Holiday festivities are in full swing at stackt market in downtown Toronto, complete with family friendly activities, fire pits and a ferris wheel.
Along with their annual Holiday Hills festival, the market is calling attention to the more than 20 small businesses on site who are hoping for a boost this season from customers looking to spend thoughtfully while enjoying some festive cheer.
“The small business community for the past two years has been decimated during the pandemic and this is a really big moment for the city, for local and small businesses,” says Jessica Lynch, Vice President, Strategy and Development at stackt. “Many of our businesses on site are small and local, they’re great entrepreneurs … so it’s just a great opportunity if you’re looking for that perfect gift for the holidays.”
Chris Nguyen from Ocaso Tacos says the festive season is a crucial time for them.
“Really the holidays is where we make the bulk of our sales. With rising produce costs and overall costs, every single sale that we can make, every single customer we can form now, it really matters,” he says. “And especially with the hard winters, everyone kind of bundles up and stays inside, so we do really need a lot of support to take us into having a strong 2023.”
The proprietors of another small business, vintage store Loosefade, say shopping small is a way to ensure your gifts are unique or one of a kind.
“Vintage, everything is one-of-one, it’s very, very rare that you’re able to find two of the same thing from [say] the 60s. So we’re glad to be a part of being a personal and unique experience,” says co-owner Tlisa Lee.
“It’s important to shop your local small businesses because we want to be part of that experience, right? We want to extend the joy to whoever that gift is for,” add co-owner Kris Pagaduan.
They say customers can also get an added boost of holiday spirit by supporting someone’s life goals.
“I think after the pandemic a lot of people had to re-evaluate their life and figure out things they actually want to do,” says Lee. “So being able to support people’s dreams, things that they actually want to do – it’s such a beautiful thing.”
Along with the resident small businesses, stackt is also hosting weekend vendor markets to more up and coming entrepreneurs.
“We have five different Saturdays that we dedicate to up to 26 different vendors on site who can come in and pop up for the day,” explains Sarah Brown-Duncan, stackt’s director of brand and experience. “It’s really just an opportunity for stores or brands or pop ups or side hustles to come and set up and interact with people and guests and really start to build their awareness as a brand and as a product.”
The vendor market coming up on Dec. 17 was curated by Lee and Pagaduan.
“It’s called ‘the people’s market’ — it’s a place where we bring a lot of local, small vendors together. From music to fashion to art — it’s just a big combination of all these things,” says Pagaduan.
“It’s giving a space to small businesses that aren’t able to [afford] a shop,” says Lee who adds that they were fortunate to receive a grant to open their business at stackt. “So we’re trying to give back with ‘the people’s market’ in a sense that we’re creating this space and this hub for everyone in the city to come by and meet new artists and small businesses.”
In addition to a number of on-site activities, wellness experience company Unbounded has set up an outdoor spa to relax and rejuvenate yourself after a busy day of holiday shopping called the ‘Unbounded Well.’
“This is our version of bringing nature into the city. We’re very familiar with bringing people out to the lake or up north to retreats over the weekend or in the mornings. And we thought — how can we best bring nature to the people in the city that aren’t able to get out there?” explains co-founder Nick McNaught. “So we have Scandinavian saunas, we have fire pit lounges, we have cold plunge wells, we have a really vibey geodesic dome for breathwork and meditation where people can cycle between hot, cold and neutral and find a moment of stillness in the chaos of the city.”
“You can walk in and feel like you’re two hours north of the city … you feel like you’re at a glamping retreat,” McNaught says. “It’s not about removing the fact that there’s noise and there’s streetcars and there’s stress. It’s about how you find the moment of stillness within that stress. I think everyone deserves that and we’re all a whole lot healthier when we do that — that’s the aim of this place, to give everyone that moment.”
While the small shops at stackt are open year-round, the Holiday Hills festival wraps up on Dec. 31 and the Unbounded Well experience continues into the new year until April.