Georgian at Hand: Matt Rubinoff ‘96, Founder of stackt

By Riley Wong '12
In April of 2019, Toronto opened its eyes to a structure made of over 100 shipping containers. Together, they form the stackt market: an ever changing and evolving marketplace that has contributed to the city’s growing cultural identity.
Located at Front and Bathurst, the 100,000 sq. ft space features a rotating tap of local businesses and artists, all bringing their distinct take of Toronto to the market. It culminates into a hub that reflects everything the city stands for; never has its mosaic-like culture been more literally and dynamically represented.

At the helm of the blueprint is Matt Rubinoff. Through his experiences working across the globe and his background in marketing and real estate, Matt took his life’s building blocks and arranged them into one of Toronto’s most unique spaces. In this interview, Matt discusses how stackt came to life, the relationship with local businesses and what’s in store for the market in 2020. 

Hi Matt, thanks a lot for taking the time to chat. I’d love to start with a little bit about yourself. What was your life like post-RSGC and how did you get to where you are today?

After RSGC, I studied at Huron College in London, Ont. Afterwards, I lived and worked for short periods of time in several other cities and countries. I’ve always loved to travel and figured I would end up somewhere other than Toronto. But living in other cities helps you to appreciate what you have at home and see what a great city Toronto is. 

How about the stackt market itself? I’d love a brief history of how it came together. 

I have a marketing and real estate background, and have always looked for development opportunities in Toronto. I wanted to do something different and something that would help give back to our city, but one big challenge is purchasing property with the cost of land in today’s market. 

So, I looked at leasing and animating under-utilized properties. It also required creative building techniques, as we would only be on the land for a short period of time, so a prefabricated / modular structure was the solution, and shipping containers were a great application. 

How did you go about building a team to bring this project to life? How many people work for stackt today?

At first, I was surrounded by many “consultants” (architects, constructors, etc.) and as we got closer to launch, the team grew as we required assistance with certain aspects of the business and were switching from builder to operator. Currently, we have approximately 15 members of our core team. 

From a cultural perspective, it feels like Toronto has built a lot of momentum in the last few years. What were some of your key inspirations, local or global, when conceptualizing the space?

There are some very talented local designers who I admire, but the majority of my “wow”moments have been from examples I saw globally.

One of my favourite things about stackt is the platform and opportunity it provides local businesses and artists. Was this something that was a priority for you when designing the market?

It wasn’t necessarily a priority, but was an important pillar of the project. With each iteration of stackt, the platform we provide may be different, but with this particular property, it provided the perfect opportunity to support local businesses and artists. 

How do you choose the businesses and artists you work with?

We like to curate the experience and try to build something for the neighbourhood. Providing services and products that are needed in the area, but also making sure that they complement each other. For the artists, same as the businesses, we have a mix of local and international talent. Some reach out to us, others through competition, and others are selected by our team and with feedback from the local community. 

What was one of your highlights for the inaugural year of stackt? What is one thing you’re looking forward to in 2020?

After four years of planning, opening the doors to the public last April was definitely a highlight! For 2020, we have some amazing events in the calendar. I’m looking forward to seeing some new ones come to life, but also watching events from last year come back, grow and evolve. We hosted The Stop’s Night Market, which is a great event with some of the best chefs in the city and helps support an amazing Not-for-Profit. 

What advice would you give young entrepreneurs today trying to bring their ideas to life?

Persistence. Don’t let people tell you something can’t be done. You’ll face several challenges, but stick with it and focus on what keeps you motivated. 

RSGC Quickfire:

What house were you in at RSGC? York

Favourite memory of being at RSGC? Winning the Under-16 volleyball ISAA championships.

Favourite class and/or teacher? Math and Mr. Darcy. The growth I experienced that year was thanks to him. 

What made you choose RSGC? It was unique and we really liked the approach and environment it offered. I’m still friends today with a big group of guys that I went there with.