In this installment of ‘Secrets of the Biz,’ we sit down with Shannon Kelly, the Senior Manager of Hospitality and Event Operations at Evergreen Brick Works.
Evergreen Brick Works is a community environmental centre and sprawling event space that offers a range of programs aimed at empowering the public to get involved in cultivating new ideas and solutions to green their communities.
How did you end up in your current role? Is this a path you expected to take?
After high school, I ended up in the Culinary Management program at George Brown College, as food had always been a focus in my family growing up. From there, I dabbled in the culinary industry for a while but quickly realized it didn’t suit my lifestyle. Then in my early twenties, I began working with a Toronto catering company as a junior event coordinator and my passion really took off from there. I have always been far more creative than academic, and curating events turned into my ultimate outlet for that creativity.
You must see some really interesting clients and events come through Evergreen, which ones come to mind?
We really do. Our venue is unique in the sense that it’s entirely a blank canvas. This allows our clients to come in and completely design the space from floor to ceiling, and results in hundreds of custom-created events each year. Over the two years I’ve been working for Evergreen, I’ve seen some incredible productions. Some that come to mind include The SickKids Foundation turning the space into Marrakesh for Scrubs in the City, and Google taking over the site for a conference focusing on the future of A.I. technology. We also have the pleasure of hosting several beautiful weddings per year, and it’s always humbling to know you have been trusted to be a part of a couple’s special day.
What would you say are the most rewarding, and the most difficult aspects of the job?
The most rewarding part of my job is, without a doubt, watching each event come to life after months and months of planning. We also have the pleasure of meeting so many incredible clients and guests, and have built some amazing relationships. And of course, working for a social enterprise like Evergreen Brick Works means what I do has a real impact on people’s lives. It’s great to think about how our event work goes towards providing camps for Toronto kids, or just helping run the space that allows visitors to experience sustainable practices that could shape flourishing cities, like ours.
Of course, there are always challenges and crisis averting when it comes to events. I wouldn’t say it’s difficult necessarily, as dealing with the unexpected or unusual is simply part of the job. I have a fantastic team of professionals, and we spring into action when needed – that’s for sure.
Evergreen is an incredibly versatile venue, what would you say sets you apart from other event spaces in the city (and beyond)?
The entire site is unique and stunningly beautiful, so that definitely helps. Our team is also amazing and we try to stay really flexible – which I think is a refreshing change.
We are always looking at ways to innovate through events. Currently, we are working towards a carbon-neutral target with the redevelopment of our historic kiln building – one of our most popular event spaces. Clients who choose to hold an event here can really feel good about not only having a successful, professionally-managed event, but also knowing that the revenue is making an impact on the lives of Canadians across the country.
Can you tell us a bit more about the renovation?
By enclosing the historic kiln building, it will be transformed into a year-round space, while retaining historical and heritage features. The space will continue to be home to social enterprise, and a dynamic hub that will help start new urban innovations. The changes also open up new opportunities for events with the addition of collaboration spaces, learning centres and exhibit galleries. We’re really excited about the opportunity this holds for us as an events team!
Evergreen is involved with a number of community and social initiatives, are you working with any right now that you are really proud of?
We have an exceptional programming team at Evergreen that runs some amazing community events for free or at a low cost — especially by Toronto standards! This month we’ll be hosting our Winter Village for the second year, with food trucks, street curling, and an Etsy holiday market and local makers.
We do some great work in our Children’s Garden and other programs for kids. They are part of the work that we have taken to other communities right across Canada. We are an organization and space of constant innovation, and that’s the most exciting thing of all!