At CEP Toronto, we strive to bring together sustainability professionals in the Greater Toronto Area. Due to the changes of COVID-19 on the economy, small businesses need our help more than ever. That’s why we’re using our blog to connect our community with Canadian small businesses who are doing good for the environment by providing products or services that help us live and work a little greener.
We were honoured to sit down to speak with Dayna Stein from Toronto’s bare market, a package-free goods and grocery store. Dayna began her career in Toronto as a sustainability consultant with a focus on sustainable food systems and social enterprise development where she developed the skills that eventually helped her in starting her own business.
What’s the story behind bare market?
Photo Credit: @jakegrahamphoto and @megangloverphoto
bare market began as an idea when Dayna was finishing her undergrad at UBC in Vancouver. She was inspired by her experience visiting The Soap Dispensary and completing her master’s thesis on food waste mitigation using the City of Vancouver as a case study.
She knew there was a big gap in the Toronto market—especially for a package-free store selling food, home and body products in bulk. She wanted bare market to be an accessible and affordable place that incentivizes people in Toronto to make lasting behaviour change in regards to waste and their impact on the environment.
In the beginning, they were selling in farmer's markets and opened pop-up shops at different retail stores and public event spaces as a method of market research. Then Dayna and her team found a physical location and officially opened their permanent store in January of 2020.
Why is sustainability important to Dayna?
Entering university, she always knew she wanted to create a positive impact in the world. She was particularly drawn to food because it’s one of those unifiers we have across cultures to bring people together, while also being a massive contributor to climate change. She found a lot of value in learning how sustainable food systems are an effective way to counteract and minimize those environmental impacts. During her consulting work, she also enjoyed helping organizations across different sectors with their sustainability strategies.
How has bare market adapted during COVID-19? What about after COVID-19?
Photo credit: @br_mrkt_ryn
bare market had been operating for only two months when COVID-19 hit and they had to pivot very quickly. They closed their store in mid-March to strategize on how they could continue to provide for their supportive community during a global pandemic, while staying true to their core values.
Photo credit: @br_mrkt_ryn
They put together their online store in four days, where customers can pay online and select a time slot to pick up their orders. They currently don’t allow customers to bring their own containers for refills, and instead, they are filling liquids into glass bottles, which customers can return for a refund or store credit. Their team is working overtime packing dry goods in paper bags, refilling bottles with liquids and greeting customers for pick-ups. They are constantly adjusting to streamline the process such that their staff aren’t overwhelmed and are still able to meet the needs of their customers.
In terms of re-opening, they don’t plan on it yet. They are a very small business with a team of 10 and if anyone of them contracts the virus, they would have to close their business for at least two weeks. They simply do not have the capacity to stay closed for a long period of time, nor the staffing capacity to rebound quickly enough. Most importantly, they don’t want to risk the safety of their staff and customers.
What is Dayna’s favourite product that bare market sells?
Instead of one in particular, Dayna highlighted their local products. They procure their products, as much as possible, directly from local businesses and farmers who sell fresh and high-quality goods (i.e. soaps, fruit and vegetables, home care products and more) that you can’t find at a regular supermarket or grocery store. She thinks it’s especially important right now for everyone to support local businesses as many of them are struggling during this pandemic.
Support bare market by following them on Facebook and Instagram @baremrkt, or visit their website to see their product offerings and read their bare blog, which contains a lot of valuable sustainability content. Because they’ve been busy, their Instagram stories are the fastest way to get up-to-date information.
The interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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