It takes a manufactured village

Posted on June 30, 2024 | By Alec Bruce | 0 Comments

 

Waterfront Container Village, Saint John, N.B. July, 2023 (Stock photography)

 

It’s cold for June and overcast, but standing on a deck of the Oasis of the Seas—one of the 74-or-so cruise ships that annually visit the City of Saint John—Ray Gracewood flashes a Richard Branson-like grin that says he’s exactly where he wants to be.

Below him, neat rows of repurposed, 40-foot-long shipping containers—artfully painted with fluorescent yellow flowers, pink moons, blue mountains and other abstract ciphers—stretch to the near horizon on an uptown parcel of land he leases from the Port of Saint John.

In the aisles between the corrugated metal boxes, their tenants—local bookstore owners, chocolatiers, gift basket makers, hawkers of various curios from all over the province—are scrambling to get their wares and themselves in shape for the day. After all, each one pays Gracewood to be here every summer rather than anywhere else in the province. None of them will risk being late to open this morning.

In fact, Waterfront Container Village has only a few rules. “If the village is open, you must be open,” said Ingrid Munroe, who runs The NB Box, a bricks and mortar and online shop in Saint John that curates gift baskets of products from around the region. She’s been a tenant-villager since 2022 when this unique farmer’s market/craft fair/retail mall launched. “Also, you can’t obstruct the walkways. But apart from that, we have a lot of freedom and flexibility.”

 

“It was something that I felt should feel natural and authentic… colourful and vibrant. Our Graffiti Alley is now probably the most ‘selfied’ spot in the whole province.”

—Ray Gracewood

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