How Toronto's shipping container market survives the winter
Despite the bright blue skies pictured above, Toronto's shipping container market, or Market 707, is anything but sunny during the cold winter months.
In fact, many of the vendors at Dundas and Bathurst completely close up shop in the wintertime, and when I visited this week, only a few spots ere opened.
That's because with decreased foot traffic, the market receives less business. Those who do stay open rely on regulars as well as Toronto's influx of food delivery services to remain afloat until spring comes.
"Basically, most of the vendors aren’t even open at this time," says Diona Joyce, who owns Kanto by Tita Flips, of the winter months. She's entering her sixth year at Market 707 and stays open, regardless of the weather.
While she does get walk-ups, she mainly relies on catering during the winter. And she makes it work because along with her shipping container on Dundas, she has a kitchen inside the Scadding Court Community Centre's now-shuttered snack bar.
Marc Perraut from Nom Nom Nom Crepes always takes a month off between December and January. He just got home from the Caribbean this past week and his regulars were pretty happy to see him back at the market.
"You’re back! I missed you so much!" one person shrieked as they approached his window to order a decadent Nutella-filled crepe.
Perraut says that his return customers make up 60 to 70 per cent of his business - in the wintertime that number shoots up to 80 per cent.
In his small, 80 square-foot space, he shows me his so-called wall of technology, which features three iPads for three different delivery services. He's also on pick-up apps, such as Ritual and Grabb.
Even though apps like Foodora and UberEats gobble up a chunk of his profits, “in wintertime, they really do save us," he says.
Stephanie Lao, who owns the nearly three-year-old micro-cafe Petit Nuage, thinks January and February are the most difficult months.
“I feel like it’s slow everywhere, but it is especially hard in the market. A lot of the vendors do shut down for the season as well," she says.
But she's never closed in the wintertime; if she's paying rent, she'd rather stay open for those who do stop by.
It's a sentiment Perraut and Joyce seem to agree with. “One of the first things I tell people that open a restaurant here, or a food stall here, is that that very first winter is going to be the absolute worst time that you are going to have," he says.
In his first year, he got only two customers during the week between Christmas and New Years.
"If you survive that first winter," he continues, "you’re good, you’re really good."
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