Innovative use of shipping containers has been a hot trend globally for years, in progressive locales from Copenhagen to Paris, but it took Toronto’s Scadding Court Community Centre to get the ball rolling in the city. Now, with the growing popularity of pop-up shops as well as local and sustainable goods and services, the bin trend seems poised to take off.
Market 707, at the corner of Dundas and Bathurst, opened in 2011 and has quickly grown to include 17 businesses — from food and beverages to bike repair and crafts — set up in six containers.
“Part of the success is that people were really excited to see something a little different,” says Nikki Toten, manager of development and community engagement for Scadding Court.
And it doesn’t end with Market 707: throughout the Greater Toronto Area, there are many creative entrepreneurs who are realizing the benefit of setting up shop in what is, essentially, a giant bin.
Shipping containers can cost as little as a couple thousand dollars to purchase used before retrofits. As long as you have a place to drop it, the overhead is minimal when compared to a traditional bricks-and-mortar location.
Market 707 is currently expanding operations with a Business In A Box program to share knowledge with other neighbourhoods. There will be a similar market opening this spring at the corner of Jane and Wilson as a result.
Harbourfront Centre introduced its own shipping container food area this past summer. Dubbed Common Goods, the tiny food court includes three small businesses operating out of container-style facilities called Muvboxes.
Earlier this fall, JM&Sons, purveyors of fine, locally sourced furniture and accessories, set up a pop-up shop in a shipping container on private property on Dundas Street West.
In Toronto, Ecopods develops “environmentally friendly buildings for recreational or commercial purposes.” Design your own pod, find a patch of grass to call your own in the hinterland and Bob’s your uncle: you have yourself an off-grid recreational property.
Surely, this trend is only in its infancy and Torontonians can look forward to even more creative uses for these containers reclaimed from the garbage heap.