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Package-Free Retailer ‘bare market’ opens 1st Permanent Toronto Location Amid Expansion [Photos]

A unique store that is on a mission to cut society’s addiction to plastic has opened its first location in Toronto’s Danforth area.

The bare market store is the city’s one-stop shop for package-free-goods offering affordable and locally sourced body and home care products in bulk as well as food items and fresh groceries.

Dayna Stein, founder of bare market, said the physical store is attracting a wide customer base equally represented between male and female customers.

“We’re an all-in-one shop so you can come here and get everything you need to be able to reduce waste from your body care to your home care and now importantly food as well. Customers don’t need to traverse across the city to find these things. Before, you would go to the bulk store for bulk food. And then you would go to a co-op if you wanted bulk shampoo,” said Stein.

“We’re really trying to fill the gap and make sure that people can just come to one space and do all of their shopping and be good for that week.”

The store’s location is 1480 Danforth Avenue in 2,800 square feet of space. The concept was founded in 2017 and had been selling through pop-up locations since. Between 65 and 70 pop-up shops have been run since June 2018 and now the opening of the permanent Danforth store. Those pop-ups were located everywhere from farmers’ markets to City Hall to Patagonia’s King West location.

The neighbourhood of the permanent store is in Toronto’s east end on the Danforth-Bloor subway line near the Coxwell Station.

“What we really love about this area is that it’s very family friendly. There’s a lot of mom and pop shops in the area, a lot of other interesting spaces that people can visit when they come refill with us,” said Stein.

The neighbourhood is also close to other neighbourhoods such as Cabbagetown and Riverdale.

“We were doing pop-up shops all over the city before and we always wanted to be in the east end and so we looked hard to find a big enough space that was also on the subway line so it was very accessible. Physical and financial accessibility is incredibly important to what we do here,” said Stein.

“So customers within the east end can access us pretty easily as can our customers all over Toronto and the GTA. There’s parking available, ample parking both paid and free on side streets.”

Stein said the pop-up concept was a lot of work and not a sustainable way of doing business for the company. It was more a method of market research for bare market to figure out where in the city it wanted to be, what customers liked or didn’t like, how the price points landed with customers.

“The pop-ups enabled us to build a community around us before we invested quite substantially in a permanent location. We wanted to make sure we had that community support for a venture in retail that can be quite risky,” said Stein.

“Retail is a new space for us. We want to make sure that we are viable before we expand too quickly but we are certainly interested in both physical expansion as well as online distribution and getting more of our bulk products online and to further have a system in place where we can pick up people’s containers on their second orders to then clean and refill them. It requires a little bit more strategy and there’s a lot of complexity involved in that but that’s also a way that we could feasibly scale up.”

The online reach is across Canada.

The company sells everything from shampoo, conditioner, body wash to hair spray, beard oil, makeup in bulk, laundry detergent, air freshener, all-purpose spray, essential oils, and more.

Robert Luciano, partner with decisionSMART Retail Advisory, Inc., has been working with bare market for over a year as a consultant, helping to make the shift from pop-up concept to a permanent retail location.

“We’re going to continue with this onmi-channel system. We’re going to do online sales as well as our brick and mortar space,” he said. “It’s a two-pronged approach as well.”

He said expansion is going to be slow and steady with the online strategy an important element, allowing bare market to reach a number of different markets.

When customers come into the store, it’s completely self-serve. They first come to one of the three tare stations. They can bring their own containers. Technology will guide consumers through the process of how to weigh their containers. They will then attach a reusable chip to the container to store its initial weight before filling it with product.

At the cash, the weight of the container is deducted from the total weight so they’re only paying for the goods inside.

Stein said the company is quite excited that it is offering food from fried goods, fresh produce, oils and vinegars on tap, kombucha on tap, and all sorts of locally procured snacks where bare market is working with local farmers and Toronto chefs.

“The other major difference in our permanent location is that we now have an in-store cafe. The whole point is to close the loop on any food waste we might have otherwise produced and create delicious snacks and meals instead,” said Stein. “We currently have coffee and tea available and we’ll soon have some grab and go meals.”

In the cafe, bare market does not offer the option of using single-use, disposable cups. When a customer comes there, they can bring their own container or sit down and drink on site, and the final option is that it has partnered with a company called Reego which has a reusable cup system by deposit where customers get their deposit back when returning the cup. Also any cafe using the Reego system will take back the cups.

“The reason we’ve chosen such a large space and the reason we designed the space like we have is such that we can move things around and have community events in here. Have workshops and panels and movie screenings and really bring the community together and start a dialogue around larger environmental and social issues using waste as a lever to do so because it’s easy, it’s tangible, it’s a little more accessible, and everyone can make a difference if they just start with one small thing,” added Stein.

The store aims to have an outdoor patio in the summer.

Article Author

Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi
Mario Toneguzzi, based in Calgary, has more than 40 years experience as a daily newspaper writer, columnist, and editor. He worked for 35 years at the Calgary Herald covering sports, crime, politics, health, faith, city and breaking news, and business. He now works on his own as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.

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