History + Community

Give Them a Shot: The Perks of Supporting Local Coffee Shops Over Chains

In a neighbourhood mixed with laid-back locals and stressed out students, it’s no surprise to find that the Danforth area is filled with a variety of unique and local coffee shops. On the Danforth alone, there are about thirteen coffee shops and cafés that you can chose from, not including the bigger coffee chains like Starbucks and Tim Hortons. So, when you’re in the need for a caffeine fix in the area, you might find yourself faced with too many choices and lean towards the familiarity of the coffee chains. While choosing these more well-known chains might be a matter of preference or convenience, you’re likely to find yourself missing out on the experience and benefits that local coffee shops have to offer.

There are so many advantages to visiting local coffee shops over bigger coffee chains. For starters, local shops try to package themselves and their products into an overall experience for their customers. Unlike the bigger coffee chains that you can find copy-and-pasted anywhere, the experience that local shops provide are as unique as the neighbourhood they belong in. As a part of the communities themselves, local shops are also a great way to explore and experience some of what the neighbourhood has to offer. The menu items that they serve often reflect the traditional food and drink of the cultures that are found within the neighbourhood. Since they curate the customer experience around their menu, local shops are always striving to provide items of the best quality to their customers.

The freshness of their food and drink products is another aspect of independent coffee shops that sets them above their chain counterparts. Where coffee chains have their inventory delivered from a central warehouse, most local shops will either bake their pastries in house or have them delivered fresh every morning from local bakeries. While fresh and delicious snacks pair great with your coffee, you’re also getting the added benefit of supporting local businesses! When you visit and support local coffee shops, you are supporting and giving back to the community instead of major corporations. According to Rembert Browne, a culture critic for New York Magazine, local small businesses—like the coffee shops found on the Danforth—“are establishments that are often the character of a neighborhood.” Relationships that are created between customers and independent businesses go beyond sales and purchases and become familial. It is this sense of family and community found within local coffee shops that you won’t find inside a Timmies.

As an avid coffee drinker myself, these are just some of the reasons I believe in giving local coffee shops a try before heading to chains. So, the next time you find yourself on the Danforth and need a caffeine fix, I suggest considering checking out these local java joints:

Goat Coffee Co.

Close to Centennial College’s Story Arts Centre campus, Goat Coffee Co. is a favourite amongst students and teachers. As you walk through the door, you’ll notice the cozy and industrial atmosphere made up of marquee letters, hanging Edison bulbs, and warm wood tables. Besides a list of specialty crafted drinks, Goat Coffee Co. also has a pretty extensive food menu that includes all-day breakfast and a kids’ menu, while also serving free reverse osmosis water on tap. When asked why she visits the Goat, Centennial student, Jessie Paul, says that the combination of the menu and atmosphere make Goat Coffee Co. “a great place to hang out and get some work done” since they offer free Wi-Fi to use as you sit and relax, inside or on their year-round patio.

Marvel Coffee

Located on Carlaw Ave, this is Marvel Coffee’s second location. The interior is bright, with large windows, light-coloured walls, and marble countertops and tables—making it stand apart from other coffee shops that favour a warm and industrial-looking interior. Besides offering the classics, such as latte’s and macchiato’s, Marvel Coffee’s menu also offers a “White-Hot Chocolate with Raspberry,” and a drink called a “Mandaccino” (a chocolate-infused almond milk cappuccino). I was told by a local in the area that these unique drinks and the selection of snacks are what keep her, and other passersby, coming back for more.

The Shmooz

According to their website, the Shmooz is all about “quality food, drink, connections, and community.” Located on Pape, just south of the Danforth, this coffee shop provides its customers with a welcoming atmosphere through their fresh-made pastries (try the Queen Lizzie muffin), specialty latte’s like their famous Devil’s Mocha, and their robust lunch menu. Evident in their mural that reflects the neighbourhood, the Shmooz is all about being a part of the community and giving back. They are able to do this by donating one dollar from every coffee bag sale to either the Toronto Wildlife Center or Red Door Family Shelter.

808 Social

Just a couple of blocks north of Pape Station, it’s hard to miss the 808 Social with its dark black exterior and church pew benches. While serving classic espresso drinks and pastries to commuters on the go, they also have plenty of space and seating inside, as well as free Wi-Fi for anyone who wants to hang out for a while. Reflecting the Greek culture that is so prominent in the area, the 808 Social uniquely serves fresh baklava daily, the perfect addition to any coffee drink.

22-year-old foodie, born and raised in Toronto. When Alessandra isn’t holed up in her room reading or writing, you can find her either on a plane heading somewhere tropical or curled up on the couch binge watching The Office. She loves music and will belt out the lyrics to any ABBA song, regardless of where or when it comes on.

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