BUILD IT By Design Expanding into High-End Retail

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Condo towers continue to rise around the Toronto downtown area, especially in the popular King West and Queen West neighbourhoods. With the downtown population expected to almost double by 2041, the city will see even more rapid growth in density — and its residents are now searching for more authentic local experiences.

That’s why GTA-based BUILD IT, an award-winning construction firm launched in 2008, is expanding into building retail spaces after perfecting its craft in the world of restaurants, many of which reflect an increased demand for quality design and finishes. Founded by partners Simon Shahin and Alburt Lefebvre, the company is working on several projects in the King West and Queen West corridors, considered to be among Toronto’s hippest areas. The firm is now applying its industry leading expertise to retailers looking to create memorable and successful retail environments that fit the unique needs of their neighbourhood’s demographics. 

BUILD IT recently finished the Kupfert & Kim restaurant space at Spadina and Richmond Streets, which provides the area’s hip young professionals with ‘wheatless and meatless’ meals. The restaurant features unique design elements, including an angled ceiling that proved a unique challenge to complete. BUILD IT’s Managing Partner Alburt Lefebvre explained that there was a tremendous level of complexity to getting the space ‘just right’ while working with the restaurant owners and designers to ensure that their vision was brought to life in its truest form. The result is stunning, and draws customers into the busy space. 

(Entrance to the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)(Entrance to the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)

(Entrance to the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)

(Tables and lighting at the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)(Tables and lighting at the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)

(Tables and lighting at the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)

BUILD IT By Design has worked with some of the leading restaurant brands in Canada, including stand-alone and individual franchises, and most recently, two prominent food retailers. Basil Box has just been completed at the southeast corner of Queen Street West and Spadina Avenue in Toronto, as has Paramount Fine Foods at the corner of Spadina and Richmond Streets. 

The area around BUILT IT’s latest projects is burgeoning, with Queen Street West and King Street West seeing major changes. King Street will become home to the Waterworks facility, a food hall and retail space modeled after those found in Spain and Amsterdam — a nod to the fact that the area has come of age as a retail innovator. Queen Street has recently seen the opening of several new, interesting retailers as well, including Icebreaker Merino Wool with its moss wall, (a first brick-and-mortar store in the world for the Vancouver-based online footwear brand), and a massive 10,000 square foot Lululemon store, which opened to much fanfare over the summer. 

(Brar's Restaurant)(Brar's Restaurant)

(Brar’s Restaurant)

We toured the new Lululemon store with Mr. Lefebvre and the company’s CEO Simon Shahin, who have become experts in retail construction and related quality. Mr. Shahin noted that the concept shop is elevating the consumer shopping experience in the neighbourhood. Its modern design and interior are all tailored to the hip professionals frequenting the area, while the architecture still pays homage to Queen West’s storied history. With a health food café, a coffee shop and even a dedicated workspace, the Lululemon store has created a lifestyle via its welcoming space for neighbouring residents. This particular retail location also highlights the work of local young entrepreneurs and artists – something that Mr. Shahin deems as being incredibly important when big brands seek to incorporate themselves into a neighbourhood that may be experiencing gentrification. 

According to Mr. Shahin, BUILD IT has perfected restaurant construction, which can be particularly challenging given the unique and high end finishes, intricate millwork, and complex mechanical systems, including the configuration and ventilation required for commercial kitchens. Being high-traffic environments, restaurants require high-quality build-outs, as there’s the potential for considerable wear-and-tear. BUILT IT is using lessons learned creating customized restaurant concepts as it expands into the world of retail stores, he noted. 

(Concrete table at the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)(Concrete table at the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)

(Concrete table at the new Basil Box at Queen & Spadina in Toronto)

Whether taking on a new development or a retrofit, BUILD IT is a value conscious building partner that stays accountable to clients’ vision, budget and timeline and pays particular attention to detail. Interestingly, the company also offers after-build maintenance services — an added bonus for a restaurant or retailer needing a custom fixture/installation to be maintained. 

For more information on BUILD IT By Design, contact: Alburt Lefebvre, Managing Partner at or by phone at 905 696 0486. Visit the BUILD IT By Design website at


*BUILD IT By Design is a partner sponsor of Retail Insider. To work with Retail Insider, email


Article Author

Craig Patterson
Located in Toronto, Craig is the Editor-in-Chief of Retail Insider and President/CEO of Retail Insider Media Ltd. He is also a retail analyst and consultant, Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton, and consultant to the Retail Council of Canada. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for over 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees.

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