Pop-Up Zero Waste Grocery Concept Secures 1st Permanent Retail Space

The unique and new package-free, zero waste grocery concept called ‘bare market‘ will be opening its first location in Toronto’s Danforth area.

Dayna Stein, founder of bare market, said the trend is certainly on course for more stores to open in the future.

“bare market is moving into our first location. Once we figure out the nitty gritty details of running a shop versus a pop-up, we will look to scale,” she said.

The concept was founded in 2018 and has been selling through pop-up locations. 

“I think we’re in the range of 65 pop ups right now. Quite a few. Our first pop-up was June 27 last year. We’ve gone to a number of different farmers’ markets and then we also built a relationship with Patagonia Toronto. We reached out to them before our pop-ups last year in the spring and basically said here’s where our values align, here’s the business case, this is why it’s beneficial for both of us and they were on board right away,” said Stein. 

“We’ve been popping up there since last July every other week. And then we’ve just recently slowed down to once a month because we’re trying to shift our priorities into our permanent location.”

Stein said the business will continue to slow down pop-ups and perhaps cease once the permanent shop is open.

“The pop-ups have always been a method of market research to figure out where in the city we should go, what people like, what they don’t like, what they want to see as product offerings. It’s a lot of work to do a pop-up. We have well over 450 products and we bring 95 per cent of them to our pop-ups. It’s not necessarily feasible to continue doing pop-ups, especially when we’ll be operating six to seven days a week in a permanent location,” she said.

The first permanent store location will be at 1480 Danforth Avenue and will open in either late December or early January. It will be located in 2,800 square feet of space.

“bare market is Toronto’s first one-stop shop for package-free goods”, said Stein. “We sell body care, home care, cleaning ingredients and a whole bunch of “zero-waste” lifestyle essentials all with the mission to help people reduce waste and save money.

“To give some examples, we sell everything from shampoo, conditioner, body wash to hair spray, beard oil, makeup in bulk, laundry detergent, air freshener, all-purpose spray, essential oils. Our variety is vast. And once we move into our permanent location we will be introducing food in bulk  including your typical bulk store nuts and seeds, but also oils and vinegars and products that have been produced locally in Toronto. So items like coconut yogurt and ice pops and all sorts of fun, unique products where we are working with both local producers and local farmers to get those products to us without the single-use packaging.”

On its website, the retailer says it’s time to cut that plastic addiction – and go bare.

“At bare market, we’re on a mission to help you reduce waste. As Toronto’s first one-stop shop for package-free goods, we offer affordable and locally sourced body and home care products in bulk that are good for you and good for the planet (keep your eye out for food items coming soon!).

What’s our intent? To make sustainable and ethical living easy and accessible for everyone, everywhere.”

“To pass the bare test, packaging should not be designed to end up in the dump. No, we don’t expect you to carry your olive oil and lentils home in the palms of your hands! What we mean by package-free is that our store is free from any single-use (or made-for-the-landfill) containers. Specifically, we do not carry or sell products that come in packaging that cannot be reused or composted.”

Stein said the concept is resonating with consumers.

“From when we started last year we have grown significantly in sales and I think that is in part because people are learning about us. New customers are getting to know who we are and that we exist as a place where they can re-fill,” she said.

“It was really the first time that people were seeing this movement as something they could actually participate in. It was new to them and they were asking questions. Since we started there’s been a lot of media attention on this type of concept because it’s not only been popping up in other cities around Canada but because places like ours are making it more physically and financially accessible to people so they know it’s an option for them.

“At Patagonia, in November compared to last July, we had three times the sales and it’s been growing exponentially. We have at Patagonia wait lists of 15 people for hours on end because we just don’t have the capacity to meet the demand at the moment as a pop-up concept that is filling products for people rather than customers coming in and doing it themselves. When we move into our permanent location that will switch so the customer can refill their own products and that will help us lower our costs, become more efficient and overall make it more convenient for people.”

What are Stein’s plans for growth and possibly other permanent locations?

“We want to make sure we work out all the little details of operating a permanent location before we scale to more spaces around Toronto or online,” she said, adding the retailer will have other revenue generating streams such as a ‘closed-loop’ cafe in-store where it will upcycle any of the surplus produce and bulk food items that would otherwise go to waste and turn them into delicious snacks and meals.

“We’re also going to have workshops and classes on how to live a more healthy lifestyle and how to reduce waste at home as a way to both build community and help people with the lifestyle change.

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

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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  1. I’m really excited about this! Have become even more aware of waste lately and wondering where a store like this could be, now it’s coming to my neighbourhood!

  2. The first "no packaging" store in Toronto has already opened, UnBoxed on Dundas West. Detergents and oils, milk and vegetables, pasta and grains are all sold without packaging.

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