Two fancy stands opened in the ByWard Market on Tuesday with hopes they will help dress-up the tourist area.
BeaverTails put up $100,000 to build the enclosed stands and chose the first vendors — Maple Country Sugar Bush and Maker House Company — to occupy the year-round mini stores.
“We wanted to see vending as part of the new plaza, as part of the gateway to the market,” BeaverTails founder Grant Hooker said during the official opening of the stands.
“I just thought, if there were some really nice stands on either side of the market building at the back of the plaza, like bookends, it would be beautiful.”
According to Hooker, the city was cool to the idea at first because of the cost. He offered to loan the money to the city.
Hooker said an exchange with Coun. Stephen Blais changed his thinking about financing the project.
“(Blais) said, ‘Are you going to ask for the loan to be paid back?’ And then I realized, we’ve been here 37 years. The market has been so good to us,” Hooker said.
“We built a franchise company that has 135 stores around the world, starting from that booth. We’re a corporation. We can be a corporate sponsor.”
So BeaverTails, which already has a landmark red building in the market, ponied up the cash.
“I figure they couldn’t refuse it if we were going to pay for them,” Hooker said.
He believes the stands, along with the city’s $1-million revamp of the George Street plaza, will help revitalize the district.
“We joined by putting a little money where our mouth is,” Hooker said. “This will hopefully be a trend.”
The city left it up to BeaverTails to suggest which vendors should occupy the new stands.
Hooker said they chose Maple Country Sugar Bush for one stand because the vendor represents the agri-foods that are sold on the west side of the market building. Maker House Company, the retailer that has moved into the other stand, showcases handmade goods traditionally sold by vendors on the east side of the building.
The leases for those stands compel the tenants to have a higher standard because they’ll be seen as the faces of vending in the market, Hooker said.
A portion of each stand will be heated in the winter.
Robert Hupe of Maple Country Sugar Bush said it will be easier to run his business during the cold winter months, rather than setting up on the sidewalk.
“It’s nice to have a permanent roof over our heads,” Hupe said. “It’s a nice change.”
On the other hand, Hupe said there’s a bigger commitment since he’s required to keep the stand open until at least 9 p.m.
Gareth Davies of Maker House said expanding the young business beyond the flagship store in Hintonburg came earlier than he expected.
“We couldn’t pass it up,” Davies said. “We ramped up. We’re double the staff we were before and obviously we ordered more and more of this local handmade stuff, so our makers are also trying to keep up. We hope we’ll just get busier and busier down here with all the traffic and tourists who will now get introduced to these artists.”
Original article written by Jon Willing can be found here.