Stadsfeestzaal welcomes about 20 (!) new shops: from a… (Antwerp)

© Walter Saenen

Antwerp

About twenty new and original shops have been opened in the Stadsfeestzaal on the Meir in Antwerp. These include a store that sells the top and brim of a hat separately, so you can combine the hat with more outfits, and a store that offers sportswear that dries super quickly and that you can also take to a restaurant.

Christof Willocx

The store owners have two things in common: they are rich in ideas and poor in money. That is why the Retailhub knowledge center has rented four retail properties in the Stadsfeestzaal. Retailhub allows those large buildings to be used simultaneously by about twenty starting traders who want to try out an innovative store concept on the general public. They do not have to pay rent, but do hand over a part of the proceeds from the sale to Retailhub. A strict evaluation follows after three months. If the store is successful, the owners can look for their own retail space or point of sale. If the store is not successful, the story is over.

“We call this project Foster Labs,” said Jorg Snoeck, General Manager of Retailhub. “They are labs, and ‘foster’ means something like ‘cherish’ and ‘like to see’. We select the starting entrepreneurs because we believe in their concept, and help them to make that concept successful. We assist them with free advice and help them think about how their project can succeed.”

It is no coincidence that this project is being built after the deepest troughs of the corona crisis. “Partly due to corona, there is a risk of a lot of vacancy in shopping streets,” says Jorg Snoeck. “That lowers the value of the properties in a shopping street and actually also that of apartments in the neighbourhood. We want to solve this with Foster Labs. Now we do this in the Stadsfeestzaal, but we are also going to help start new stores in other places in the city. And at a later stage, we want to expand this project to other cities.”

Compose your own hat

One of the new Foster Labs stores in the Stadsfeestzaal is Shadow Collectors. “I sell tops and brims of hats, so that customers can put together their own woolen hat,” says Sanne Claessens (23). “I like wearing hats myself and need a lot of them to go with all my outfits. Because you can buy the top and brim of the hat separately, many more color combinations are possible. All hats are made in the Netherlands.”

With her shop Shadow Collectors, Sanne Claessens sells hats that you can put together yourself.  A brim and a top of a hat cost about 50 euros separately.

With her shop Shadow Collectors, Sanne Claessens sells hats that you can put together yourself. A brim and a top of a hat cost about 50 euros separately. — © Walter Saenen

Sportswear that lets the sun through

Samira Fares (42) is also part of Foster Labs with her shop Nordays. “We sell multifunctional sports clothing that lets the sun through and can be used, for example, for walking or doing yoga,” says Samira. “You can also swim in it. The clothing dries within five minutes when it is thirty degrees. There are microscopic holes in the clothing, which ensure that little water is collected. And the yarn of the sportswear blocks UVB rays, so that you can hardly burn in those clothes. You can also go to a restaurant with that clothing after exercise. All our clothes are made in Belgium.”

Samira Fares sells sports clothing with her shop Nordays that you can also use at a restaurant.  The outfit you see in the photo (leggings in Samira's left hand and the 'tunic' in her right hand) costs a total of 159 euros.

Samira Fares sells sports clothing with her shop Nordays that you can also use at a restaurant. The outfit you see in the photo (leggings in Samira’s left hand and the ‘tunic’ in her right hand) costs a total of 159 euros. — © Walter Saenen

Art by people with hidden talents

Foster Labs is also making way for art. Luckie exhibits works of art by people with disabilities in the Stadsfeestzaal. “We prefer to call them people with hidden talents,” says Herman Toch, one of the initiators of Luckie. “People can also buy those works of art, if the artist wants to. In a few months we will also open the Luckie Greens & Beans store in Leopold de Waelplaats, where people with disabilities will sell coffee and plants, among other things.”

Herman Troch (right) with artists Ines Tambuyser and Arne Dhollander to his left.

Herman Troch (right) with artists Ines Tambuyser and Arne Dhollander to his left. — © Walter Saenen

.