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Check out this article in The Star.

The existence of places like Kensington Market, places that don’t look like everywhere else, places that have some special identity in the City are Toronto treasures.  But things are changing fast in Hogtown. Condo developments are going up so fast, there are areas of Toronto, areas I lived in for years, that I no longer even recognize. Will Kensington be able to survive box store development on its fringes? I worry that we’re homogenizing our downtown neighbourhoods to the detriment of the broader City. Will people flock to a new box store to save a few bucks or will they remain loyal to the small independent businesses that give Kensington its character? How would you feel about this if you lived there?

I have a soft spot for Kensington Market. I used to busk there on button accordion sometimes, right outside Tom’s Place. It was so much fun. I’d meet a great assortment of characters every time I played there. It’s changed quite a bit over the years, but still it has remained a unique pocket in the City. I sure hope this old neighbourhood is going to be OK.

Here’s a delightful video my friend Candy Minx shot in Kensington Market. That’s me playing the squeezebox…

And here’s another one…I’m playing a Newfoundland tune called The Star of Logy Bay. This video gives a bit of a taste of the atmosphere in the Market. It was early and still fairly quiet.


  1. Salvelina Fontinalis

    In fact the locals will abandon their sense of community in order to save what will be more than a few bucks so fast it will make your head spin. The truth of the matter is that these areas of the city that are special treasures are without exception that way because they are less affluent communities. The residents have imprinted their culture and values on the area without throwing money at it and in most cases that is why it has charm. The big box stores invariably offer significant cash savings to their customers and those savings look mighty attractive to a family without a pile of wealth. They will walk to the big box stores to save significant cash, that is an economic certainty. Many retailers in the area will simply not survive the competition and close their doors. As the retailers thin out there is less reason to stay away from the box stores. It doesnt take very long before the only surviving businesses will be service businesses like hair dressers, nail salons and payday loan outfits. At first I always had trouble believing it would happen until I saw the process first hand in Alliston – the nearest town to where we live. First it was Staples and a printing/copying business closed. Then a big Canadian Tire and 2 hardware stores closed. Then Zellers and Walmart. Right now there are darned few businesses in town that have actual products for sale because they simply can not compete on price or selection. The existing stores are occupiedlargely by service businesses. Eight pizza outlets, more hairdressers than you can count, 4 thrift stores, a payday loan outfit, all sorts of kitchen renovation places and businesses of that ilk. A pretty big strip mall was built several (5++) years ago with in the order of about 25 stores. So far a butcher, a bulk food store, a nail salon, and a bar have rented space. The rest of the strip mall has remained vacant because no one has stepped up who is bold (or crazy) enough to take on the box stores. No real shortage of empty stores downtown either. Most of the residents would have preferred the town to retain its vibrant downtown but they didnt prefer it enough to continue to patronize the small businesses. Some folks call this progress and there doesnt seem to be any practical way to stop it.

  2. Oh dear. This happens too much. I used to want to work in the historical preservation field for this reason… urban renewal without destroying a community’s soul, please.

    When we went to Vancouver in August I kept looking around wondering what it was like thirty years ago. It was lovely and fun but so modern… full of condos and department stores and chain restaurants, at least downtown. There were still vendors on the streets and people playing chess on benches, but it didn’t feel like it had much of a personality.

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