep house shows at Velvet, and rap concerts at TELUS Theatre and Belmont,” Macklovitch said.
Their names were now on club promoters’ radars. The popular dance club New City Gas approached the team with the following task: to get Anglophones under 27 excited about the venue. Thanks to their promotional abilities and entrepreneurial mindset, they succeeded.
By 23, Macklovitch had already opened Suwu, and was onto his next venture: Apt. 200.
Today, both bars are known for their unique atmosphere. Macklovitch said he pulls inspiration from the places he’s travelled, such as New York, parts of Europe and Toronto, for the look and vibe of his bars.
Macklovitch said Suwu aims to create a friendly neighbourhood vibe for the lower Plateau. Apt. 200, on the other hand, focuses on a house party vibe.
“People wanted a higher-energy place but they didn’t want to be at a nightclub,” Macklovitch said.
Success often comes with challenges. But for Macklovitch, these challenges only fuel him. Initially, École Privée drew inspiration from the underground scene Macklovitch experienced in Berlin and Paris. He wanted to bring this scene’s vibe to the mainstream.
“I think we understood our level of success when we started getting international attention,” he said. Macklovitch attributes a great deal of his accomplishments to his tight-knit team. Part of that circle includes Alex Mactavish, Saintwoods’ director of operations. Mactavish attributes Macklovitch’s rise to success to both his work ethic and personality.
“He’s always working, even when it looks like he’s not. That kind of hustle always pays off in the long-run,” Mactavish said.
But the nightlife industry isn’t easy. While a club might be all the rage one day, it is likely to be beaten out the next. Trends change and people follow—begging the question: will the brand Zach has created be able to survive?
Mactavish said it’s all about “staying ahead of the curve.” He believes Saintwoods’ “ability to identify and react to cultural trends is crucial.”
Macklovitch confirmed Saintwoods is always looking to expand. With a lifestyle merchandise brand recently released and an upcoming branded vodka, it is clear Macklovitch is planning for the future.
Perhaps he has found the key to longevity in this fast-moving industry—going against traditional business structures and reinventing Montreal nightlife.