Green brands welcome Terra20

Ottawa-area eco-store offers green brands a place to tell their story.

An Ottawa-area store called Terra20, which bills itself as the largest “eco-store” in Canada in terms of retail space and number of products, officially opened on Sept. 15. The brainchild of two Ottawa-area entrepreneurs, it stocks items ranging from clothes to cosmetics to food, spread over 15,000 square feet of retail space.

“This is a great new concept that is already very popular in Europe,” says Marta Mikita, chief executive officer of SodaStream Canada, which sells machines that allow people to make soda at home and avoid buying plastic bottles. For Mikita, the supersized store has been a long time coming. She says the Canadian retail landscape remains underdeveloped in terms of stores focused on environmentally conscious products.

SodaStream sells its products in stores like The Bay, Walmart and Sears, but Mikita says Terra20 is a tremendous opportunity for companies marketed under a green banner to educate consumers. SodaStream plans to install a full scale “soda bar” inside Terra20, with sales reps on hand to demonstrate how the machines work and dispense samples. “What we really want to do is have people interact with a lot of the products,” says Rachelle Mesheau, director of marketing, Terra20. “We’re also going to have vendors coming in on a regular basis to demo their products.”

Terra20 carries about 12,000 products, including brands such as Quebec-based paper company Cascades, which launched an advertising campaigned this spring with a heavy focus on its environmentally-sound manufacturing process. The company’s CEO Suzanne Blanchet said at the time that using Cascades bathroom tissue is a way for consumers to express their ecological values.

The market for goods focused on health, the environment and sustainable living is worth about $290 billion a year in the U.S., according to a website called Lifestyles of Health and Sustainability that tracks green trends in the consumer market. It’s this market that co-founders Steve Kaminski and Bill Stewart seek to tap by opening Terra20. Kaminski owns a property development company in the area called Colonnade. He recently told the Ottawa Citizen that while building his new home he found it difficult to find the environmentally sensitive materials he wanted to use. To that end, Terra20 bans 27 ingredients from inclusion in any product it sells, including lead and phemaldehyde.

The founders are already eyeing other Canadian locations, although they did not offer a timetable on when expansion might occur. “I know Toronto for a fact will probably be the next location we look into,” says Mesheau. “After that, who knows? We’re going to see where the interest is coming from.”