Experimental and Creative Space ‘The Combine’ Reimagines the Nature of The Workspace in Downtown Toronto


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The Combine describes itself as an experiment in progress.

It’s an ongoing experiment in transforming a conventional office into a community-driven space that blends making, shopping, learning, and living.

The concept, at 225 Wellington St. W. in downtown Toronto, inside the CBC building, is home to four creative agencies, a new cafe (bevy), event space and retail pop-up.

Sarah Spence

Sarah Spence, CEO of Tadiem, which is the parent company of the four agencies (Bensimon Byrne, OneMethod, Narrative and Folk), said The Combine is a physical and philosophical retake on the nature of work and workspaces.

“It’s about prioritizing things like collaboration, connection and it’s that understanding that as much as hybrid working is good, bringing people together is critically important and it makes our work better,” said Spence.

“So we have come up with this concept of The Combine which is all about transforming a conventional space to make it very community driven which is inspiring for our people and exposes them to more and it creates this very collaborative environment where great things can happen.”

The Combine at 225 WELLINGTON ST W in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
The Combine at 225 WELLINGTON ST W in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

Amin Todai, Founder and Chief Creative Officer of OneMethod, said the idea is to really drive into the community aspect.

“Before our office space was obviously just for our staff and that was kind of the primary purpose and generally what the nature was for everybody. So what we’ve done is take our space, re-imagined it so that we can bring people outside of our company into our home and offer some points of education, collaboration and just creativity match-ups that normally wouldn’t happen,” said Todai. 

Amin Todai

“We have membership that goes beyond just our staff to our clients who can now use our space openly like our staff. They’ve been coming quite a bit. We’ve started recruiting members from the creative community locally that will come use our space like a music producer, a photographer or some other kind of artistic folks that would just come into our office and use some of the tools, some of the space and sometimes they come just to get inspired.

“We also have this retail component. We’ve taken our reception area which would normally have a couple of receptionists and just be a greeting space to farm people through the office, we’ve taken that concept and made it a retail pop-up store. It’s on the ground floor at a very popular corner of the CBC building. So our former kind of front-facing reception area has now become a retail pop-up space that switches out concepts on a regular basis, weekly, monthly, depending on who our artist collaborations are with at that moment.”

The Combine at 225 WELLINGTON ST W in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
The Combine at 225 WELLINGTON ST W in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

The concept of The Combine began in 2018. The current design was established in the past year. 

Spence said The Combine is focused on growing its Toronto membership and making people aware of the concept.

“But we are absolutely open to growing. For example, we acquired Folk in Montreal and it would be lovely in the future to do a Combine in Montreal. So I think there’s opportunities for growth in the future but right now we’re focused on Toronto,” she said.

Added Todai: “Our Phase 2 plan is we want to create offshoots. We’re actually creating a bit of a pitch deck that we can go to other agencies or creative style spaces around the world where they’re kind of like us where they’re not getting 100 per cent capacity with their spaces so what else could they do with the space because a lot of people are locked into long-term leases. So it’s kind of like how can you reimagine space?”

The Combine at 225 WELLINGTON ST W in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
The Combine at 225 WELLINGTON ST W in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)
The Combine at 225 WELLINGTON ST W in Toronto (Image: Dustin Fuhs)

In a blog, The Combine said the concept is an ongoing effort to apply forward thinking to everything it does. 

“In a more specific sense, it’s an attempt to transform a conventional office into a community-driven space that blends making, shopping, learning, and living. So we’ve redesigned our physical space for retail and events and hanging out. But we’ve also redesigned who uses our space, from the employees of our 4 agencies to our clients/partners to an ever-growing-yet-select group of creative, like-minded people,” it said.

“It’s a workspace for so much more than work being used by so much more than just our employees. And yeah, it has a store, a café, a bar, a magazine, a podcast, an ongoing Ted-talk-type speaker series, and so on. 

“The Combine actually launched back in 2018 and ran until Covid did what Covid does. The pandemic forced us to press pause on the whole thing but also reinforced the need for such a concept and helped shape this next iteration of it. However, the idea for it all truly developed organically in our offices in the decade leading up to the launch. For years our office spaces would see employees and non-employees collaborating in different ways, using the space for different things, adding a whole different energy to where we work and what we make. Clients, ex-employees, and friends-of-friends would hang out. NBA All-Stars (Baron Davis) and Grammy Award Winning producers (Boi1da) would drop by. Chris Bosh even set up a desk in our space one year.”

Additional Photos from The Combine

The Combine (Image: Tadiem)
The Combine (Image: Tadiem)
The Combine (Image: Tadiem)
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 is the Senior News Editor with Retail Insider in addition to working as a freelance writer and consultant in communications and media relations/training.


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