This article was originally published in the 2019 Summer issue of Invest In Style Magazine.
Stackt opened for business this spring in an unlikely downtown Toronto spot – an industrial lot near the railway tracks at Bathurst and Front Street. Founder Matt Rubinoff leased the 100,000 square foot parcel of industrial land from the City (until September, 2020) and refurbished 120 shipping containers, arranged domino-style, to form a mini urban market that includes a variety of specialty foods, coffee, services, clothing, art and outdoor events. There’s even an on-site craft brewery. Belgian Moon (also made from shipping containers) that offers outdoor seating and a view of one of the four courtyards. The brewery room itself was open for a public peak during Doors Open Toronto in May.
Stackt provides a much-needed cultural community hub for the King West neighbourhood which has seen a remarkable increase in the number of new condos in recent years. More than 200, 000 live within walking distance of the new market and Matt Rubinoff hopes his specialty curated venture will also draw curious residents from other neighbourhoods, as well as tourists.
The business model for Stackt is based on a rotating roster of local, national and international companies, from startups to more established brands (who are asked to do something different, like test out a new concept or product line). Recognizable brand names are sandwiched in between local start-ups and boutique services. When I attended the soft launch in April, tenants included Hayla Shoes, The Vegan Butcher, Carmel Flowers, Reunion Coffee, Donut Monster, RichFace makeup, BMO, and Inkbox tattoo, where you can get a tattoo that lasts for only two weeks, for under $20. Appropriately enough to their business, as well as the Stackt market in general, Inkbox’s in-shop sign declares “we’re here for a good time, not a long time.”
At any one time more than 30 different businesses (and workshops, from DIY to yoga) will set up shop in the urban market and only a handful are signed on for the full duration of the lease. Some pop-ups will rent the space for only 10 days. These shortlived occupancies provide home-based businesses a short-term, affordable retail space opportunity and offer online businesses a place to show and sell their products in a bricks-and-mortar building. Without the bricks. Or the mortar.
The dark gray shipping containers, each 280 square feet and all Ontario Building Code compliant, will soon be painted by local artists. “Every time someone comes down they will experience something different. There’s a lot on offer and a lot more to come. You could visit a few times in the same weekend and have different experiences. We’re even rotating our chefs through every three months,” says Rubinoff.
Outdoor programming includes movie screenings and pickup basketball games, opportunities for local artists and musicians, a speaker series, film festivals, comedy nights, food festivals and market stalls. Summer plans include a community greenhouse for nearby residents who don’t have a balcony and want to grow their own urban herbs and veggies. And those 14 railway tracks just to the south of Stackt? Plans are underway for a train-viewing platform. For the kids. Riiiight.