THUNDER BAY, ONT. — The new market-style Goods & Co. Market is turning some heads on a national scale after being named a finalist in the Retail Council of Canada’s annual Excellence in Retailing Award (RCC). The market is being recognized for in-store experience and design.
Maelyn Hurley, CEO and founder of the Goods and Co. Market, called the recognition “humbling,” particularly with her competition of established top retailers.
“I was super, super excited to get that news and it’s humbling to think that the projects that I’ve been working on for the last couple of years are getting such amazing recognition — and to be in the lineup with the other companies that are getting recognized for awards through the RCC is, is pretty shocking,” Hurley said.
“It was just surprising to see those lists of names like Aritzia, Sephora, Canadian Tire and Lowe’s, and then Goods and Co. pops up and it was just kind of a surreal moment seeing our name.”
Hurley was also the founder of the city’s bi-annual Craft Revival that she began in 2014 and was well connected with the creative community. She says she paid attention on her many travels of how other places were marketing retail shops and credits this for realizing that Thunder Bay needed a market space like this.
“Anytime I would travel or visit other cities, I would always look for the local market because that’s where you’re going to get a true kind of taste of that city or that place that you’re visiting and really get an idea of the culture and the people that are there making that place what it is,” she said.
“I just fell in love with the idea of markets, and visiting so many different types and seeing what works well in some markets and different ideas that they’ve had in other spaces, I kind of just drew on all that inspiration. When all the stars aligned and the opportunity with this building came forward. . . . I had already been dreaming up the market in that building.”
Situated in the former Eaton’s building on Red River Road, the market features 96 per cent women-led permanent businesses for an urban modern shopping experience that has never been seen in Thunder Bay before.
Inside, space is featured in creative ways welcoming a diverse scope of customers and vendors. The huge percentage of women-led businesses in the market was neither planned nor a coincidence, rather it was a little bit of both, Hurley said.
“When I first started advertising that I was opening up this market — and phrasing it as a women-led market because I am a woman — I was leading this market and I was building this team and I didn’t necessarily think it wouldn’t include men or anything like that,” she said.
“I don’t know if it was just the people that I drew in or just the way it kind of evolved, but pretty much all of the businesses that are in the market are women-led except for one business. And then the few that have men involved are partners with women. It just worked out that way and it just goes to show the strong female entrepreneurship that we have in the vendor base.”
Jeff Coull, with the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre, coached Hurley in the development of Goods and Co. and nominated her for the award. He found her ideas “fresh” for Thunder Bay and very different from other mall experiences in the city.
“I just thought there was an incredible story around this small town in Canada and malls in general and the intersection of the two because people say malls are dying, and especially in small towns in Canada, it’s even more exacerbated,” Coull said. “Those two things sort of came together with the story of a young entrepreneur and a historical building, I just felt like there was an opportunity to publish that and to make it more known.”
Since Goods and Co. opened in 2021, dozens of events and workshops have taken place at the market. Recently, the Co. Lab Art Gallery opened with an exhibition installed by The Solidarity Collective. The exhibit features the works of 20 BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, people of colour) artists. The art gallery brings in a higher level of fine art which enhances the market as top shelf.
Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Chronicle-Journal