Advertisement
Advertisement

Calgary’s 1st Suburban Food Hall Thrives as Small-Business Incubator [Photos]

Date:

Share post:

Calgary’s first food hall concept has opened in quite a unique location compared to other similar establishments across the country.

Most food halls are located in urban, dense environments – downtown or inner-city neighbourhoods.

But the Avenida Food Hall & Fresh Market has found a home in suburbia and it’s thriving.

The food hall, which officially opened December 15, 2018, has about 22,500 square feet with 42 different vendors.

“One of the vendors has 32 separate vendors within. It’s called The Mercantile and it’s a replication of an old-time general store. It’s a bit of an incubator to help start-ups and people just finding their way in the market business and hopefully what it does is produce new, longer term vendors as time goes on,” said Ken Aylesworth, General Manager of Avenida, adding that in total, there’s 23 food establishments.

“The market business in Calgary is changing as it is everywhere. The abundance of pop-up markets as we know them spring, summer, fall markets has grown exponentially . . . There is a desire by the Calgary community to have year-round markets as a destination – a place to go and enjoy unique products and the relationships you build.

“We also look at what’s happening in North America which of course led us right back to Europe and because of the lifestyle they survive off of the markets and food halls where they go quite frankly almost on a daily basis to get product or to consume and meet and gather.”

Avenida is a mixed-use retail space providing customers with a wide variety of unique dining concepts, fresh local produce and meats, and a wealth of diverse artisanal goods.

The local businesses come in all shapes and sizes from small start-ups to established entrepreneurs opening their next venture. In addition to providing these businesses with a lower cost alternative to opening a full sized brick and mortar location of their own, the Food Hall also operates as a business incubator, providing a safe space for businesses to gain their footing and begin to grow.

Businesses like Wild Rhubarb and Buck owned by Ben Toews, who also operates Country Cousins Bistro in the small community of Linden, Alberta.

“We do Prairie comfort food,” he said. “I grew up in a small Mennonite town and sort of have this influence of insanely delicious but simple original foods . . . Life was about food. Everything centred around food. So we do pie, preserves, soup, smoked brisket. Peanut butter pie is probably our most famous item on the menu.”

This concept was started particularly for the Avenida Food Hall. It was an opportunity to start in a small way in the big city. He wanted to start the new concept in Calgary to see if this is a model that can work and be repeated. Toews said he liked the concept of being in a food hall because it’s a safe way to start small for his new business. And he said the response so far has been amazing.

“Most markets in most food halls are very much urban,” said Aylesworth. “It’s all been based on the reclamation of old warehouses etcetera in the downtown core. For the most part in places like San Francisco and Seattle and all those places it’s worked amazingly well. When we did all of our studies around demographics in the Avenida area it was really apparent that we had a really solid, solid and dense group of customers that were middle to above economic status. Lots of younger folks that had grown up in those areas and now were returning to own homes in their old neighbourhoods and having kids,” said Aylesworth.

“Quite honestly we weren’t entirely sure how the retirement community might take to us and they’ve been absolutely amazing supporting us. They’re coming. Although their per bag purchase is not large, they’re the ones that literally come almost on a daily basis and they’re buying fresh produce and fresh proteins. Having a coffee and a piece of pie or taking stuff with them. They’re some of our very best customers because they really are using it very much like a European market. There is a real cross-section of ethnicity too.”

Travis Callaway, President of Avenida Food Hall and Managing Director of Private Equity at Strategic Group, said Strategic Group is an owner of the real estate and its mantra as an organization is “creating value others can’t by seeing what others don’t.”

“It’s a fancy way of saying that we try to be unconventional and look for creative solutions when it comes to real estate problems. We took a space that had been built to basically house a SportChek for a long and then had been a real estate brokerage office. We looked at that and tried to think outside the box and being creative came up with the idea of a farmers’ market or food hall concept. The original idea was to make creative use of space, that was built for something else, but repurpose it to do something that we think was sorely needed in that part of the city and in that community,” he said.

“The vast majority of food halls in mostly larger cities like Toronto, New York, Montreal, Miami, San Francisco and obviously throughout Europe the food halls would be very centre city. So gentrified areas or downtown areas . . . When we did our research we found that all the things you look for in a food hall it’s compelling people to come out and spend their disposable income to eat as opposed to staying at home or whatever the case may be. The demographics in the area are pretty supportive of that. It’s a very suburban area and there’s not a lot to do. We just felt we were able to offer something that is going to give people that have a decent amount of money to spend, somewhere to spend their money that’s unique, creative and there’s nothing else like it remotely close to them.”

Callaway said the food hall also gives smaller and lesser known brands an opportunity to establish themselves and flourish.

“There will be no Jugo Juice or Booster Juice or A&W at Avenida Food Hall & Fresh Market. That is the opposite of what we’re going for. We want to offer and we have offered almost explicitly things that you can literally get nowhere else,” he said.

“Now a couple of vendors at Avenida do have other locations. A select few. The vast majority of the people that we have this is the only place that you can go and get their cuisine or whatever the case may be. Part of the rationale for that, you get to not just order your food and interact with people preparing the food but you’re actually there with the people who operate the business and have the idea and inspiration behind the cuisine in the first place. That we think is part of the experience about this. You just don’t get that if you go to a food court or anywhere else.”

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

More From The Author

John Crombie Shares 6 Canadian Retail Trends to Watch for in 2023 [Interview]

Crombie, who's predictions usually come true, spoke at the ICSC Whistler Conference recently and discussed how retail in Canada is shifting as consumer habits change.

Video Interview: What Matters To Today’s Consumer in Canada

An expert talks about how consumers are looking for discounts and value, their concerns about their finances, how they are making fewer impulse buys and how they expect big companies to do good in society.

Major Condo Tower Rezoning Application Threatens a Block’s Worth of Toronto Restaurants

Developers say that they're responding to shifting urban trends, though only two small commercial spaces are proposed where a block of businesses currently operate.

Hudson’s Bay to Shut Londonderry Mall Store in Edmonton

The retailer will close one of its oldest locations in Alberta this summer as the retailer strategizes the future of its physical stores.

Toronto Six Professional Women’s Hockey Team Retail Presence Looks to Multi-channel Growth with On-Ice Success [Interview]

The President of women's professional hockey team the Toronto Six says that fans of teams are helping create a new revenue source.

Best Retailers for Customer Experience in Canada Ranked in Leger Study [Interview]

Thousands of Canadians were polled to determine which retailers came out on top, with some surprising findings.

Deciem Rebrands Many Stores as ‘The Ordinary’ as Company Shifts Focus and Retail Strategy [CEO Interview]

The popular beauty brand is refocusing some of its stores as 'The Ordinary' as Deciem grows its wholesale business with Sephora, and is also looking to launch new brands through its incubator engine.

Retailers Shifting Loyalty Programs to In-House as Businesses Drop Air Miles and Others [Interview]

An industry expert says that companies such as Starbucks have found success in its own loyalty programs, and consumer confusion with third-party programs is leading more retailers to develop their own.

‘Repair and Run’ Bike Maintenance Retail Concept Expanding to more Locations in Canada after Successful 1st Launch [Interview]

The bike repair business, founded by some of the people behind the launch and success of Mobile Klinik, is seeing success after opening its first store in 2021.

Earls to Launch New Restaurant Concept as Chain Expands Locations [Interview]

The Canadian chain is expanding its operations as consumers embrace in-person dining following the pandemic.

Canadians Should be Checking Receipts at the Grocery Store as Errors are Common [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that Canadians may not realize that the prices on the shelves and what's scanned might be different, and that there's sometimes an opportunity for compensation if there's been an error.

Retailer Bankruptcies Not as High as Expected in Canada Since Pandemic, but Uncertainty Persists: Insolvency Insider

The tsunami of business creditor protection filings didn't happen as predicted, but an expert says that a reduction of locations by some retailers as well as headwinds could lead to industry challenges.

Video Interview: How Red Tape Is Strangling Canadian Small Businesses

Laura Jones of CFIB talks about the impact of red tape on businesses across the country and why it's so important to their bottom line.

Italian Grocery-Restaurant Concept Lina’s Prepares to Open 15,000 sq ft Location in Calgary’s Inglewood [Photos/Interview]

The expanding business is based on the concept of an Italian public square or marketplace, making it a popular hub that has strong consumer loyalty.

Zellers to Launch Food Trucks in Effort to Drive Traffic to Bay Stores

The retailer has also all but confirmed the relaunch to the Zeddy teddy bear mascot as it prepares to open 25 locations inside of Hudson’s Bay stores this spring.

Cineplex Launches New ‘Junxion’ Entertainment Concept with Additional Canadian Locations Planned [Interviews]

The concept features movies, gaming, dining and live entertainment under one roof, with plans to roll it out to multiple Canadian markets this year as part of a growth strategy for Cineplex.

Queen Street West Retailers in Toronto Anxious about Metrolinx Ontario Line Construction [Interviews]

Construction has the community worried that they’ll experience a repeat of Eglinton line ‘nightmare’.

Ron White Marks 25th Anniversary of its Charity ‘Shoe Drive’ [Interview]

The Toronto-based brand, which has stores in the area, is taking in gently used footwear that still have life in them to give to those in need.

Supply Chain Issues for Canadian Retailers Expected into 2025: Expert

Various factors are contributing to ongoing challenges to coordinate the optimal availability of goods says Gary Newbury.

DTC Jewellery Brand Mejuri Continues Ongoing Expansion with More Stores in Key Canadian Markets [Interview]

Calgary and Montreal are the latest cities to see openings for the popular jewellery brand which is looking to gain market share with a growing loyal client base.

RECENT RETAIL INSIDER VIDEOS

Advertisment

Subscribe to the Newsletter

RECENT articles

John Crombie Shares 6 Canadian Retail Trends to Watch for in 2023 [Interview]

Crombie, who's predictions usually come true, spoke at the ICSC Whistler Conference recently and discussed how retail in Canada is shifting as consumer habits change.

Video Interview: What Matters To Today’s Consumer in Canada

An expert talks about how consumers are looking for discounts and value, their concerns about their finances, how they are making fewer impulse buys and how they expect big companies to do good in society.

Major Condo Tower Rezoning Application Threatens a Block’s Worth of Toronto Restaurants

Developers say that they're responding to shifting urban trends, though only two small commercial spaces are proposed where a block of businesses currently operate.

Hudson’s Bay to Shut Londonderry Mall Store in Edmonton

The retailer will close one of its oldest locations in Alberta this summer as the retailer strategizes the future of its physical stores.

Toronto Six Professional Women’s Hockey Team Retail Presence Looks to Multi-channel Growth with On-Ice Success [Interview]

The President of women's professional hockey team the Toronto Six says that fans of teams are helping create a new revenue source.

Best Retailers for Customer Experience in Canada Ranked in Leger Study [Interview]

Thousands of Canadians were polled to determine which retailers came out on top, with some surprising findings.

Deciem Rebrands Many Stores as ‘The Ordinary’ as Company Shifts Focus and Retail Strategy [CEO Interview]

The popular beauty brand is refocusing some of its stores as 'The Ordinary' as Deciem grows its wholesale business with Sephora, and is also looking to launch new brands through its incubator engine.

Retailers Shifting Loyalty Programs to In-House as Businesses Drop Air Miles and Others [Interview]

An industry expert says that companies such as Starbucks have found success in its own loyalty programs, and consumer confusion with third-party programs is leading more retailers to develop their own.

‘Repair and Run’ Bike Maintenance Retail Concept Expanding to more Locations in Canada after Successful 1st Launch [Interview]

The bike repair business, founded by some of the people behind the launch and success of Mobile Klinik, is seeing success after opening its first store in 2021.

Earls to Launch New Restaurant Concept as Chain Expands Locations [Interview]

The Canadian chain is expanding its operations as consumers embrace in-person dining following the pandemic.

Canadians Should be Checking Receipts at the Grocery Store as Errors are Common [Op-Ed]

Sylvain Charlebois says that Canadians may not realize that the prices on the shelves and what's scanned might be different, and that there's sometimes an opportunity for compensation if there's been an error.

Retailer Bankruptcies Not as High as Expected in Canada Since Pandemic, but Uncertainty Persists: Insolvency Insider

The tsunami of business creditor protection filings didn't happen as predicted, but an expert says that a reduction of locations by some retailers as well as headwinds could lead to industry challenges.

Video Interview: How Red Tape Is Strangling Canadian Small Businesses

Laura Jones of CFIB talks about the impact of red tape on businesses across the country and why it's so important to their bottom line.

Italian Grocery-Restaurant Concept Lina’s Prepares to Open 15,000 sq ft Location in Calgary’s Inglewood [Photos/Interview]

The expanding business is based on the concept of an Italian public square or marketplace, making it a popular hub that has strong consumer loyalty.

Zellers to Launch Food Trucks in Effort to Drive Traffic to Bay Stores

The retailer has also all but confirmed the relaunch to the Zeddy teddy bear mascot as it prepares to open 25 locations inside of Hudson’s Bay stores this spring.

Cineplex Launches New ‘Junxion’ Entertainment Concept with Additional Canadian Locations Planned [Interviews]

The concept features movies, gaming, dining and live entertainment under one roof, with plans to roll it out to multiple Canadian markets this year as part of a growth strategy for Cineplex.

Queen Street West Retailers in Toronto Anxious about Metrolinx Ontario Line Construction [Interviews]

Construction has the community worried that they’ll experience a repeat of Eglinton line ‘nightmare’.

Ron White Marks 25th Anniversary of its Charity ‘Shoe Drive’ [Interview]

The Toronto-based brand, which has stores in the area, is taking in gently used footwear that still have life in them to give to those in need.

Supply Chain Issues for Canadian Retailers Expected into 2025: Expert

Various factors are contributing to ongoing challenges to coordinate the optimal availability of goods says Gary Newbury.

DTC Jewellery Brand Mejuri Continues Ongoing Expansion with More Stores in Key Canadian Markets [Interview]

Calgary and Montreal are the latest cities to see openings for the popular jewellery brand which is looking to gain market share with a growing loyal client base.