First Capital REIT Launches Program to Help Small Businesses Open Brick-and-Mortar Stores [Interview]


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First Capital REIT is launching a new program, Starter Space, to help small businesses in Canada launch their brick-and-mortar presence. 

Noah Parker, Director of Marketing and Communications at First Capital, said the company understands that opening a first retail store can seem daunting for many. That’s why this new program is geared to helping growing businesses and concepts looking to break into the retail space – providing them with the brick-and-mortar space they need to thrive in the retail sector.

Noah Parker

“We’re really taking an all-hands on deck approach with our marketing, leasing, operations, and legal departments to simplify the leasing process, and help small businesses make the jump into brick and mortar,” he said. The team had success helping small businesses in the past – like Burger Drops, Kate Hewko, and Doughnut Party, to name a few – and in a collaborative effort, developed this new program that will ultimately help others as well.

“At FCR, our biggest priority when it comes to leasing, is developing a vibrant tenant mix. This provides communities a ‘one-stop-shop’ shopping experience where all your retail needs are met in one convenient place. We’re looking for new tenancies to join our centres, to complement existing tenancies.” 

Griffintown 100 Peel – Montreal

Sophie DeWitte, Marketing and Communications Specialist, said First Capital wants to support small businesses along the process of opening a physical presence. By doing so, the FCR team will provide assistance and necessary resources for their shift from an online presence to a physical store front. Essentially enhancing accessibility and inclusivity in the realm of bricks and mortar retail.

Sophie DeWitte

“We’ve identified select spaces in our portfolio to introduce this program with – options from kiosks to small spaces to upwards of 2,000 square feet,” she said. These spaces are located at both enclosed and open air shopping centres across their portfolio including Yorkville Village in Toronto, ON; Semiahmoo Shopping Centre in Surrey, BC; Place Portobello in Brossard, QC; and many more.

First Capital, which operates in BC, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec, owns, operates, and develops grocery-anchored open air centres in neighbourhoods with the strongest demographics in Canada. It’s one of Canada’s leading REITs with over $10 billion in assets in over 145 Canadian neighbourhoods with more than 22 million square feet. The biggest markets are Toronto, Montreal, Edmonton, Calgary and Vancouver.

“We’re excited to find emerging and small businesses that are thriving online and help them make the jump. Many of them are on social media, running businesses on platforms like Instagram, Etsy, and TikTok” said DeWitte, adding it includes businesses that do pop-ups.

Doughnut Party

“There are a lot of businesses, especially post COVID, that are solely e-commerce based,” she said. Pre-COVID however, making the retail leap was generally the main goal for small businesses, and the idea behind this program is to show them that it still is. We’ll work with them to find the perfect space that fits their needs and be where their customers are. 

Burger Drops in Liberty Village in Toronto is a great example. Initially, the brand was a backyard and private event smash burger company. At the beginning of the pandemic, they opened their first stand alone restaurant in First Capital’s Liberty Village portfolio. They’re now considered one of Toronto’s best burgers – and are a Liberty Village staple.

“That’s really what we’re trying to replicate. We’re excited to give some small businesses a chance to jump into a space that might be the missing piece to their business,” said Parker. 

Image: Burger Drops

The program’s website highlights First Capital and who they are as a landlord, information on commercial leasing, and what small businesses need to consider. It connects them with a Leasing Representative to help guide them through the process and find the perfect space for them to thrive and grow their business in the retail space.

Retail stores connect businesses to their consumers in ways that cannot be achieved via e-commerce. While building your business online is a great starting point, expanding into a retail space helps businesses:

  • Foster closer relationships with consumers through in-person interaction
  • Provides convenience for consumers and reduces costs
  • In-store purchases translate to higher sales
  • Creates a strong brand identity and stand out amongst competitors
  • Allows businesses to become household names in their neighbourhoods

It’s no secret that with online shopping, shipping can take several days and even weeks. Retail stores provide greater convenience for consumers as they are able to take home their products right as they purchase them. Consumers return 15-40 percent of online purchases, but only return 5-10 percent of in-store purchases. 

While e-commerce remains popular, consumers continue to value human interaction. In fact, 60 per cent of consumers feel that knowledgeable salespeople influence their willingness to go to physical stores and 75 per cent are likely to spend more after getting high quality service in store, says First Capital. 

For more information on the new program:


Retail Insider partnered with First Capital REIT for this article. To work with Retail Insider, email:

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. Mario was named as a RETHINK Retail Top Retail Expert in 2024.


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