A Day on the Danforth. Local Shopping at Local Businesses
The model has changed. The shopping model, that is. And no, I do not mean the blank staring, ever-looming and bow-legged mannequins that haunt most retail stores (perhaps donning an interestingly fake-looking wig like H&M). I am referring to the trend towards big box shopping. We all take part in it, with the exception of perhaps the most ecologically minded, low stress, and free-time-to-spare citizens of the world. Indeed, the lure of one stop shopping and sweat shop prices have all attracted us at some point. With each ribbon cutting at each new location taking up more and more of the consumer market, the negative impact this can have on shops in the local area is extreme.
The Danforth is no exception. Accelerated by COVID-19 restrictions, many shops on the Danforth have been finding it hard to survive, especially when most of them have historically relied upon foot traffic. Often viewed as less convenient and accessible, many stores have had to downsize or close their doors in the last couple years. In an article posted by the Toronto Sun back in December of 2020, 13 businesses already had to close their doors. Others have had to downsize their shops, with only curbside or delivery sales to mitigate their operational costs. This is in direct contrast to big box stores, which have been able to open earlier, furthering the disadvantage between big stop shopping and local businesses.
However, with COVID-19 set to linger far into the coming future, many smaller shops have started to change with the times. The majority of them have set up online shops and further advertised with Instagram profiles. And as they have changed to accommodate current consumer demands, so have people reflected during COVID about how they spend their money. With every passing day, the average consumer becomes more aware of the ecological and humanitarian impact their dollars can have, as well as how those dollars can have a positive impact on their community.
Shopping locally does not have to be a hassle, where one must traverse the entirety of the city to acquire the few things one needs in the day. In places like the Danforth, one can complete their shopping list simply by walking, or by taking a short bus ride. To prove this point, we will take a short trip down Danforth Avenue and peruse a variety of shops, each offering something interesting —and perhaps necessary— to the local buyer. This trip, inspired by my own shopping list, is covered in 1.9km, or about a 23-minute walk, beginning with The Handwork Department —a lovely vintage store located at 1884 Danforth Ave— and ending at Marsellis Supermarket —a family-owned business at 906 Danforth Avenue.
The Handwork Department
1884 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C 1J4
We begin our journey at The Handwork Department, a vintage shop that has been around since 2015, opened by jewellery artist, Maggie Krawczyk, and her fiancé, Jeff Roblin. They pride themselves by pairing “the most unique vintage items” with “locally handcrafted goods made with love.” They also highlight and display the work of several local artists and crafters. Their wide selections cover everything, from antique jewellery and throw-back furniture to diverse fashion pieces and old Kodak cameras. You can find many of their pieces on their online platform, though the in-person experience provides a more immersive atmosphere. A piece that caught my eye was this Deep Pink Lace dress, perfect for a night out, or perhaps a romantic night in. I’ve paired it with a lovely Lazy Daisy pin, promoting the introverts’ efforts to rally behind the Stay Home Club.
Ethel 20th Century Living
1781 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4C 1J2
Our next stop is Ethel 20th Century Living, a furniture and housewares store a mere 2-minute walk from The Handwork Department. It offers a glance back into—as the store’s name advocates—living in the 20th century, at least aesthetically speaking. With a wide array of eclectic cookware and teapots shaped like pig’s heads, this is a store whose paraphernalia has been acquired with care. The owner (who is not actually named Ethel), lives by the motto “Life is too Short for Beige”, which can be seen from the store’s front window. Her name is Shauntelle LeBlanc, an interior designer by trade who then traded in her livelihood of designing banks and chain restaurants to enter the world of retail. Life may be too beige outside her store, but inside colour transfixes the eye, to an almost dizzying degree. While looking for a new table on my road to “adulting,” I came across this interesting 1950’s kitchen table. They offer local delivery, so don’t worry about having to lug around a kitchen table all day, despite the potential exercise benefits.
1434 Danforth Ave, Toronto, ON M4J 1N4
This next store speaks directly to my heart, and its love of cozy-atmosphere-creating thingamabobs. Good Intentions also speaks to my love of promoting women’s businesses, which this store certainly excels at doing. Owned by two women who started out as co-workers at a multi-vendor market shop, Natalee and Epiphany soon realised their passion for giving small businesses a platform and started Good Intentions. While these small businesses give monthly membership fees to remain in the store, 100% of the sales go directly back to the creators of the merchandise. And of course, all these vendors are women-owned, which is amazing. This store is truly a case of 100% good intentions! This store is pastel and warm, just like their motives for starting their business, and there are lots of great finds to brighten one’s day. I was personally on the hunt for some socks and nice smelling soap, perfect to relax with after a day out and about.
Red Rocket Coffee
1364 Danforth Ave.
After ticking off the non-edible section of the day’s to-do list, the Red Rocket Cafe is just around the corner. This lovely location, known for their exceptional coffee, is also highly lauded for their scones and other sweet treats. (Along with these persuasive offerings, they also have great Wi-Fi.) And after kicking one’s feet up and getting injected with the much-needed caffeine and sugar boost, one can opt to take home a bag of their delicious coffee. I chose the Red Phoenix Extra Dark Roast because I like my coffee very dark.
906 Danforth Avenue Toronto, ON M4J 1L9
Curbside pickup · Delivery · No dine-in
Last stop of the day is a slight way down from Red Rocket, but worth the walk. This family-owned supermarket was founded in 1959 by the current owners’ father, who immigrated from Puglia, Italy. Over the years, their attention to focusing on good products (both local and imported) has resulted in their current status as one of the favourite supermarkets in the area. They are also well known for being affordable while not sacrificing on quality. Apparently, they even make their own prosciutto. While there is a plethora to choose from, I have come specifically with cream pasta in mind for my grocery shopping. Though I might not know the difference between Tuscan olive oil and Sicilian olive oil, one thing is certain: they will both be of high quality and great taste.