CHANGE IS INEVITABLE.
GROWTH IS INTENTIONAL.

tABLE OF cONTENTS

LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHERS

In 2017, we launched the inaugural issue of Greybrook Magazine, an annual publication created to provide our investors and readers with insights into some of the exciting initiatives, new ideas, and fresh perspectives being brought to the fore by individuals and organizations within our network. We were thrilled with the positive feedback received from our readers and are excited to share with you our second issue of Greybrook Magazine.

Over the past year, we have worked closely with our respected partners and talented team to manage and oversee the development of our growing portfolio of real estate projects and to support the growth of our exciting healthcare business. Along the way, we’ve had engaging discussions with industry experts, debated the merits of new ideas, and listened to thought leaders share their points of views on important issues. Many of these interactions provided the inspiration for the topics covered in this issue.

For Issue II, we had the pleasure of interviewing a number of our partners, colleagues and industry leaders, including talented executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals leading important discussions and driving growth and change in their respective industries. At the forefront of discussions on topics that impact the Toronto region’s economic prosperity is Janet De Silva, CEO of the Toronto Regional Board of Trade (TRBoT). In 2018, De Silva and her team commissioned a study to better understand the impact a lack of suitable housing options had on the desires and plans of young professionals to live and work in the region. We met with De Silva to discuss results of the TRBoT study and the potential implications a lack of housing options could have on our ability to attract and retain the talent needed to drive the region’s future economic prosperity (page 16).

While the Toronto housing market has dominated headlines of late, so too has the doom-and-gloom narrative surrounding the retail industry. To make sense of the many sensational headlines, we sat down with Paul Morassutti, Executive Managing Director at CBRE, to discuss his views on what’s really going on in Canadian retail and what we can expect to see as the industry transforms (page 86).

We enjoyed speaking with our partner Benjamin Bakst, CEO of Marlin Spring, one of our most active real estate development partners and a third-generation development firm (page 22). Bakst shared with us how the generations before him inspire and inform the decisions his organization makes every day in their relentless pursuit to create value in real estate and to build sustainable communities that meet the varied needs of a growing region.

Beyond real estate, Greybrook has invested in a number of healthcare businesses and we are extremely proud of the positive impact Greenbrook TMS NeuroHealth Centers has and continues to have on the quality of life of thousands diagnosed with depression. We are pleased to share our interview with CEO Bill Leonard and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Geoffrey Grammer in Making Waves in Mental Health (page 42).

Art, food, and culinary experiences are essential ingredients in what make Toronto and Miami the exciting and dynamic cities they are. In “The Rise of Food Halls” (page 54), we explore the food hall concept, a new take on an old-world tradition that has grown in popularity in both Toronto and Miami and a trend we expect will continue to grow. In our Charlie’s Burgers piece (page 76), we get a sneak peek at what makes this secret Toronto supper club, now in its tenth year, one of the most sought-after food experiences around the world. And in “How Miami Became an Artistic Mecca” (page 30), we explore the origins and cultural and economic impact of Art Basel Miami, a contemporary art festival and major annual event that draws in more than 80,000 visitors a year.

We hope you enjoy this latest issue of Greybrook Magazine and invite you to also find inspiration in the ideas and people all around who are shaping the communities in which we live, work, and thrive.

Peter Politis, Sasha Cucuz & Elias Vamvakas
Partners, Greybrook Capital

LIMITING OPTIONS FOR YOUNG PROFESSIONALS

HOW TORONTO’S CURRENT HOUSING CONSTRAINTS PUTS OUR COMPETITION FOR TALENT AT RISK
STORY BY LAURA CURRIDOR
ILLUSTRATION BY ROSIE SCOTT

It’s no secret that the Toronto region has emerged as one of the most attractive metropolitan areas in the world: a combination of first-class academic institutions, economic stability, open diversity, comprehensive healthcare, and a vibrant cultural scene has established the region as an excellent place to live, work, and thrive. These attributes not only continue to draw in new residents and global corporations, the likes of Salesforce, Shopify, and Facebook, but they have also helped secure Toronto a spot on the coveted shortlist for Amazon’s second Headquarters. While these factors have made the region adept overall at developing and attracting talent, a recent study published by the Toronto Regional Board of Trade (TRBoT) suggests our ability to attract and retain talent could be at risk if the region’s current housing constraints are left unaddressed.

With a vision to make Toronto one of the most competitive and sought-after business regions in the world, TRBoT continually examines important issues that impact the viability and growth of the region. Having identified the region’s talent as a pivotal asset to our global competitiveness and arguably the most valuable currency in this competitive global economy, issues related to nurturing a best-in-class talent pool have become a key area of focus for the Board. In 2017, TRBoT, in partnership with Options for Homes and the Toronto Real Estate Board, commissioned Environics Research Group to survey Toronto region’s young professionals (YPs) to see how this demographic of highly skilled, educated, and motivated talent felt about the current housing market. We spoke with TRBoT President and CEO, Janet De Silva, to better understand the challenges, implications, and potential solutions to the region’s housing concerns.

“We chose the lens of young professionals because they represent the future of our market and are our biggest asset, which is the talent that we have here,” De Silva explains. “It’s also the most representative of the broadest mix of housing requirements–everything from fresh university grads that need that first room or shared apartment, through young professionals trying to get their first condo, to those getting married and starting to have families. They need stock of all sizes.”

“They are also the most relatable segment,” De Silva continues, “in that all of our neighbourhoods have children or grandchildren who are impacted by this, so we believe that [young professionals] have the most interesting voice in what is a challenging climate for us around housing.”

“[young professionals] have the most interesting voice in what is a challenging climate for us around housing.”
AFFORDABILITY IS GETTING IN THE WAY OF THEIR DREAMS

In the quest to attract and retain talent in the Toronto region, one of the biggest challenges facing this group of working YPs today is affordability. Having witnessed the wealth creation their parents’ and grandparents’ generations built through real estate, YPs share the same dreams of owning their own home, but with the average price of homes in the GTA at record highs, homeownership may be a pipe dream for many. Though the TRBoT study found eighty-six per cent of YPs want to make the move from renting to homeownership, seventy-five per cent admitted they cannot afford a down payment, and nearly half are concerned about their ability to afford the associated carrying costs. De Silva points out that this lack of housing affordability has serious ramifications on our talent pool and states how “concerning it is to see the percentage of young professionals that are seriously considering whether the Toronto region is the right place for them to be living and working because of the financial burden of trying to get into the housing market.”

Determined to overcome these challenges, some YPs are approaching the market in different ways than previous generations. Not only are YPs forced to live at home longer before leaving the nest, many are also tapping into the Bank of Mom and Dad for their first home purchase. It is expected that over the next decade, Canadian baby boomers will receive an estimated $750 billion in intergenerational wealth transfers from their parents. These baby boomers are then paying it forward to their children: thirty-three per cent of YPs are expected to receive financial assistance from family or friends to finance their housing purchase, with roughly one-third of baby boomers planning to or already having bequeathed a living inheritance to their children. While some baby boomers are helping this generation realize the dream of homeownership, many others are choosing to downsize later in life, in turn delaying the release of associated housing stock and adding to existing supply constraints.

THE LACK OF VARIETY LIMITS THEIR ABILITY TO FLOURISH

Beyond the affordability hurdle, as YPs transition through different life stages, many are finding a lack of appropriate housing to accommodate their changing needs as they plan for and grow their families. The Toronto region’s current housing options have mostly been confined to either large, relatively more expensive low-rise homes in the suburbs or small high-rise condos in the urban core. “Our YPs are telling us that we need denser communities with more missing middle options, such as townhomes, low- and mid-rise three-bedroom condos, and semi-detached homes throughout the city and across the region”, De Silva shares. The survey found this lack of housing diversity has left few options for YPs, with most agreeing overwhelmingly that the “Not In My Back Yard” approach of their forefathers is no longer an option. In fact, seventy-four per cent of respondents stated they supported measures to increase residential density.

There is, however, still pushback from current residents against densification, which comes as no surprise to De Silva. “Folks want transit [and] access to more services, but they don’t want things to change in their neighbourhoods. We have more than 1,400 young professionals in our Toronto Region Board of Trade Young Professionals Network, and we want them to be the voice and face of this [densification].” De Silva highlights the importance of this grass-roots approach in “helping our neighbourhoods get over what densification means. We need to come up with a sensible plan for densification because we don’t have the option to create more lands. It really is thinking more creatively about the land that is available within the municipal boundaries that we operate in.”

De Silva adds, “You can’t look at housing separate from transit.” With three-quarters of YPs ranking the commute to work the most important factor when considering where to live, the survey revealed that seventy-seven per cent would consider living farther away if they had better access to public transit. “The reality is that young professionals would consider living outside the city’s core if they had a more efficient way of transiting to and from.”

Linking communities through enhanced and expanded transit services and more thoughtful decisions around how they intersect offers untapped housing potential in De Silva’s experience. “I spent a number of years living in Hong Kong, where you would see transit being developed with large condos and community centres above it. So, imagine a point in time where you’ve got the condo over the transit centre, you’ve got a daycare, you’ve got healthcare services–you’ve got everything you need to have a mini neighbourhood attached to the transit station.” This is a stark contrast to what tends to happen in transit infrastructure development in the region, where we often see, as De Silva describes, “architecturally stunning surface-level station entry points and acres and acres of asphalt surrounding it.”

“While housing is not the only determining factor for attracting and retaining talent, it is undoubtedly a key consideration for a talent pool that is increasingly more nimble and mobile.”
FINDING SOLUTIONS

It’s clear to De Silva that the Toronto region is and will continue to be a global economic player when it comes to attracting both international business and talent. “We are viewed as having a lot of strengths in terms of environmental management, and our diversity is such a huge strength for us. We’re seeing an increase in global foreign direct investments by these firms that are saying, ‘I can come to Toronto and test for every market in the world that I operate in because there’s such a broad, diverse, integrated population.’ We’ve also got an incredible talent pool and an incredibly dynamic, livable city in terms of the culture, sports teams, bike paths, walking paths, and so much more.”

“There are so many elements that are working in our favour,” says De Silva, reflecting on the region. “We’ve got what is a positive problem, and the questions facing us are ‘How do we lead on growth? How do we accommodate the [population] growth that is in front of us and the growth that we know is coming towards us over the coming decade?’” For the region’s economy to continue to grow and thrive, these are crucial questions that political and economic leaders need to tackle. “We’ve got all our members who talk about the talent gaps and talent shortages, and the challenges we’re facing is that we need more talent to come into the region to be able to fill these fill these jobs. Housing affordability, the cost of transit, and the cost of trying to raise a family are huge challenges for us,” admits De Silva. “If you can’t accommodate growth, then businesses will find other locations that can.”

While housing is not the only determining factor for attracting and retaining talent, it is undoubtedly a key consideration for a talent pool that is increasingly more nimble and mobile. Against the backdrop of global competition for resources, investments, and technology, to continue the Toronto region’s notable cycle of growth, the region cannot risk compromising this essential input. This is why a considerable amount of work has already been undertaken by De Silva’s team to define strategies to address these concerns.

TRBoT’s 2018 Agenda for Growth: Housing Policy Playbook is the result of a year of policy and advocacy initiatives by the Board to elevate and address the supply issue affecting housing and its impact on the business community. Central to their call to action is building more of the right type of housing (e.g., mid-rise, mixed-use, higher-density options) close to transit. Focused on increasing the supply and variety of housing options in the region, TRBoT’s proposed strategies include reducing barriers to development to speed up construction, better utilization of provincial lands for new housing, and amending the Planning Act to enable densification around transit stations.
Solving for the housing struggles faced by YPs is not an exercise limited to a single cohort or generation: it impacts us all. In order to futureproof our talent pipeline, the region needs to tackle current housing constraints before these mobile YPs begin to look at other regions to fulfill their evolving lifestyle wants and needs.

If we are to listen to De Silva, for the sake of our economic growth and collective prosperity, we should all become champions of intelligent housing initiatives to ensure the Toronto region is positioned competitively in the global fight for top talent.

A RELENTLESS PURSUIT

HOW MARLIN SPRING IS CREATING VALUE IN REAL ESTATE
STORY BY COURTNEY SHEA

There is a special piece of artwork hanging on Benjamin Bakst’s wall at his office in Toronto: a framed photo of a family of ducks travelling across a pond. It’s an heirloom of sorts; it belonged to his grandmother and speaks to the importance the Marlin Spring CEO places on family and history. But there’s another reason Bakst likes to look at the ducks on a regular basis:

“It’s very representative of what I think we do every day,” he says. “Real estate development is hard. It’s complex—none of what we’re doing is easy.” Still, like the ducks in the photo, their job is to make it look that way. “We try to get the job done, and we try not to burden our financial partners or anyone we are partnered with.” It may look like they’re coasting smoothly across the water, but “down below,” Bakst notes, “we’re paddling like hell.”

So far all of that hard paddling is paying off. At a time when developing in Toronto has become increasingly challenging, Marlin Spring has amassed a diverse portfolio of real estate properties in the region and across the United States—more than fifteen are currently underway in neighbourhoods throughout the Greater Toronto Area. Part of that success is about looking to the future—anticipating the evolving needs of the Toronto region and its residents. And part of it is looking to the past—both the city’s and their own, which dates back more than sixty years and three generations.

Bakst’s father in-law, Mark Mandelbaum (Chairman of Lanterra Developments), is the son-in-law of Sandor “Sandy” Hofstedter, a household name in Canadian real estate who came to Canada from Hungary with modest means and founded H&R Developments along with his wife’s two uncles in 1952. A family-run business, H&R Developments grew over the decades, becoming one of the most significant real estate development and investment firms in Canada with commercial, residential, office, and industrial holdings. Hofstedter’s three sons and one son-in-law (Mandelbaum) joined the company and over time gravitated to their own areas of the development business, eventually creating the next generation of firms, including Lindvest, H&R REIT, Davpart, and Lanterra Developments.

In the early 2000s, as urban development in the city started to look up as much as out, Lanterra (founded by Mark Mandelbaum and Barry Fenton) focused on high-rise condo development, mainly in the downtown core. Lanterra’s imprint can be seen all over the city’s skyline, with new builds like the Residences of Maple Leaf Square and the Ice Condos on York Street, along with restorations of iconic landmarks like the Sutton Place Hotel and the old Toy Factory lofts, one of Toronto’s first loft conversion success stories.

Bakst joined the firm as the Toy Factory project was getting underway. “I felt very fortunate to be a part of that experience—to be involved with the early players in retrofitting the space and to have had the opportunity to repurpose this magnificent old building with so much character,” he says. “Lanterra did many innovative things, and we were early pioneers in different areas. We had great partnerships, and we really specialized in building high-rise condominiums. You couldn’t pay for the type of education I had working at Lanterra and the mentorship I received from my father-in-law.”

“If there is an opportunity to build value through development or repositioning of a property, then we’ll do it.”

Ironically, being part of a successful multigenerational development firm was key in inspiring Bakst and his business partners (brothers-in-law Elliot Kazarnovsky and Zev Mandelbaum) to blaze their own trails. “In a business that is multigenerational, there tends to be a strong emphasis on asking, ‘How does what we do today affect where we are in five years? Ten years?’” says Bakst, explaining how after participating in a Harvard-run conference about transitioning in family businesses, the three future partners recognized that, for them, what was next involved taking a look back. “We felt there was a need to get back to a more diversified type of platform and build more than condominiums—that’s what the city needs,” says Bakst. And that’s what Marlin Spring is providing.

To understand the changing face of development in Toronto, it’s important to understand the changing needs of some Torontonians. Bakst explains there’s been “a big shift by many” towards a more integrated, localized living model. Particularly with millennial consumers, there is the desire to reside and work in the same area, with proximity to friends, retail, restaurants, and transit. “It’s about people appreciating the urbanization of life,” says Bakst.

Our conversation takes place at Junction Local, a popular, industrial, chic café in precisely the kind of thriving, community-focused neighbourhood he’s talking about. Just a few blocks away is Marlin Spring’s new Stockyards District Residences, a joint venture with Greybrook that ticks a lot of boxes when it comes to the kind of transformative city building for which Marlin Spring is leading the charge: design that integrates into the landscape of a historic neighbourhood, proximity to modern amenities and existing or future transit, and the chance to be part of an exciting revitalization.

Still, Bakst is hesitant to pledge allegiance to any one project, built form or neighbourhood. “I could say I love the Junction—amazing restaurants, a great sense of heritage. Or I love the Beach—five minutes from the water, five minutes from the streetcar. But as real estate developers, we’re thinking on a macro level. We think of ourselves first and foremost as real estate investors. Above all else, we look for opportunities where we can use our development and repositioning expertise to create value for both the community and our financial partners.”

For Marlin Spring, that means a commitment to diversity, which Bakst sees as both a defining strength of the Toronto market and a description of what developers should be providing as our global city looks to solve challenges around affordability, livebility, and density. Like many industry experts, he’s bullish on mid-rise construction as part of the potential solution. Marlin Spring currently has five such projects in development, including Canvas Condominiums on the Danforth, Stockyards District Residences, West Beach Condominiums in the Beaches, 1197 The Queensway and another partnership with Greybrook at 1045/1049 The Queensway, an area that will see significant transformation in the coming years. Bakst believes that mid-rise condominiums fulfill the missing middle between high-rise towers that are only getting taller and taller and low-rise housing options that are being built further and further away. “It’s the perfect marriage between a home and a condo and [is] rich in social value,” says Bakst. “When I see a great mid-rise project, I feel like it’s a great service to the city.”

As Marlin Spring moves forward in its mission to build the Toronto of tomorrow, the past continues to inspire. Their new value-add projects in Clearview Heights and South Parkdale provide an opportunity to “buy into Toronto’s history,” as Bakst puts it, by renovating and revitalizing buildings from the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s. These are properties in sought-after neighbourhoods with charm and architectural details (and space!) that are not easy to recreate under current zoning and construction regulations. Plus, they are a part of Toronto’s past, which Bakst would like to see revered rather than torn down. “It’s really about repositioning something that can’t be recreated—a building with character. For us to be able to inject new life into existing stock, which is there waiting for us, almost begging for us to revitalize it and inject some new life into it, is very exciting.”

Having the benefit of their own experience and the experience of generations before them has given Marlin Spring a commitment to the values that run deep in the company DNA. Like the generations before them, Marlin Spring is building a legacy as value creators with strong and enduring partnerships. “At the end of the day, what we are after is creating value across the board. If there is an opportunity to build value through development or repositioning of a property, then we’ll do it.” As for partnerships, Bakst explains, “business and relationships are intermingled. To be successful in business, you have to be able to achieve your business and financial goals while still maintaining very good relationships with the people you work with, without doing anyone wrong. If you can do that, then you can say you’ve been successful. That is a fact,” he says. “With Greybrook, we’re onto our seventh deal. The thing I’m the most proud of is that we’re able to do repeat business. When you prioritize repeat business,” says Bakst, “you make deals that are good for everyone.”

It’s a way of doing business that hasn’t changed since 1952, when Sandy Hofstedter prioritized value, hard work, and partnerships. “Mr. Hofstedter was very hardworking and sought opportunities to create value in a variety of areas of real estate, and the same is true of my father in-law,” says Bakst. His own definition of success is very much shaped by being attached to an enduring legacy. “It’s the same thing that’s driving the current generation,” says Bakst, before heading back to the office to finish the day and resume paddling.

HOW MIAMI BECAME AN ARTISTIC MECCA

THE BEACH THAT ART BASEL BUILT
STORY BY Greg Bolton

It’s 1895. A historic coastal European city is looking for new ways to redefine and rejuvenate itself. To that end, it launches a festival to celebrate contemporary art in an unprecedented way, and it invites the world. The rest, as they say, is history.

The city? Venice. The festival? The Venice Biennale, which permanently rejuvenated the city’s identity through art. It was a bold bet and an immediate success. To this day, the Biennale remains among Venice’s most celebrated events, cultural or otherwise.

Perhaps more important than the Biennale’s local influence was its global impact: it showed the world that a so-called small town could punch above its weight class through a committed embrace of the transformative power of art and culture, hatching a new model whose influence is still felt today.
More than a century later, this model has helped to shape another coastal city: Miami, Florida. It’s a market that, over the last few decades, has enjoyed exceptional growth–much of which is attributed to the city’s commitment to the arts from residents, city planners, and real estate developers alike.

Similar to Venice, one key catalyst for Miami’s renaissance was a recurrent cultural happening: Art Basel Miami, the North American edition of the famous Swiss modern and contemporary art festival.

Throughout its history, Miami has never lacked a unique charm; remarkable art deco buildings, lively Latin influence, and legendary beaches have made it a tourist magnet for decades.Throughout the eighties and nineties, Miami would witness the birth of an impressive number of cultural facilities and institutions, including the Miami City Ballet, New World Symphony, New World School of the Arts, the Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami, Miami Book Fair International, and Miami International Film Festival.

But if the city’s creative scene had smouldered quietly for decades, it was not until the arrival of Art Basel in 2002 that it truly caught fire, according to Books Bischof, co-founder of Primary, a Miami-based arts organization known for its bold mural projects around the city (and now across the world). Bischof was quick to note the impact Art Basel had on the Miami arts community.

“Before Art Basel,” says Bischof, “we had a pretty well-respected art scene, and people had been travelling to Miami for a while. Insert Art Basel, and now you have this world stage. People started to see Miami as this exciting new melting pot of cultures with great potential and a great community. You have to give credit to Art Basel for raising the bar and bringing 40,000 extra art lovers to the city.”

“Show me a city that does not promote the arts, and I’ll show you a city without an identity. Through paintings, sculpture, books, architecture, music, dance, we show our creativity, our expression, who we are–it is how we remain alive. Art connects us to the past and is a legacy we leave for the future.”

Just fifteen years later, the festival welcomes more than double that number; in 2017, the fair broke all previous records, with 82,000 in attendance, over $3 billion in artwork sold, and an estimated economic impact of over $500 million for the city.

Those are impressive figures, but in some ways, they’re just the tip of the iceberg. In the wake of Art Basel, a larger art and entertainment scene has emerged in Miami that has helped fuel the growth in property value, which has in turn unlocked an accompanying rise in world-class, high-end real estate development. Miami is now known as “the beach that went boom.” And that boom, which is ongoing, has maintained a very tight connection between arts and development. This is the true legacy of Art Basel.

Bischof says that since the early days of Art Basel, art festivals have become a year-round affair in Miami–even during the blistering Florida summer months. Design Miami, for example, runs in the middle of June and has become a world-renowned venue for collecting, exhibiting, discussing, and creating collectible design from all over the world.

Art Wynwood, which runs a month after Art Basel over the President’s Day long weekend, is another high-profile festival that brings collectors from around the world for the opportunity to view and purchase some of the most important works of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. It’s sponsored by Christie’s International Real Estate, in large measure because the firm knows that high-profile buyers aren’t just looking for new artworks in Miami; they’re looking for spectacular new places in which to house them.

As the city’s star-studded festival scene continues to expand, all eyes may usually be on the celebrity attendees, but, in reality, many prominent art buyers are real estate investors and developers. From Dacra’s Craig Robins and Starwood Capital’s Barry Sternlicht to Miami native Jorge Pérez of Related Group, the tie between art and development in Miami is inescapable.

Pérez is well known for high-profile art purchases for both his personal collection and Related Group’s headquarters in Miami. Pérez’s name is literally synonymous with modern art. He is the titular benefactor of the Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM), one of the city’s most popular and influential modern art collections; he is also an ongoing supporter of the arts.

While Pérez is perhaps Miami’s most notable investor in both real estate and art, he’s by no means the only one; every developer, whether local or not, seems to grasp the special relationship between real estate and art in this city.

“For a developer,” says Bischof, “you quickly come to the conclusion that you can’t just build here; you need to participate in Miami by really investing in its art scene.” Bischof notes that there have been some missteps–understandable, given the sheer pace of growth–but he feels that developers are getting it right overall, and they’re doing so by paying attention not just to the immediate needs of the development but also to the larger cultural identity of the city.

Much of that identity is a deep-seated tradition for dreaming big and thinking differently, which is a huge opportunity for innovative developers. “There’s so much room to experiment down here,” he says. “I hope we can build complexes that, like art, can challenge people and have them say, ‘Wow! Did you see that? Unbelievable.’”

“Every developer, whether local or not, seems to grasp the special relationship between real estate and art in this city.”

ART BASEL MIAMI FAST FACTS

SINCE 2002, THE FAIR HAS EXPANDED TO OVER
160
GALLERIES
THE NUMBER OF ATTENDEES HAS INCREASED TO OVER
30000
ANNUALLY
ESTIMATED ANNUAL ECONOMIC IMPACT TO THE CITY IS
$0M
ANNUALLY
THE FAIR NOW FEATURES ARTISTS FROM OVER
0
COUNTRIES
ESTIMATED WORTH OF ART ON DISPLAY IS OVER
$0B
ANNUALLY

Currency figures are in USD

This sentiment could certainly be applied to Miami Beach’s monumental Faena District, a complex completed in 2016 that encompasses not just hotels, residences, shops, and restaurants but also a 43,000-square-foot cultural centre known as Faena Forum. Deliberately referencing the Roman Forum, it’s designed to accommodate Miami’s cultural events and gatherings of all sizes.

In the Faena District, culture isn’t an add-on or afterthought but an integral part of the project’s philosophy–it’s in its very DNA. Even the main parking garage at 1111 Lincoln speaks to this: designed by the award-winning Swiss firm Herzog & de Meuron, it is in and of itself a spectacular work of public art.

Another large-scale project, touted as the city’s biggest yet, is Miami WorldCenter, a 27-acre, $2.7 billion project that will span half a dozen city blocks by the time it is completed in a few years. The complex will include a 60-storey condo tower, an office tower, and a 1,700-room hotel, which will incorporate a rooftop electric race car track.

Again, art and culture will play a key role in its success. “Miami WorldCenter is going to bring something amazing to the downtown area,” says Bischof. “The developers are really focused on bringing great art to their properties.”

In fact, they were doing so even before the project officially broke ground: in 2013, Bischof’s firm, Primary, was commissioned to curate the first instalment of Words Travel Fast (WTF), a large-scale mural project, in collaboration with Miami WorldCenter. Primary’s objectives with the piece were to explore the relationship between text, visual art, and geography, provoke thought and discussion, and beautify an area in transition as it was readied for development. “Our organization is a big believer in public arts being impermanent,” explains Bischof. “Impermanence has great value; it’s like water–always rushing, staying fresh.”

There are numerous other world-class projects planned or underway all over Miami, but according to Bischof, it’s not just in these large-scale developments that the impact of art on the city’s geography can be felt. “The paradox is that the art community helped make neighbourhoods like Wynwood and Miami Design District cool, which, of course, made them attractive to developers. But that popularity drove prices up, so the artists had to move to another district. For artists in cities everywhere, that’s kind of a typical vicious cycle.”

And yet, Bischof continues, Miami has managed to buck that global trend in a unique way. The year-round popularity of Miami–for which developers, planners, local artists, and arts festivals can take credit–has given artists the stability they need to invest in the city’s real estate scene themselves.
“Over the last four years or so,” he says, “a lot of Miami artists have, for the first time, found themselves in a position to buy their own property and become stakeholders in the community, and a lot of the gallery owners now have their own properties.”

This is particularly true of the Little River/Little Haiti area, where Primary’s offices are located. Bischof sees this breed of smaller investment as a necessary complement to the larger ones being made on projects like Miami WorldCenter; it’s something that will encourage the local community not to fear growth but to embrace it with enthusiasm.

It’s for this reason that Bischof is bullish about the city’s future, suggesting that its can-do, optimistic attitude might best be summarized by the phrase depicted in artist Kenton Parker’s mural at Miami WorldCenter: “I’ll see it when I believe it.”

Although Miami has always been known for its casual exuberance and love of spectacle, there’s a growing sense that the interconnection of culture and development is one that must be taken seriously to ensure the city retains its unique character as it continues its explosive growth.

As former mayor of Miami Manny Diaz declared at his 2014 Mayor’s Ball, “Show me a city that does not promote the arts, and I’ll show you a city without an identity. Through paintings, sculpture, books, architecture, music, dance, we show our creativity, our expression, who we are–it is how we remain alive. Art connects us to the past and is a legacy we leave for the future.”

Festivals like Art Basel have helped take an already incredible city into a new stratosphere, and both artists and developers are responding by bringing every bit of their energy, imagination, and investment to the area, year after year.

“I want builders to keep making the most monumental structures they can make,” says Bischof. “And I want Miami to continue to kill it when it comes to fresh new ideas and contemporary art.”

If the record number of festival attendees and construction cranes in the city’s skyline are any indication, Miami is well on its way to its own Biennale renaissance.

MAKING WAVES IN MENTAL HEALTH

GREENBROOK TMS’ PARADIGM CHANGING TREATMENT FOR DEPRESSION
STORY BY OLIVIA PENNELLE

In any given year, one in five adults in Canada and the United States will personally experience a mental health problem or illness, with approximately seven to eight per cent of people experiencing major depression at some time in their lives. In the United States, that equates to about 43.8 million adults living with a mental illness, the most common of which are generalized anxiety disorder and depression.

For the millions of people diagnosed with depression, waking up every morning feeling unmotivated and listless and struggling to get out of bed is their reality. Everyday activities are a challenge, personal and professional relationships and commitments fall to the wayside, and even the slightest setback can spiral toward harmful behaviour.

Some will attempt to combat depression with medications, which frequently yield significant side effects, or talk therapy, not often covered by insurance, and for many it is not enough. In some cases, patients suffering from depression try up to ten different drug regimens without any semblance of relief. Fortunately, there is now a revolutionary and non-invasive treatment that has shown great results.

This groundbreaking technology is called Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) and was cleared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 2008, but a lack of awareness and accessibility prevented millions from benefitting from the treatment. TMS therapy has shown a seventy percent success rate in the reduction of depressive symptoms in patients unresponsive to conventional medication and talk therapy treatments, in as little as four to six weeks.

In 2010, Greybrook identified an opportunity to apply a proven business model to this area of healthcare in an effort to create widespread adoption of this life-changing therapy. By 2011, Greybrook co-founded Greenbrook TMS NeuroHealth Centers and has since provided close to 150,000 TMS treatments and treated more than 4,000 patients across the United States who are struggling with depression.

We invited Greenbrook TMS CEO and co-founder Bill Leonard and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Geoffrey Grammer to share their knowledge and insights on how successful TMS has proven to be, the science behind it and how this remarkable treatment has changed the lives of thousands of patients.

“70 percent of our patients have a significant decrease in their
depressive symptoms and 40 percent of our patients have
no symptoms by the time they’re done.”
WHAT IS TMS THERAPY?

While many people think of depression as a matter of mindset—the belief that one just needs to pull themselves together—it is a medically recognized physical illness that alters the structure and chemical function of the brain. These biological changes can be brought about after a stressful or traumatic event (e.g., grieving the loss of a loved one, hormonal or seasonal changes). If left untreated, depression can cause potentially life-threatening physical and emotional turmoil.

“Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation,” explains Dr. Grammer, “is where we pulse a magnetic field down on top of the brain, over areas that help regulate mood and emotion. That magnetic field gets transferred into energy, which stimulates the brain, and when we do that over and over again, we can actually correct the underlying brain function that causes the depression.”

With more than a decade of experience utilizing TMS therapy, Dr. Grammer is passionate about the underlying science, capabilities, and impact of this treatment. “In neuromodulation, which is the subspecialty field of psychiatry involved in reregulating brain function, we are trying to deliver energy to the brain. Magnetic fields transfer through solids more readily than things like electricity or light therapy, and when they reach the brain, they convert to electrical energy through a phenomenon described in Faraday’s Law. It basically creates a current. The nerves in the body are biologic wires, so when we stimulate them, they activate and—depending on the frequency and the way we administer pulses—we can either increase or decrease areas of function within the brain and correct the underlying problem.”

“One thing to remember about the brain is that it’s all interconnected,” Dr. Grammer continues. “So even if we stimulate one area, we can actually impact downstream areas of brain function. In this case, by stimulating the outside part of the brain—specifically the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, [which is] basically a fancy way of saying the left frontal part of the head—we actually reach the anterior cingulate gyrus, which is not functioning correctly in depressed patients, and that is associated with an improvement with mood.”

TMS therapy evolved through the study of patients who had suffered from strokes, specifically in the anterior cingulate gyrus region, which Dr. Grammer noted is the part of the brain that requires regulation in depressed people.

“We examined patients who had strokes, and when they had a stroke in that area, they had a much higher rate of depression. We also had animal models that supported that—if you induce a lesion in that area, you can essentially create a depressive phenomenon. And when we looked at functional imaging, like fMRI, in patients with depression, that area of the brain was often under functioning,” Dr. Grammer says. “That’s how people got the idea of stimulating it. Think of it like doing physical therapy for the brain – rehabbing that area so that it’s normalized again.”

Once this area of the brain has been stimulated, the healing process can begin. Dr. Grammer describes how this treatment has given patients their lives back: “The patient who comes and sees us has not responded to trials of medications—often multiple trials of medications—and they have not responded to talk therapy. The patients we see in our centres usually have been depressed for years, if not decades. What’s amazing is that you’re taking this population of patients who have suffered for a long time and have not found adequate relief. When they get TMS therapy at Greenbrook, seventy per cent of our patients have a significant decrease in their depressive symptoms as measured by a rating scale, and forty per cent of our patients have no symptoms by the time they’re done. This response is life changing for so many patients. It is a game changer.”

TMS offers another unique advantage over traditional therapies: no systemic side effects (e.g., sexual dysfunction, headaches, or insomnia) as commonly seen with antidepressant medication. In fact, only five per cent of TMS patients report slight discomfort when they begin treatment.

Leonard explained, “Ninety-five per cent of people tolerate TMS well, and the vast majority of patients who get TMS find that the procedure is actually a fairly pleasant experience. Only a small minority find the tapping to be intolerable, and even with that, there are maneuvers we can do to minimize that site discomfort during treatment; [that] speaks to the value of having providers who are familiar with the technology.”

The unique qualities of TMS are not only its limited side effects and impressive success rates but also how targeted the treatment is. “One of the neat things is when you give someone a systemic medication, [you’re] trying to affect smaller areas of the brain, but you have to sort of bathe the whole body with that compound,” Leonard says. “TMS gets to the root of the problem by correcting the underlying neurophysiologic dysfunction or areas of the brain that aren’t working right. It’s sort of a pinpoint-specific treatment to that person’s problem, as opposed to widely disseminating some compound and hoping it hits the area that you want.”

While Greenbrook’s focus is on TMS therapy, the company advocates a fulsome approach to treatment, working in conjunction with medication and talk therapy to address each patient’s particular needs and creating a specialized treatment regimen. “We actually embrace all forms of therapy for patients,” says Leonard. “We just want to see patients get better. TMS is certainly in that algorithm. I think it’s great that a lot of patients are getting care because one of the biggest tragedies is when people suffering from depression receive no care at all.”

WHAT MAKES GREENBROOK UNIQUE

With a history of successfully delivering centre-based healthcare, Greenbrook’s founders (Bill Leonard and Greybrook Capital Partners, Elias Vamvakas, Sasha Cucuz, and Peter Politis) saw an opportunity for growth with this paradigm-changing technology in the treatment of depression, especially in terms of how TMS was underutilized. Seeing the way in which TMS was being offered at the time—in the back of a psychiatrist’s office and inaccessible in terms of its delivery—the founders developed an approach unlike any other in the industry.

“One of the things that Greenbrook has done is widen the portal of entry for care within the U.S.,” explains Dr. Grammer. “Generally, it takes about fifteen years for a medical treatment to really gain traction with doctors and patient awareness in the United States. You’re dealing with a sector of medicine that was not trained on this in their residency programs; they were used to medication management and talk therapy. We spend a great deal of time educating our referral networks whether it’s behavioural therapists, psychiatrists, or general practitioners who see a lot of depression patients, and they tend to refer patients to us as an of extension of their own practice.”

“The ability for patients to know about us, to come in, and to get insurance coverage for their procedure is something that has been advanced at Greenbrook more than anywhere else,” states Leonard. “No one really had a model like us before, where they created awareness through direct-to-consumer marketing and provided access points to the patients and doctors to have TMS therapy in specific regions of the U.S.”

Leonard explains the importance of local, integrated care on patient experience: “We have a model that’s regionally based and allows both doctors and patients convenience and access to a great treatment modality. We work closely with our doctors to develop staff that are well educated and trained, we work closely with the vendors to make sure we have the latest technology available and we have the ability to generate patients through not only referral relationships from other doctors but also direct to consumer. So, our model has been very successful in expanding the treatments of TMS therapy in our marketplace.”

Passionate about changing lives and bringing relief to patients, Greenbrook has revolutionized the landscape of depression treatment. With over thirty centres currently across the north-eastern U.S., Greenbrook is composed of industry experts in the fields of neurology and psychiatry who are bringing this cutting-edge treatment to the masses.

“We take pride in what we do with the patients,” says Leonard. “We take responsibility in terms of our leadership position in the industry to make sure we are empathetic and to make sure we are trying to get a patient back to living a normal life. And, to be honest with you, we have so many stories from patients that have touched our hearts that we are thrilled to be in this business.”

“Of everything I’ve ever done in medicine, nothing has been so transformational as TMS therapy, and that’s why I’m here today.”
THE FUTURE OF TMS

As with any new technology, the complete scope and potential use of TMS therapy is still being investigated. Currently, the FDA has approved TMS solely for the treatment of unresponsive depression; however, the FDA is currently reviewing studies that have shown success with TMS in treating obsessive-compulsive disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and more.

“There are trials that are undergoing analysis for FDA review, looking at children and adolescents, bringing the age range down to twelve from eighteen years of age,” says Dr. Grammer. “There are ongoing studies looking at bipolar depression, smoking cessation, and stroke rehabilitation with motor symptoms.” Once complete, the studies will be analyzed and sent to the FDA for further approval.

There have been several studies revealing that TMS therapy can benefit those with PTSD. Dr. Grammer has first-hand experience with TMS successfully treating patients with this debilitating disorder: “As a Colonel with the U.S. Army and Chief of Inpatient Psychiatric Services, I started TMS at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center back in 2009, and many of our soldiers coming home from abroad suffered from PTSD. We used a specific sequence for PTSD that’s a little bit different than what we do for depression. We saw very impressive results. These people suffering from chronic PTSD come in, and I cannot understate the degree of suffering they have. They’re frustrated, they’re hypervigilant, they’re not sleeping well, they’re having nightmares, they’re disconnected from their family, and they are having trouble reintegrating with life. Many of the patients that we treated had those symptoms reversed to the point that they were able to plug back into the world around them in a much more comfortable way, alleviating the suffering. It is definitely one area where I think there’s a bright future ahead.”

While additional studies are required, preliminary research of TMS treatment shows improvement in the symptoms of a variety of illnesses, including generalized anxiety, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, and even eating disorders. “I have seen patients report ceasing and decreasing binge-eating behaviours (which are extraordinarily disruptive to them and often lead to self-induced vomiting) with TMS therapy,” adds Dr. Grammer. “There are thousands upon thousands of studies for TMS therapy. If you type in any condition, you are almost certainly going to find something out there for which TMS therapy is being considered.”

Greenbrook TMS is focused on growing its footprint of clinics based primarily on the east coast of the United States. While Canada is not currently within their scope of expansion plans, Leonard says Greenbrook has significant plans to jump from thirty-five treatment centres to over a hundred within the next two years by capitalizing on both their brand and their national leadership position as the largest provider of TMS within the U.S. This expansion would enhance the mission of Greenbrook, which is to continue to contribute to the advancement of TMS, and afford them the opportunity to help change the lives of countless people with this revolutionary treatment.

In Canada, TMS therapy is available at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and throughout several universities and hospital systems, including the University Health Network (UHN) and McGill’s University Health Centre. While most of the treatments in Canada are focused on research and clinical studies, it is believed that more commercial treatments will become available as government and insurance companies begin to reimburse the procedure.

Leonard believes that the success of TMS therapy in the United States will have significant impact in Canada. “The clinical success is obvious. We are seeing patients and their loved ones begin a quick road to recovery and integration back as contributing members of society. The financial impact will also be noticed. There are billions of dollars spent on disability benefits, lost wages, and a significant overall impact to the economy. It won’t be long before government, insurance companies, and employers realize the benefits of TMS therapy and its impact on their employees and society in general,” adds Leonard.

“Throughout my career, I’ve done a variety of things,” explains Dr. Grammer, discussing the impact of TMS therapy. “I was an internal medicine doctor and a psychiatrist. I’ve done electroconvulsive therapy, I’ve given medication, I’ve trained in regular therapy, I’ve been a primary care doctor, I’ve worked in the ICU and the CCU—all that good stuff. Of everything I’ve ever done in medicine, nothing has been so transformational as TMS therapy, and that’s why I’m here today. It’s just so wonderful for the patients for whom it works.”

THE RISE OF FOOD HALLS

THE CULINARY CORNERSTONE OF THE NEW EXPERIENCE ECONOMY
STORY BY Jamie Drummond

Riding the crest of the current culinary zeitgeist, one may be forgiven for thinking that the food hall concept was something modish and altogether new; the food hall though, in its various forms over the years, has had a considerable history. Indeed, it can trace its origins back to the grand old produce markets of Europe, and over the last century, the food sections of large European department stores.

Over the years, well-established food halls have become cultural keystones of cities; from Harrods department store in London to Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, from Barcelona’s famed La Boqueria on La Rambla to Boston’s historic Quincy Market, which has been home to a plethora of food merchants since 1742. It is important to note, however, that the modern interpretation of food halls is quite different from these historic examples.

Today’s food halls are a contemporary, twenty-first-century reinvention of these traditional markets, promising authentically prepared healthy food and drink served quickly with a distinct emphasis upon communal dining. This revolution in restaurant evolution can be viewed as a response to both cultural and demographic shifts. As a new generation of consumers is becoming more interested in all aspects of food–its provenance, its method of ethical production, its mindful preparation, and its sustainability–the food hall’s open kitchens allow diners to take in how their food is being produced, seeing it made from scratch right in front of them in what can be described as experiential retail theatre.

These ideas all fit hand-in-glove with what has become known as the “Experience Economy,” whereby regardless of political uncertainty, austerity, and inflation, consumers are spending more on their actual experiences, in many cases choosing instead to cut back on buying material goods. As IKEA’s former Chief Sustainability Officer Steve Howard was quoted as saying: “In the west, we have probably hit peak stuff.”

“Developers have come to understand food halls as an experiential retail strategy, playing an important role in tenant mix of both existing and future developments.”

La centrale, Miami, Florida

A gentleman who understands this experiential aspect of food halls more than most is Matthias Kiehm. Some ten years ago, Kiehm was the business manager at the aforementioned Harrods food hall. Today he is an operating partner of Miami’s first Italian food hall, La Centrale, a three-storey, 40,000-square-foot anchor tenant in the city’s Brickell City Centre.

La Centrale offers visitors a unique opportunity to not only taste different dishes in environments ranging from vibrant marketplace to classic dining and everything in between, but also peruse the food hall’s impressive wine bar and lounge before dropping in on an interactive cooking class in their state-of-the-art La Cucina cooking studio. Kiehm sees the food hall’s altogether integrated retail component as being key to the operation. In the near future, La Centrale will be rolling out a custom-built personal shopper app through which customers will be able to order items such as freshly made pasta enjoyed in one of La Centrale’s restaurants from the ease of their restaurant seat and have it ready for pickup upon their departure. Operating as a single-vendor space, with only one third-party vendor nestled amongst some fourteen other restaurants, this model allows Kiehm and business partner Jacopo Giustiniani to curate a seamless culinary experience for patrons through exclusive control over each on-site outlet without the challenge of tenant roster management.

Kiehm draws some parallels between the growth of the food hall scene’s democratization of gastronomy and the shared workspace concept. “Historically, restaurants had tables for two or four people, but with a communal environment, you can find new friends and have conversations about what you are eating.”

Kiehm recognizes that with food now being very much at the forefront of people’s minds, tourists, residents, and office workers are increasingly attracted to food destinations. “Food fits very well with fashion, lifestyle, and other interesting retail concepts. As malls evolve, they become more of a lifestyle centre than a shopping centre.”

Developers have come to understand food halls as an experiential retail strategy, playing an important role in the tenant mix of both existing and future developments. Indeed, the food hall has become the ideal tenant for shopping centre landlords looking to connect with customers, and often more importantly, backfill vacant anchor tenant spaces left by big box retailers hit by consolidations. The idea is that a successful food hall tenant will evolve into a culinary destination, driving consumer traffic and offsetting the effects of store closures; it becomes both a footfall generator and a revenue driver.

Retrofitting a vacant retail space into a food hall, however, can be a real challenge, as today’s food-conscious consumers are looking for a bespoke culinary environment. Canny food hall operators are well aware that with such an audience, their venue has to be eminently Instagrammable. Smart design is key here. As well as looking good, the space has to be dexterously adaptable, changing from breakfast, through brunch/lunch, happy hour, into evening, and also for special events.

“Nearly every human culture of any size has had a strong marketplace tradition, and the modern food hall touches upon that social notion.”

Assembly Chef’s Hall, Toronto, Canada

Rob Bragagnolo, operator of Toronto’s Campo, the early-morning-to-late-night food emporium, understands this transformative aspect of the food hall intimately. He took his inspiration directly from the food markets of Spain, a country whose food halls have undeniably shaped this worldwide trend. “I lived in Spain for over twelve years, from 2001 to 2014, and spent a lot of time at the central market in Palma de Mallorca. What I love about the markets in Spain is how they transform throughout the hours of the day. It’s a meeting spot for breakfast, a place to buy groceries for dinner, a vibrant lunch space, a tapas bar, a wine shop, a place for late night drinks, etc.”

Location is undoubtedly key here, as for a food hall to succeed, substantial foot traffic and/or integration to wholly accessible transit is required. Studies have shown that in the rare case where a food hall fails, it is most often due to questionable location in terms of population density and foot traffic. “The food hall concept works as a destination, for sure, but it works much better when you have that alongside the combination of an office or residential population nearby. In the perfect scenario you would have all three,” as Kiehm notes is the case with La Centrale’s integration within a mixed-use development.

In Toronto, Assembly Chef’s Hall’s 18,000-square-foot space is located in the heart of the city’s central business district and directly below the captive audience of Google’s Toronto offices. More importantly, it is connected to the city’s vast underground PATH network, some thirty kilometres of subterranean shopping, services, and entertainment that is one of the largest underground shopping complexes in the world. This covered link to both retail and offices becomes a must for such an establishment during the bitterly cold Canadian winters, where very few wish to brave the weather above ground during their lunch breaks and relish the safe haven of the PATH system.

This is a fact not lost on Kiehm, who has visited Toronto many times over the years, often during the winter months. When asked where he feels a food hall would find the best fit in Toronto, he mentions the Eaton Centre for exactly these reasons.

Assembly Chef’s Hall is rather different from La Centrale and Campo in that the venue operator oversees some eighteen separate outside vendors. Restaurant ownership is an inherently risky venture, and food halls are a path to offsetting the considerable start-up costs of this gamble. The rent for a standard brick and mortar establishment in the downtown core can be a crippling financial burden, whereas food halls levy multiple tenants to keep costs in check, and communal dining areas, shared washroom facilities, and the like, offer a substantially lower overhead for the restaurateur.

In today’s chef-centric culture, food hall customers are attracted to the opportunity of cheaper access to big-name chefs, but food halls are also very attractive to said chefs, who can not only try out new concepts with substantially lower operating costs but also use their satellite location as a marketing tool to attract new customers who may be entirely unaware of the existence of the vendor’s main restaurant. This is certainly the case for Chef Nick Liu of Toronto’s DaiLo restaurant who explains that for many of the customers at Assembly Chef’s Hall in the CBD, this is their first taste of his food. Liu has found an entirely different demographic frequenting their College Street location since opening at the food hall earlier this year.

When asked about the other major challenges of running a successful food hall, Kiehm notes, “From an operating perspective, communicating efficiently what that food hall is all about is of paramount importance, and then you have to deliver on that promise.” This thought is echoed by Campo’s Bragagnolo: “The biggest challenge has been getting people to understand what we are and what we offer. One space with multiple operations is always a challenge to communicate clearly and effectively. That and what happens at different times of the day.”

The fast-paced rise and growth of the food hall scene was recently covered extensively in two reports by real estate services firm Cushman & Wakefield. Entitled “Food Halls of Europe” and “Food Halls of North America,” the reports found that the total number of food halls across Europe has already exceeded 100, with double that figure (and over four million square feet) planned for the coming decade. In North America, the U.S. marketplace has already tripled in size in the span of five years with the report predicting that at the current pace of development, it could see over 300 food halls up and running by 2020. In Canada, with seven food halls currently in operation, a further six are in development, including Eataly, The Well, and Waterworks, all scheduled to open in Toronto over the next few years.

Looking back historically, nearly every human culture of any size has had a strong marketplace tradition, and the modern food hall touches upon that social notion. With food halls like Lisbon’s Time Out Market becoming the city’s top tourist attraction, bringing in over three million visitors in 2016, the rise of the food hall appears to be so much more than just a passing trend and more like a culinary cultural shift to accommodate the now and future demands of what appears to be an ever-growing, food-loving consumer base.

TEQUILA TRANSFORMED

TORONTO-BASED TROMBA IS SHAKING UP THE SPIRITS SCENE
STORY BY Laura Fracassi
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICOLE RODRIGUES

For most, the mere mention of tequila conjures up queasy memories of late-night celebrations. Salt, lemon, tequila, repeat. Despite this unpleasant stigma, there’s been a growing movement in the spirits industry as of late, dedicated to the creation and consumption of high-quality, premium tequila. Drawn to the smoothness this refined breed of tequila offers, worlds removed from its hangover-inducing cousin, lovers of the carefully crafted product point to its versatile flavor profile when deciding how best to enjoy – added to a cocktail or simply over ice. On a trip to Mexico five years ago, Toronto-born entrepreneur Eric Brass tried “good tequila” for the first time and instantly fell in love. His goal? Create a brand that speaks to those who truly care about craft and authenticity. His brand? Tromba.

Named after the sudden and intense rainstorms that feed the legendary Jalisco Highlands where the world’s finest tequila is made, Tromba is crafted for those adventurous in spirit and who wish to take life by storm. Five years later, with the support of the Canadian bar community, the rising global demand for artisanal spirits, and growing cocktail culture, Tromba has evolved into one of Ontario’s top premium tequila brands and one of Canada’s fastest growing craft spirits.

Much of the brand’s success can be attributed to Tromba’s Master Distiller, Marco Cedano. Recognized as the first distiller to achieve premium 100% blue agave tequila, Cedano changed the tequila game forever at his distillery in the town of Atotonilco, Mexico. Previously the master distiller for Diageo’s Don Julio Tequila, Cedano’s craftsmanship has quickly elevated Tromba within the spirits category. Delivering more than 35 years of experience, Cedano artfully developed a distillery that pairs the traditional stone ovens that steam cook agave, with the more current Molino technique for extracting agave sugars.

Today, Tromba is the leading premium tequila at the LCBO and has shown no signs of slowing. In March 2018, the brand signed an exclusive distribution deal with De Kuyper Royal Dutch Distillers, which operates in over 100 markets worldwide. For Tromba, it was the right market at the right time where the interest in high quality, premium tequila fueled the foundation for global expansion. Tromba has experienced significant market growth across major target cities, including Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and most recently, Miami. In just under a year, Tromba can be found in over 200 bars and restaurants across the city and has been making inroads with Miami’s vibrant art scene. The premium tequila maker is in collaboration with international shows like Art Basel, where emerging stars collide on photography, sculptures, installations and films.

Despite international market growth, Brass says that the brand will always be something that is “made in Canada” and their roots will continue to have global appeal with a twist of Canadian identity. Lovers of Tromba, new, old and across the globe, have helped dramatically alter the notion that tequila is “occasion-based” and over the years, the brand has become one that transcends occasions from the sophisticated to the mischievous. With one sip, it’s easy to see why.

“Today, Tromba is the leading premium tequila at the LCBO and
has shown no signs of slowing.”

DOMAINE QUEYLUS’ JE NE SAIS QUOIS

A HIDDEN GEM IN NIAGARA WINE COUNTRY
STORY BY JAMIE DRUMMOND

Up on the hillside of St. Anns on Sixteen Road, a little off the beaten path of the usual Niagara wine route, lies a picturesque farmhouse. If you happen upon this veritable hidden gem and venture within, you’ll enter a world of pure vinous pleasure as you experience the complexity, elegance, reserve, finesse, and minerality of the wines of Domaine Queylus.

Queylus is no corporate behemoth, but a true labour of love for a small group of dedicated Quebec wine connoisseurs who had a collective vision of making something truly special from the unique soils of the Niagara Region.

Back in 2006, Quebec native, financial consultant, and Burgundy aficionado Gilles Chevalier was invited to tour Niagara’s wine country with a Toronto friend. While having travelled regularly to many of the world’s most respected wine regions, such as Napa, Burgundy, and Bordeaux, Chevalier had very little experience with the VQA wines of Niagara.

After being introduced to Winemaker Thomas Bachelder’s Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays at the then-nascent, now-shuttered Le Clos Jordanne project, Chevalier foresaw that the introduction of Le Clos’ Burgundian-styled wines to the Quebec market later that year would be a complete game changer with regards to la belle province’s perceptions of Ontario wines; as it transpired, he was pretty much spot-on with his predictions.

Upon returning to Montreal, Chevalier began telling his Burgundy-loving friends that Niagara was going to be the next big thing in the world of wine. He then proposed they come together to do something altogether different and look into purchasing a vineyard property in Niagara with a view to produce wines on par with those of Le Clos Jordanne, with zero compromise to quality at every stage of the process. And thus were sown the seeds of the now fully realized Domaine Queylus winery.

When we ask Chevalier more about the group’s original philosophy, he proudly states, “From day one our goal was that we would be able to put a bottle of our Domaine Queylus on the dinner table in front of our friends and we would be proud of it, with no excuses. It had to be good!”

In staying true to his Quebecois roots, Chevalier named the domaine after Gabriel de Levy de Queylus, seigneur of Montreal and superior of the Sulpician Order of New France in 1670. According to lore, Queylus was responsible for the very first vinification of wild grapes upon the shores of Lake Ontario, most probably in the Bay Of Quinte area, Prince Edward County.

Working closely with both renowned local (Lloyd Schmitt) and French (Alain Sutre) consultants, Chevalier and his group of five other investors, a group that would in later years grow to twelve, did their research and eventually settled upon an old apple and pear orchard located on Mountainview Road in Beamsville.

“From day one our goal was that we would be able to put a bottle of our Domaine Queylus on the dinner table in front of our friends and we would be proud of it, with no excuses. It had to be good!”

After a thorough soil analysis, Sutre advised the group to plant their vineyard to thirty very specifically located parcels of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir, the mix of clay, blue clay, and silty soils combined with the relatively warmer mesoclimate of the site being most suited to those particular varietals.

Throughout 2007, the painstaking process of converting the orchard to a prime vineyard site took place. Chevalier speaks with some pride about the substantial investment that went into what he refers to as a “very aggressive” drainage system under the vineyard, with drains positioned at every row of vines. But the group had all agreed that if they wanted to make great wine, then they had to invest their dollars into their primary fruit source, namely their Mountainview vineyard.

It’s often said that the best way to make a small fortune in the wine business is to start with a large one. Chevalier says this is something he and his partners were very much cognizant of going into this venture together. “It’s a huge investment starting a winery…one has to have a clear vision about what you are going to do with your money, establish your priorities, and stick with it.” After the vineyard came the winery. “We all agreed that for the winery itself, we didn’t want to build a showcase building, as others have done it better than we could do.”

With this strategy in mind, the Domaine Queylus winery is no Gehry-inspired edifice, but an unashamedly nondescript structure based upon those he had observed previously in Burgundy. Contained within its steel walls, however, is some of the most bleeding-edge winemaking equipment in Canada today, and it is here that some of Canada’s finest wines are lovingly crafted.

Echoing his comments regarding the cost of the vineyard preparation, Chevalier jokes about the bill for the winery’s impressive pneumatic punch-down equipment. “I call that the Porsche on the ceiling. It’s seriously top-notch.” And indeed it is; there’s such an investment in the inner workings of this winery that it would make many a winemaker green with envy.

Speaking of winemakers, 2010 saw the aforementioned Thomas Bachelder move on from Le Clos Jordanne to branch out with his own label and take on some consultancy work. Immediately upon hearing this news, Chevalier reached out to Bachelder and told him he had his very first client: Domaine Queylus.

Standing at six foot four, Bachelder is a giant of a man in every way; his gregariously jovial nature complements a serious and concerted academic pursuit of excellence in both vineyard and winery. Bachelder speaks of his Domaine Queylus wines as having the utmost respect for their terroir. He believes that varietal wines “can be had anywhere” and is continually striving to craft wines that “truly sing of their place.” Both he and Associate Winemaker Kelly Mason are constantly obsessing over each vintage’s myriad different parcels of fruit, ageing them individually in small 3,800-litre vats of meticulously selected French cooperage, before selecting only the best for Queylus’ Tradition, Réserve, and Grand Réserve bottlings.

In deeply resonant tones, Bachelder explains, “When you buy one of our wines, you are not just buying a Pinot Noir: you are buying solely the eastern blocks of our own Beamsville Mountainview vineyard and our leased Jordan Neudorf vineyard. It’s all incredibly specific.”

This nine-acre parcel of fruit from the Neudorf vineyard is of some historical significance for both Chevalier and Bachelder and their intertwined stories, as the fruit was formerly purchased by Le Clos Jordanne and sold as La Petite Colline, widely seen as one of the house’s most elegant and refined bottlings. Today it adds its particular magic and finesse to the wines of Domaine Queylus.

This meticulous attention to detail hasn’t gone unnoticed either, with Domaine Queylus’ Pinot Noir Réserve picking up a silver medal at both the Decanter World Wine Awards and the International Wine and Spirit Competition. As well as having listings consistently selling through at both Ontario’s LCBO and Quebec’s SAQ, and having their wines selected for Air Canada’s new Maple Leaf Lounge at Toronto Pearson Airport, their 2013 Pinot Noir “La Grande Réserve” was also served for lunch to visiting dignitaries in Charlevoix at the G7 summit that Canada recently hosted. This recognition, both at home and overseas, is something that Chevalier and his cohorts find most rewarding as a return on their investment.

As we part ways, Chevalier tells us with a chuckle, “When we undertook this venture, I used to say, ‘If one day we could be second after Le Clos Jordanne then we will have made it.’ Well, ten years later there is no more Le Clos, Thomas is making some 60,000 bottles of our wine from the 2017 vintage, and Master of Wine [and acclaimed wine writer] Jancis Robinson rates us as highly as some 1er Cru Burgundy. Domaine Queylus has evolved beyond our wildest dreams.”

FRANCO STALTERI: CONSUMMATE HOST

IN CONVERSATION WITH THE MAN BEHIND CHARLIE’S BURGERS SECRET SUPPER CLUB
STORY BY JAMIE DRUMMOND
PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICOLE RODRIGUES

Despite the rather tongue-in-cheek name, Toronto’s Charlie’s Burgers is viewed as one of the world’s pre-eminent underground dining clubs. The man behind the phenomenon is one Franco Stalteri, a veritable bon vivant, and a gentleman of impeccable taste.

Having been fascinated by gastronomy since working both back and front-of-house at his aunt’s restaurant in Le Mans, France, in his youth, Stalteri made the decision in 2009 to leave his successful career as a top-tier hospitality headhunter to focus on Charlie’s Burgers.

As the dinner series nears its tenth anniversary, Greybrook sat down with the culinary vanguard that is “Charlie” to discover just what makes his dinners some of the most in-demand tickets in town.

Greybrook: Tell us why you chose the name Charlie’s Burgers. Isn’t it a little misleading for a rather fancy dining club?

Franco Stalteri: That was the result of wanting to pick a name that was not in any way pretentious and also slightly silly. The name Charlie’s Burgers was never supposed to be a permanent thing; it was simply a placeholder until we came up with something better. Back then, all involved agreed that Charlie’s Burgers was a terrible name, but the name stuck, and to be perfectly honest, it has worked really well for us.

“Over the past few years, we have seen a sizeable increase in guests flying into Toronto from every corner of the US and Canada specifically for our events.”

GB: What kind of demographic did your original dinners attract, and how has it evolved over the years?

FS: I had a small group of friends we were already doing monthly dinners with, so we emailed that group, and others simply found us organically. It was purely word of mouth; people only found us by hearing about it from others in the know or stumbling across our Charlie’s Burgers website, and they wanted on board.

The demographic has always been a vast and varied mixed bag of guests. The common factor was their love of gastronomy, and, of course, adding a rare and absolutely singular experience into the mix certainly helped us along. We have entertained all types of guests, from restaurant industry folks, to every type of professional and creative type one could imagine. In a way the guests often make the dinner; I love mixing up a table and having all the guests interact with each other. Many friendships have been made, relationships started… and ended.

I’m always impressed by the guests who end up coming out with our team after service until the early hours of the morning. I mean, when a guest experiences a whole Charlie’s Burger dinner—with all the courses, replete with wine pairings—and then [has] the stamina to come out with us and our visiting chefs after all that, joining us for late dinner, drinks, and dancing. Seriously, that’s really something to be admired.

Over the past few years, we have seen a sizeable increase in guests flying into Toronto from every corner of the U.S. and Canada specifically for our events. I love seeing this.

GB: There is a healthy underground dining club scene in many of the bigger “foodster” cities, namely New York, London, San Francisco, and Paris. What do you feel the specific drivers are of such an underground dining scene?

FS: To be perfectly honest, we were amongst the very first to be doing these kinds of dinners at this level. I was in Paris earlier this week, chatting with a friend who lives there and who is heavily involved in the food world. He was telling me that there is a huge emergence of these types of dinners in his city right now. He then laughed and said, “I always tell them I know these people in Toronto that have been doing these dinners for nearly ten years.”

I can only speak for Charlie’s Burgers here, but within larger cosmopolitan cities, you’ll always find a certain slice of the populace who are well travelled and have a serious passion for both food and wine . . . and this particular demographic is always looking for (and is willing to pay a premium for) a truly unique gastronomic experience without the standard brick and mortar establishments.

GB: What is Charlie’s Burgers’ “secret sauce”? After so many years in operation, how do you maintain the exclusivity that Charlie’s Burgers is known for and still remain relevant?

FS: It is quite simple, really. We focus on putting on these dinners at the highest level we can, with the most interesting chefs we can find, in the most interesting spaces we can find, and [we] serve the most interesting wines we can source. These dinners only happen when all of those elements come together.

As for unique locations, we have used an underground theatre in Chinatown, a private wine-storage facility at the very bottom of a King West building, the late Billy Jameson’s private museum of curiosities, the basement of the historic Campbell House, and countless other spots.

For many of our guests, one of the most memorable dinners was an Arctic menu prepared by Louis Charest, Executive Chef for the Governor General. All of the ingredients were hunted and gathered by Inuit; we served kelp sorbet, walrus, muskox, Davis Strait shrimp, whale, narwhal, rack of seal, and an Arctic char dish he was perfecting to serve to the Princess of Japan a few weeks later. It was simply magical.

It is always a work of passion. We don’t have a set schedule of dinners or a target number of dinners we need to have each year. The dinners only happen when everything is in place. I hope this is a formula that will never go out of style.

A decade of savoir-faire is certainly part of the secret sauce. We are constantly evolving the service and the experience—adding layers to the dinners and details to the layers. This is the benefit of time and experience.

Our Charlie’s Burgers team is also an integral factor here; we have had nearly the same service and wine team since day one. At any given CB dinner, you will have five to six sommeliers on the floor and a service team of six to eight people who have worked in some of the very best restaurants in Toronto. But more important than their experience is their passion, their personalities, and their collective charisma.

“We focus on putting on these dinners at the highest level we can, with the most interesting chefs we can find, in the most interesting spaces we can find find…these dinners only happen when all those elements come together.”

GB: You also decided to expand into a private wine club. What was the thinking behind that?

FS: We have always privately imported the majority of the wines we serve at CB dinners. The wine selections were always as important as the chef and the menu. We wanted to offer our guests unique and interesting wines.

Five years ago, we decided to start the CB Wine Program as a way for our members to enjoy the terrific wines we have access to. The CB Wine Program is monthly delivery of hand-selected wines to our members. Each month, we work directly with a different wine producer somewhere in the world and create a custom case of wines for our membership.

These wines are imported exclusively for our members and are not available in any store. We hand deliver the wines directly to our members with a full write-up on the producer and the wines. We also feature two different top Toronto restaurants each month where our Wine Program members can make reservations and bring the featured wines to these restaurants without paying any corkage fee.

GB: We hear you have quite the collection of old Michelin Guides.

FS: Yes, I have over fifty [Michelin] Guides covering many cities and regions. I started collecting them back in the 2000s. The oldest is a French Michelin Guide from 1932. They were mostly amassed from my travels, with a few given to me as gifts.

GB: Do you feel that much of the attention paid to Michelin Guide recognition is unwarranted, or is it a necessary gauge of a country’s finest establishments? How relevant or archaic is such a guide in today’s culinary world?

FS: I think that the Michelin Guide can be greatly misunderstood. I feel most people who don’t fully understand the scope of what the Michelin Guide can offer are quick to judge [it] and draw what are often false and negative conclusions. If you truly research what the Guide is about and look at the benefits [it] can bring to a city, there is no better tool for international exposure to a city’s restaurants and for drawing in culinary tourism.

Secondly, one must remember that the “finest establishments” covered in a Michelin Guide are but a small fraction of the content within. The Michelin Guide covers all aspects of restaurant styles, from the most casual, inexpensive eatery to the highest end 3-star temple of fine dining. The Guide focuses on a city’s restaurants from top to bottom, regardless of price point.

GB: And how do you feel Toronto and the rest of Canada would fare if the Michelin Guide were to expand here?

FS: Over the years we have been doing our CB dinners, we have worked with Michelin-starred chefs, World’s 50 Best Restaurants, and Relais & Chateaux properties from the U.S., France, England, Belgium, and Italy, and I can say with certainty and experience Toronto has what it takes [to be a Michelin Guide city].

APOCALYPSE OR EVOLUTION?

WHAT’S REALLY HAPPENING IN THE RETAIL SECTOR
STORY BY Greg Bolton

According to media headlines, consumers are finding themselves in the midst of a retail apocalypse in which tens of thousands of stores have closed their doors and once darling retail giants like Payless, Future Shop, Toys ‘R’ Us, and Sears Canada have filed for bankruptcy protection. Blame for this demise has fallen squarely at the feet of e-commerce retailers. Led by online behemoth Amazon, the penetration of online sales has led to the so-called end of physical retail as we know it and purported death of malls, threatening the viability of traditional retailers everywhere.

This ominous portrayal of the retail industry stands, however, in stark contrast to what many Torontonians are experiencing at the local level. While we have seen our share of retailers disappear, albeit far fewer than our friends to the south, we have also witnessed significant capital investment in the expansion and update of many malls and have welcomed a wave of new international entrants. Muji, Miniso, and UNIQLO, along with first-to-market European brands and familiar U.S. outfits such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, have all entered the Canadian market in recent years. In 2017 alone, roughly fifty international retailers debuted in Canada and overall retail sales growth hit a twenty-year high.

So, what is really going on in the industry? How does one reconcile the doom-and-gloom narrative perpetuated by the media headlines and our own consumer experience?

Paul Morassutti, Executive Vice President and Executive Managing Director of the Toronto office of CBRE, the world’s largest commercial real estate service and investment firm, has long argued that the “death of retail” narrative is far too simplistic and flat-out wrong. Sasha Cucuz, Partner, Greybrook Capital and CEO of Greybrook Securities Inc., sat down with Morassutti for an insightful discussion on the current state of the retail landscape and where it might go next.

Sasha Cucuz: Everybody’s talking about a retail apocalypse and a shift in the retail space. What’s happening out there?

Paul Morassutti: Over the last five years, retail has been buffeted by a slew of changes, notably the continued momentum of e-commerce and the so-called Amazon effect.

When you peel back the onion a little–and I’ve been arguing this for many years now–the narrative that e-commerce is killing retail is a very simplistic commentary to an issue that’s much more highly nuanced and detailed. Although the entire retail sector is feeling the pressure of these changes, you can’t paint it all with one brush, because there [are] winners and losers out there. Retail is constantly changing and evolving. It’s been doing that for the last eighty years. What we’re seeing now is really no different.

“Retail isn’t dead, boring retail is.”

SC: So historical context is important here.

PM: And geographic context, too. Because the other thing to keep in mind is when you consider the volume of headlines that we get hit with almost every day concerning the retail sector are actually U.S.-centric and have much less applicability to Canada.

When Canadians hear about Toys ‘R’ Us, they think, “Oh, there’s another example of e-commerce killing a traditional retailer.” Well, guess what? In Canada, Toys ‘R’ Us was performing extremely well. It was actually carrying the company. Toys ‘R’ Us went under because of a leveraged buyout that happened many years ago. Too much debt. Nothing to do with e-commerce.

So, I think people need to understand that the retail apocalypse narrative is largely driven by what’s happening in the U.S.

SC: Can you talk about Target’s monumental failure in Canada?

PM: Target came to Canada with a lot of fanfare. Very quickly, they left with their tail between their legs. Again, people were quick to raise the old narrative that department stores can’t compete with online retail. But let’s look at the facts: Target came to Canada and opened 133 stores all at the same time with really no logistics or distribution chain in place to support them. Yes, it was a complete failure. But the Target failure in Canada had nothing to do with the retail landscape or with e-commerce. It was a Target problem.

SC: And then there’s Sears…

PM: Sears has been losing money for the last twelve years. I think they’ve had three CEOs in the last four years. Where Walmart was investing ten bucks a foot into their assets, Sears was investing about a buck. It was a dying retailer before anyone ever heard of e-commerce.

It wasn’t that long ago that Eaton’s and Simpsons anchored every single mall in Canada. They’re no longer here. Neither is Zellers. Neither is Woolworths. All of that happened before e-commerce ever hit anybody’s radar. Retailers fail every single year. Yes, there have been a lot of closings lately. And yes, a lot of that is related to technology and e-commerce. But there’s more to it than that.

In our market outlook, the line we use is that retail isn’t dead—boring retail is.

SC: You’ve talked about the need for retailers to adopt a true omnichannel strategy in order to succeed. Can you talk about that?

PM: When retailers started with e-commerce, some of them would report online versus brick and mortar sales pretty much independently. You can’t have this dual strategy anymore. It has to be tightly integrated. It has to be holistic.

SC: And a successful store should be seen as more than a place to sell things, right? It’s an investment in the brand to be in the right locations with the right exposure and deliver an amazing experience.

PM: I think so. If it was as simple as saying that most people prefer the convenience of buying their things online, the technology to do that has been in place for a long time. If it was only ever about cost and convenience, every retailer out there would be going bankrupt. But that’s not the case.

SC: Speaking of experience, let me shift gears and ask you about something else. One of the narratives out there is that millennials don’t like shopping. They’d rather go online and don’t get the same utility out of going to a mall that our generation did.

PM: I don’t pretend to be an expert on millennials because it’s been a few years since I’ve been in that cohort, but I’d say go to Yorkdale Mall in Toronto and let me know if you see any millennials there! The theory, though, is that millennials place much less weight on materialistic things—much less weight on going out and buying things—and much more weight on experiences and travel and eating out. I think that’s true to a certain extent, and it’s being reflected in some of the changes that we’re seeing in retail assets. Retail properties are being repositioned in a way that emphasizes the experiential element—places like the Nike store [and] the Samsung store.

SC: The Microsoft store, the Apple store . . .

PM: Right. All of that is attractive to millennials. Their shopping patterns are changing. Similarly, I don’t think many millennials want to go to a traditional food court with tired old fast food, but they will go to a new food hall with rotating offerings from local chefs. Their preferences are changing, but if you’re a smart retailer or owner of retail, you adapt to line up with what they’re looking for. That requires being really specific and focused.

SC: To your earlier point, it seems as though the best retailers think of everything as a multipronged strategy. It’s not just about the brick and mortar; it’s about all the outlets and how they harmonize.

PM: And one part of the retail sector that’s actually growing quite dramatically is retailers who were originally pure play online retailers and are now opening brick and mortar [stores]–Warby Parker, for example, and even Amazon, with its new automated store.

Virtually every retailer has now figured out that even millennials don’t want to do all their shopping in a living room. They still want to look at things, they want to try things on. So any successful retail formula today really has to involve an integrated omnichannel strategy that includes brick and mortar and e-commerce. You can’t have just one without the other.

SC: This isn’t exclusive to retail, but one thing that’s withstood the test of centuries is the public square you find in any European city. There have been trends that have come and gone over hundreds of years, but regardless, the public square is where people congregate. I think more developers should be focused on recreating that experience: the public space, the events and activations, the placemaking.

PM: Absolutely. But it can’t just be wish fulfillment; it needs to be a real commitment to that kind of vision. If we go back to the U.S., there’s no shortage of shopping centres that are called some variant of “Town Square.” And none of them is a town square. The farthest thing from it. Good developers and retailers today try to create more of that authentic community aspect.

SC: I see it as an opportunity to reposition and reshape the landscape. And it’s not just that the economics of it are going to be fruitful for the investor and for the owner. I think that for people, the city, and society, you’re going to have a much better landscape. If the winds have changed, they’re forcing people to reconsider and be a lot more thoughtful, which is good not only for developers and retailers but for everyone.

PM: Agreed. If you’re an owner of real estate assets and you’re good at what you do, you will adapt. The same is true of retailers. It’s a new environment out there. There’s a new tool by which you can sell goods to people and you either figure that out and you do well or you don’t figure it out. And if you don’t, you’re roadkill.

People need to remember that for every headline you hear about the retail apocalypse, there are lots and lots of retailers out there that are doing just fine, thank you very much.

TAKING CUSTOMER SERVICE TO THE NEXT LEVEL

EMPOWERING A GENERATION OF RETAIL ASSOCIATES WITH TULIP RETAIL
STORY BY JAMIE DRUMMOND

In today’s digital marketplace, shoppers have access to an endless assortment of products from across the globe: everything from toothpaste to luxury fashion brands to highly configurable automobiles – all available with a few clicks. A relatively frictionless consumer experience, one can browse, compare, review, and easily purchase products for next-day delivery. Consumers are in control, and convenience is king.

But for all the convenience of online shopping, it can be an impersonal process, lacking the human element that a great in-store retail experience can offer. What if consumers could enjoy the best of both: a truly personalized and valuable in-store experience with all the conveniences of the online world?

It may sound too good to be true, but that is precisely what Tulip Retail, a Toronto-based start-up, is offering for today’s experience economy. Run on mobile devices, Tulip’s app provides in-store sales associates with everything from real-time access to inventory (in-store or online) to exhaustive digital product content, including customer ratings, reviews, competitor pricing, and manufacturer notes, along with detailed customer data, including a shopper’s buying history, preferences, and wish lists.

Armed with Tulip, store associates can make informed recommendations, provide on-the-spot cost comparisons, order products, and arrange convenient delivery to a customer’s home. Associates are even able to invite customers to upcoming in-store events by text or let them know about new merchandise they may be interested in based on past buying patterns. Tulip empowers associates to provide game-changing customer experiences at their fingertips, shaking up the entire purchasing process for retailers and consumers alike.

After founding the successful online store Well.ca, Tulip Founder and CEO, Ali Asaria, came to the realization that his skilled tech team could expand into building similar but highly customizable (by way of integration with legacy point-of-sale and inventory systems) sales technology for the brick and mortar store, addressing many of the challenges retailers face in staying relevant to meet the ever-evolving expectations and preferences of their customers.

“For retailers to combat the threat of online players, one of the most important investments they can make is empowering the store associate, which is the biggest advantage stores have over e-retailers,” states Asaria. “Retailers need to help turn them into a beacon of knowledge, trusted advisor, and relationship builder.”

For example, at Montreal-based online clothier Frank & Oak’s retail storefront, associates using Tulip are referred to as “Style Advisors,” not only offering clientele customized fashion recommendations on the spot, but also conveniently expediting payments on the fly through their mobile devices while customers browse to avoid long lines at the cash. Once their client leaves the store, associates are further empowered through Tulip to continue delivering a genuine and wholly bespoke customer experience via digitally enhanced one-on-one relationships by emailing suggested outfits and quickly responding to any inquiries.

From high-end luxury stores like Holt Renfrew or Harry Rosen to the Home Depots and Walmarts of the world, Tulip has positioned themselves at the forefront of tomorrow’s retail, an environment where every associate is empowered with a networked device that facilitates extraordinary client experiences with every purchase. With clients that already include Kate Spade, Lululemon, Indigo, Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors, and Bonobos, you can expect to see a lot more Tulip-powered retail experiences in the coming years.

RETAILTAINMENT

NOT JUST FOR HUMANS BUT FOR OUR FOUR-LEGGED COMPANIONS TOO
STORY BY LAURA CURRIDOR

It’s all about “retailtainment” these days: the concept of creating memorable, Instagram-worthy experiences for consumers as they interact with a retailer’s products and services. Thanks to savvy retailers like Tom&Sawyer, retailtainment is no longer exclusively geared to humans, but is also tailored to our furry, four-legged friends. A young Toronto start-up, Tom&Sawyer has built a global reputation as a leader disrupting the pet food industry and has transformed what we should expect not only from high-quality pet food but also from the entire pet retail experience.

Founded in 2016 by Forensic Accountant Kristin Matthews and her entrepreneur husband, Peter Zakarow, the company was recognized by Euromonitor International as the second most innovative new retail concept across eighty countries for bringing high-quality food and retailtainment to pet retail.
It all began when Matthews and Zakarow brought home their puppy, Sawyer. They quickly noticed Sawyer wasn’t interested in eating his kibble and got very sick from raw dog food. Putting her forensic skills to use, Matthews explains, “It didn’t take long to uncover some very unsettling things about the unregulated pet food industry. The lack of transparency and trustworthy education around what really goes into pet food is alarming.” Their priority and focus became providing safe and healthy food for Sawyer. “We love Sawyer and didn’t want him eating something that wasn’t safe for us to eat,” says Zakarow. This ruled out pet food options found in the grocery store cleaning supply aisle and pet stores.

It turns out there was a growing legion of pet parents also concerned about their fur babies’ health and wellness. “We launched Tom&Sawyer with two goals,” says Zakarow. “First, to provide the highest-quality food for cats and dogs globally and become the first company to self-impose the same strict regulations applied to food manufacturing for humans to pet food. Second, to transform the lowly task of purchasing and serving pet food into a new, dynamic experience that families could share with their pets.”

Key to much of the company’s success has been the importance placed on customer experience and creating a welcoming and educational environment that provides not only the highest-quality products, but also a social and stimulating environment for pets and their owners. “Tom&Sawyer is the first true pet destination in Toronto where the pets get all of the attention. Our four-legged customers sample treats and socialize with other furry friends while humans sip lattes and chat with our team about pet nutrition, custom diet formulations, and how our preventative nutrition can dramatically reduce vet bills,” says Matthews. “In addition to the team of vets, pet nutritionists, food scientists, and chefs we brought together to create our diverse menu of cooked pet meals, we wanted to create a beautiful retail space where customers could engage in a totally different kind of experience with their pet while also being transparent in making our meals and treats on-site,” says Zakarow. Their contemporary space on Queen Street East in trendy Leslieville is a dynamic community hub hosting everything from pet-friendly adoptions to charity and educational events; it’s a popular hangout for many of Toronto’s pet families.

Appreciating the busy lives of pet parents everywhere, Tom&Sawyer’s focus on an enriching pet retail experience extends to their online presence. Customers across Canada and the U.S. enjoy the convenience of visiting their online store to order meals while educating themselves. Just like the myriad of popular meal ordering services for humans, Tom&Sawyer’s fresh food products are available as an ongoing meal subscription, delivered right to the door in special thermal boxes by priority courier.

“We didn’t set out with the goal of being a leader in retailtainment,” explains Matthews. “This is not retailtainment for entertainment’s sake or marketing gimmickry. This business is focused on providing all the things that lead our pets to live a nourished life, from nutrition to being part of a loving community. We will do anything to extend their time with us.”

“We wanted to create a beautiful retail space where customers could engage in a totally different kind of experience with their pet, while also being transparent in making our meals and treats on site.”

ALL THAT GLITTERS

TORONTO’S GRETA CONSTANTINE CONTINUES TO SHINE BRIGHT
STORY BY JEN MCNEELY
PHOTOGRAPHY PROVIDED BY GRETA CONSTANTINE

Ava DuVernay, Mindy Kaling, Meghan Markle, Amy Poehler: from the Golden Globes to Buckingham Palace, Greta Constantine is the go-to label from Toronto designers Kirk Pickersgill and Stephen Wong. They’ve been upping the ante on red carpets everywhere for the past dozen years. In the fashion world, that’s a healthy, ripe age of success.

Launching minutes ahead of the economic crash, the designers credit some of their longevity to getting into the market at the right time, but any Greta Constantine fan will tell you it’s because they’ve found the perfect marriage of sophisticated style and fun.

Always looking ahead to their next collection, their current guiding vision is “all that glitters,” and the FW2018 collection is one that truly shines. With head-to-toe sequins, metallics, and dramatized cut-outs, the back-to-school season feels more like a Studio 54 disco of all discos; we’re happy to join the party.

While they may be racking up the air miles, hitting the runways in New York and Paris, their creative inspiration is still found on the streets of Toronto.
“I walk all over the place, and this gives me a chance to people-watch,” says Pickersgill. “I study people all the time. I look at how they carry themselves and how they wear their clothes.”

With sales immediately spiking when the Duchess of Sussex wears her GC favourites, and the designers garnering increasing international attention, the opportunity to move elsewhere is ever-present, but for them, Toronto is–and always will be–home: “It’s where my family, friends, and atelier is.” They’ve given us a very pretty shimmer.

100 MILLION CANADIANS BY 2100?

WHY CENTURY INITIATIVE BELIEVES THIS IS IMPERATIVE TO CANADA’S LONG TERM PROSPERITY
STORY BY JAMIE DRUMMOND

Following our current trajectory, Canada’s population is expected to grow to approximately 54 million people by the year 2100, reaching 48 million by 2050 and barely increasing over the next 50 years after that.

Canada’s population is both ageing and declining in relation to other countries, which means fewer working people will be supporting a costly older population. This also may mean that Canada could no longer belong in the G7 or G8–we may be lucky to crack the G20.

At least that is what Century Initiative believes.

Launched in October of 2016, Century Initiative (CI) is a registered charity focused upon Canada’s future, specifically how to maintain the prosperity and standard of living over the long term in the context of a small and ageing population.

Founded by a group of business leaders passionate about the future of Canada, Dominic Barton (McKinsey), Mark Wiseman (formerly CPPIB and now Blackrock), and Tom Milroy (formerly Bank of Montreal and now Generation Capital), CI originally convened to discuss what the most pressing issues would be for Canada over the next century and how they could contribute. Collectively, they decided that a demographic strategy was a topic of critical, long-term importance to Canada.

With population decline and skills shortages already being seen in a number of regions and business sectors in Canada, CI was launched to raise the level of awareness around this topic, create opportunities for discussion and engagement, and ultimately work toward informed public policy and other solutions.

We spoke with CI’s founding board member Goldy Hyder to learn more about their mission and his take on Canada’s future.

Greybrook: You are proposing a very bold idea. What is the problem with maintaining the status quo and Canada’s current trajectory? Why is now the time to take action and make change?

Goldy Hyder: Our 100 million people by 2100 goal is provocative, sexy, and gets people’s attention, which means we get to at least debate it. When people say it’s a bold idea, I challenge that. When you look at history and the period of 1918 to 2000, a period comparable with the period between 2018 and 2100, in that first timeframe the population grew 3.7x. We are actually only proposing a population growth of 2.7x. So, Canada has done this before.

To some that may not matter, but the truth is that Canada has always had a history of punching above its weight. As a country, we have been able to insert ourselves in the global politics despite being a relatively small player. But as you look forward, you see the rise of Asia and the re-emergence of emerging markets of India, China, and other places. We are seeing a shift where globalization is becoming, to some extent, a great equalizer. People are thinking, “Where do I want to go? Where is the future? And what does this future look like?” And many are able to act on their choices.

What Japan has taught [us] is that you can be insular and close-minded about immigration and population growth, but when the crisis hits, you don’t just suddenly get to grow people like you grow plants. That’s why Canada has to proactively attract and make room for those dynamic, engaged people from other countries now. You can’t catch up later. It just doesn’t happen. And unlike some other countries, we have the opportunity to take a thoughtful, long-term approach. Our geography and overall abundant availability of land means that we are not necessarily forced into responding to immediate crises–we can be more thoughtful, strategic, and prepared.

GB: Why is population size such a pivotal issue for Canada?

GH: Population growth is just smart business. I come at it from two perspectives: one is history, and the other is opportunity.

History validates that when we have seen bursts of population growth, whether driven by natural population growth or by immigration, correspondingly our economy and GDP improve. You can map it out over the last 150 years and see that the economic reaction to population and immigration growth is a net positive one.

The second part for me, coming at it as an entrepreneur, is that you want to realize the potential of the asset you have. You want to seize the opportunity that represents Canada.

As an asset, we see the country as underutilized and underdeveloped, and with the right strategy, the right long-term view, the right decisions in terms of investment, and proactive policy making, Canada would really be able to flourish.

“The decisions that we make now will determine whether Canada can in fact grow and develop these megaregions and megacities and superclusters, and if not, we are going to end up not being able to pivot.”

GB: Can you paint a picture of what Century Initiatives hopes Canada will look like?

GH: We can’t all go to Toronto. We have to strengthen other places. One of the things that we are trying to do is promote the notion of megaregions. A megaregion could be all the space between Calgary and Edmonton. That’s a lot of space, so let’s see if we can establish a new city of substantial size in Alberta. [In order to do this], money follows message, and public policy is a very important component of that.

We do need, at times, incentives or motivation for people–a simple example being utilizing tax policy by saying, “Look, you could live in Toronto, but if you live in Windsor or Timmins, we are going to do the following things for you.” We haven’t spoken about the north [of Canada] much, but one day the resource-rich north is going to be of enormous strategic advantage for Canada. And more people will be needed to drive the development and growth that is going to benefit northern communities, while ensuring that Indigenous leadership and vision are maintained.

One of the core tension points in Canada is less to do with French/English, or east/west, and more to do with the urban/rural divide, and I think that we have to do a better job of building the bridge between the urban and rural communities. Rural communities have long been a pillar of the Canadian economy from the agriculture sector on, and we need to ensure that the importance of the rural communities stays in place.

What CI is trying to do here is take the long view. The decisions that we make now will determine whether Canada can in fact grow and develop these megaregions and megacities and superclusters, and if not, we are going to end up not being able to pivot, and again, see Japan. So it has to be strategic, it has to be coordinated, and it has to take that longer view.

I am excited that Century Initiative is shaking things up and giving them a little jolt, saying, “Hey gang, we can’t just coast. We can’t just cruise.” Our complacency will take us off the cliff.

GB: You made a comment that capital is mobile and will leave if we, as a country, don’t take the steps to ensure we continue to be an attractive country that others want to invest in. Can you elaborate on this?

GH: I tell the story of being in India and speaking to many high-net-worth investors who are already in Canada and asking, “Why don’t you add to your existing operations here, diversify, and invest more?” They explained that everyone is after their investment, so when they look at those decisions, what they look at is where is the upside? Where is the future? What is the cost of doing business in those markets? What is the regulatory environment in which we are operating? And [they say] when we look at all those factors, it is easier to invest somewhere else.

Why not Australia, for example? [It’s] a very comparable country to Canada, but do you know what Australia did? They spent $100 million on changing their brand, sending a message that it’s not just a country way out in the middle of nowhere, and money follows message.

GB: You have previously stated that Canada’s brand internationally can be summed up in one word: nice. What’s wrong with that?

GH: Well, the brand “nice” is wonderful if you are a cookie, but we are a country, and as a country, both our potential and our reality is so much more than that. I think we need to have a backdrop of a highly competitive, globalized economy with mobility of talent and mobility of capital.

Canada’s brand could be bolder, a bit more aggressive, a bit more ambitious. Canada’s brand should be innovative, creative, and cool. Even cool is better than just nice, in my opinion.

Nice is true in that we are a country that wants inclusive prosperity, [where] everyone can contribute and benefit–not only those at the top. A place where we take care of our most vulnerable. I think that is actually a competitive differentiator for our brand. We make diversity, inclusion, and compassion a way of life while at the same time being a dynamic and supportive place for business.

Nice alone though is not enough. It’s great if you are coming to retire, but it doesn’t really scream entrepreneurial, it doesn’t scream ambitious, and I think that we need to do more to leverage what has become–under this government at least–the notion of our prime minister’s personal brand as being kind of cool, with a focus on increased immigration. Well, that’s great, but let’s make it more than that. Let’s use the moment to make it more about the economy, innovation, talent, a return on that investment. That population growth will allow you to build your business here and have the talent to staff your business.

“The brand ‘nice’ is wonderful if you are a cookie, but we are a country, and as a country, both our potential and our reality is so much more than that.”

GB: What choices should governments make over the next decade to spend their infrastructure dollars more wisely and help us prepare for a larger population?

GH: Infrastructure, in many ways, is about maintenance. It’s like renovating your home to a certain extent, as you can’t let it fall apart. You actually have to fix the leaky roof; you have to do those things, so part of our infrastructure agenda today is largely a maintenance agenda. We have to catch up on the lack of infrastructure spent over the last few decades, and this represents a lot of opportunities for businesses.

But the other opportunity is to think about infrastructure for the future. What kind of megacities can we build? What kind of superclusters are available to us? What kind of regions need to be constructed? And then what are the policies to support that? Infrastructure is, in many ways, an expansion of the social safety net that we talk about in Canada; we normally think about it as education, healthcare, and so forth, but for me infrastructure is a vital part of that social safety net.

For us, the education, employment, and entrepreneurship components are really critical. When you look ahead, despite all the attention being given to robots and AI, [we cannot] underestimate the importance of people in the economy of the future. They are going to be the ones who are driving creativity. They are going to be the ones managing social issues like diversity. They are going to be the ones who are going to have to figure out what kind of innovation we want. My sense is that while there will be a period of disruption, the ultimate result will be a change in the type of jobs we have–not necessarily fewer jobs.

How are we going to transition from a place where 350,000 truck drivers may be unemployed because trucks are going to be driving themselves? What are we going to do if the Hyperloop arrives and the housing crisis dissipates because suddenly we can go from Toronto to Montreal in thirty minutes? People are going to have to think through these problems, as robots are not going to solve them; these are human issues. And so the importance of talent–the importance of attracting the right people–is central to developing our economy, and as I said before, money follows message, but so do people. “Tell me why I should come there.”

The reality is that we, to some extent, are giving off a holier-than-thou attitude. We are too often comparing ourselves relative to someone else, but I think that sells Canada short. What we should be doing is being far more ambitious and bold in realizing our own potential, seizing the reins on our future, maximizing the abilities and capabilities of both established and new Canadians, and investing in foresight.