I truly can't contain my excitement about the extraordinary feat that is Stackt Market, the city's coolest innovative landscape that is transforming the way Toronto residents live, work, and create. I had both the pleasure and privilege of being one of the first Torontonians to experience Stackt, Toronto's newest culture and community hub constructed out of 120 shipping containers.
Stackt is a collaborative creative facility slash outdoor retail marketplace...made out of shipping containers. Yes, I too was skeptical when I first heard of the unconventional development concept. It wasn't until the monumental project appeared before me at the corner of Front and Bathurst Streets that I finally understood and appreciated what an impressive achievement Stackt has proved to become, not only for founder Matt Rubinoff, but for the city of Toronto itself.
Stackt is a larger-than-life marketplace of local, national, and international brands, housing countless retailers, food and beverage experiences, multidisciplinary artworks, and startup incubations. The objective of Stackt - which has revitalized a previously-vacant lot of land the size of a city block into a creative culture and community hub - is exclusively focused around the synergistic impacts of collaborative innovation.
The project was no more than a vision for Rubinoff a mere four years ago. Now, what was once just an "idea" has been brought to life through the hard work, commitment, and "out-of the-storage-container" thinking of the dedicated Stackt team. Rubinoff promises the marketplace will revolutionize how Toronto gathers, connects, and discovers.
The hub aims to provide both local entrepreneurs and new businesses a platform to test new ideas, and affords chefs and vendors the opportunity to utilize space to create continuously-changing seasonal food experiences. Stackt never ceases to impress, boasting an integrative arts and cultural program that unlocks the potential for the new urban space to serve as the heart of the city's centre for artistic expression, social exchange, and positive change.
Stackt will also be delivering a programming and events calendar that activates the community through unique interactive experiences, like temporary public art displays, discoverable culture encounters, and economic stimulus concepts.
The market was designed in collaboration with Giant Containers. From concept to install, Giant worked with the Stackt team to design the market. Giant Containers manufactured the custom shipping containers and completed the install at 28 Bathurst Street.
Artwork by: Alfalfa (insta: @a_l_f_a_l_f_a)
The interior is perhaps even more remarkable than the marketplace's dramatic external facade. Even when closed to the public, the space inside Stackt comes alive against the breathtaking backdrop of the Toronto skyline.
The hub boasts an extensive collection of peaceful sitting areas surrounded by micro-gardens and striking art installations. Astroturf lines the pathways around the shipping containers, which function as pop-up storefronts that are easily erected and dismantled with each welcoming of a new vendor.
Notable retailers include Donut Monster, the sinfully delicious donut shop that hails all the way from Hamilton, Ontario, known for its vegan and traditional yeast donuts, milkshakes, and coffee. I treated myself to a few sample indulgences and fell in love with Donut Monster's sweet treats tongue-first.
Each of the shop's novel flavour combinations - like Sriracha Lime and Brownie Cheesecake - tantalized each and every one of my senses...to the point that I had to return for a second round of donut-tasting later in the afternoon. To my pleasant surprise, I was met with a completely new set of twelve donut flavours. And did I mention that a number of the donuts are infused with alcohol?!
Reunion Island Coffee Bar is another must-see at Stackt. Putting it simply, Reunion Island Coffee rights the world's wrongs one cup at a time. The market's coffee shop is known for brewing coffee from its roastery's own beans. If you're needing some fuel before you start gallivanting around the marketplace, a trip to Reunion is sure to equip you with the perfect caffeine buzz.
After doing a bit of yoga at Flow Alkaline Spring Water's refreshing zen zone, I hit up YamChops, Toronto's famous plant-based butcher shop. Whether you're vegan, vegetarian, flexitarian, or just curious, you NEED to check out YamChops' cool-as-a-cucumber storefront at Stackt.
The shop challenges customers to lose their "veginity" and is known throughout the city for substituting plant-based proteins for animal-based proteins in dishes like Chick*n Shawarma or their famous Carrot Lox topped with cashew sour cream, capers and dill.
They even have meatless Chicken Schnitzel - a scrumptious vegan delicacy that would elicit a head scratch from my 90-year-old Austrian grandmother, followed by a bewildered "How do they do it?!" Science and soy, grandma. Oh, what a time to be alive!
But I would be remiss if I neglected to mention the star attraction of Stackt - the flagship location of Belgian Moon Brewery. Brewmaster Justin Hall took me on an exclusive tour inside the brewery, and we - alongside Master Beer Sommelier Justin Lamontagne - sipped on a couple of artfully-crafted brews before I received my first lesson in beer-tasting 101.
In what Lamontagne called a session of "beer-ducating edu-tainment", the Justins bestowed upon me their special beer and cheese pairings. The main takeaway? Belgian Moon's Mango Wheat beer is what liquid dreams are made of. Pair it with a crispy cracker topped with spicy red pepper jelly and goat cheese and you're set.
Just when I thought the afternoon couldn't get any better, Chef Michael Sullivan, Stackt's Head of Food and Beverage, brought out this beautiful plate of spicy fried chicken from Chen Chen's Hot Chicken. Between my mammoth-size chomps of chicken, I was able to ask "Sully" about the mouthwatering dishes that we can expect to see at Stackt. Well, there's a long list of them. But more notably, Chef Sully emphasized the personal importance of providing budding new chefs with an opportunity to experiment with food through a series of short-term chef residence experiences.
Last on my list of vendors to check out was The Endy Lodge - an immersive retail activation that showcases Canada's award-winning mattress and innovative sleep products in a warm, cozy, Canadian lodge. The space included a relaxing lounge, featured two napping nooks under a starlit ceiling, and was draped in red-and-white Canadian pride. If you're looking for a serene spot to partake in a post-brewery food coma-induced nap, this is the place!
The most admirable component of Stackt's hub may be that the collaborative network is actively working to enrich the community in which it operates. Rubinoff and his team have spearheaded countless grassroot initiatives that aim to add value to the community, like providing shared greenhouse and vertical farming spaces, collaborating with a neighbouring men's shelter to host integration activities, and personally investing time and resources into each of the market's vendors to ensure their ventures succeed.
Artwork by: Jorden Doody (insta: @jordenblue)
Stackt market proves that good business starts with great people, but don't just take my word for it! Revel in Stackt's shipping container whirlwind at its grand opening to the public on Wednesday, April 10th, and experience the magic of Rubinoff's 100,000-square-foot marketplace marvel - one storage container at a time.
Here's a complete list of Stackt's vendors:
- 69 Vintage (Vintage clothing store)
- Bean and Pearl (Coffee, bubble tea and quick eats)
- Belgian Moon (Beer)
- BMO Canada (Banking)
- Carmel Floral (Florist)
- Chen Chen's Hot Chicken (Fried chicken)
- Cofo Design (Design hub)
- Donut Monster (Donuts)
- Dresden Vision Canada (Eco-eyewear)
- Ellie Mae Studios (Women’s apparel)
- Endy (Canadian premier mattresses)
- Filmartist.ca (Creative marketing)
- Flow (Alkaline spring water)
- Ink Box (Temporary tattoos)
- Jacki Lang Design Gallery (Contemporary art)
- Jomo Studio (Handmade goods)
- Lesley Hampton (Fashion)
- Lion City Toronto (Singaporean cuisine)
- Mango Peeler (Artist)
- Poco Mono Kids (Kids apparel)
- RichFace (Spa treatments)
- Reunion Island Coffee Roasters (Sustainable coffee)
- Startup Here Toronto (Community organization)
- Talk Shoe Community (Podcasting platform)
- TKees (Footwear)
- YamChops (Plant-based butcher and market)
Location: 28 Bathurst Street (at Front Street)
Opening: Wednesday, April 10th
Operating Hours: Monday to Saturday, 10 am to 7 pm, Sunday 11 am to 6 pm
Belgian Moon Brewery Hours: Sunday to Wednesday, 11 am to 11 pm; Thursday to Saturday, 11 am to 12 am