Passionate about working with communities and individuals towards positive change, Gay Stephenson combines nearly two decades of experience in project management, web communications, and community outreach in the not-for-profit sector and co-runs the Pop-Up Shop Project as part of an ongoing community economic development position at WoodGreen Community Services.
Stephenson was instrumental in the 2013 partnership between The Danforth East Community Association (DECA) and WoodGreen Community Services on their ongoing renewal efforts to fill empty storefronts along Toronto’s Danforth East neighbourhood. Focussed along an area of the neighbourhood which was facing decline, property owners were approached to make their otherwise empty space available to business owners for a small period of time. The project aimed to improve the walkability of one of the neighbourhood’s commercial areas, while providing support to new retailers for up to a six month period. The project which has since hosted 25 Pop-up shops providing entrepreneurs valuable experience running and operating their own business. Since the project's launch, the vacancy rate in the neighbourhood has dropped from 17% to a healthy 6%.