This past Summer our little family took a not so little road trip across Canada and through the USA for a 14 day (or maybe it was more?) adventure. I lost count it was so lovely being on a road trip with my boys. On our way home, on the last day of our journey, truthfully tired and a little cranky, we stopped in Cooperstown, USA and I experienced what could be only described as magic. A little toy shop nestled on the busy street was filled with sounds of toys whirling and purring. Behind the counter was a shopkeeper, a man who people write about in storybooks, or at least authors base fairy tales on, and he surely had magic dust floating out of his pockets.
The little shop left an impression on me and, Oscar. So much so, I wrote a post about it on Facebook upon our return. That little shop that we stumbled upon made me think about my neighbourood here in Toronto and that my little shops that are equally as magical but that I come to assume as everyday, as I interact with them so much. But they aren’t “everyday”. Not in the slightest. These are shops that bring some story to our lives, add some community and happiness.
It was serendipitous perhaps then that shortly after we returned from this trip and I was feeling all sentimental about the crazy little toy shop, that I was offered the opportunity to work with The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) and Interac – to let you know about #SmallBizSaturday on October 21st, and to encourage you to shop from small businesses that make our communities unique. So this post, although sponsored, is a wonderful opportunity for me to elaborate on that spark that I felt after my trip, to tell you my tales of why I adore shopping small, what I feel as though it does for a community and myself, as a small business owner, how I am grateful for support.
I wanted to bring you on a little walk through my neighbourhood and introduce you to some of my favourite shops. These are the shops that have watched Oscar grow up from a baby, to a seven year old. The flower shop that gives Oscar a lollypop every time he goes in, even though he’s so shy he won’t really make eye contact (but is lingering by the cash because he knows what will be offered – which they do, every single time, not demanding anything of him) There’s the balloon store that the old man always says “hi boy!” when Oscar walks in to see if he has Pokemon cards in stock. It’s where I buy my balloons, and streamers for parties. There are so many, but here are a few that stand out.
1035 Kingston Road, Toronto, ON
At the corner of Kingston Road and Victoria Park, is Collected-Joy, and inside the shop, sitting behind the wood counter you’ll find Sharon – the woman who is at the heart of the shop, and truly at the heart of the community. If we were in the days of Dickens, Sharon would be the fancy shop keeper the gentlemen would trust to find the most perfect gift for their wife. That would be in Dickens time. Today she will tell you, as you’re buying that awesome jewelry for yourself, why it’s awesome, why you deserve it, and why you must own it. She’d tell you why it was perfect and the story behind who made it. You’re not just buying a gift, you’re buying something that Sharon saw something in, and fell for the maker and the product.
Walking through the store you’ll come across a wall of greeting cards on one wall, only to turn around and see a even bigger card wall on the other wall if you walk back a bit further (Sharon loves greeting cards and you’ll find the very best of the bunch here). Natural body care products, that are made by Torontonians (Dalish Cosmetics and LoveFresh) who are too, amazing small business owners.
Want to know why the shop owners in your neighbourhood are amazing? They love and want the neighbourhood to thrive. Sharon unofficially heads up the Kingston Road Village Business association bringing other shops together to talk about how to keep our neighbourhood amazing. She’s the one contacting our local MP about how they’ve changed street parking that makes it ridiculously hard to park and, support the shops in our neighbourhood. People like Sharon are advocates for our neighbourhood.
Can you tell I love Sharon? I do. Anyhow, joining me on my pretend walk, after dropping off an order to Sharon (she carries my Penny Paper Co. wares) and usually buying something for myself (like chocolate) I’ll walk down the street and pop in Ella Minnow books.
2. Ella Minnow Books
991 Kingston Rd, Toronto
Ahhh. Ella Minnow. Walking in, you’ll be charmed right away by this lovely little shop. The shop used to have a little Bunny here that Oscar adored, but the bunny was adopted and two little gerbils – Maude and Montgommery, have taken residency. Oscar will run into the store, if he’s accompanying me and go straight to the cage to visit them. I’m teaching him to stop and say hello to whomever is behind the cash before rushing by, and thankfully the owners are always gracious. A shop like this is so important in my bubble, because it adds a sense of community with Oscar. He gets to recognize faces, learn manners on people who have seen it all, and I feel comforted that as he grows up and walks these streets on his own – he’ll have familiar faces among the stores and a sense of community.
Not only is it so important from a family perspective to have a shop like this by us, but heck – they carry the BEST books. I always leave with the very best and wish I could have an endless bank account to buy even more. When Oscar was fretting over death and what happens when we die, I went straight to this shop and requested some advice. And advice they had, and books were recommended and I had a parenting win.
Stores like Ella Minnow are run on a passion of books. They know books, they know the authors, they live, and breathe books and what our kids may like. You can’t get this from online, you can’t. So I find myself here, at Ella Minnow, like a kid in a candy store finding treasures of books.
3. Kingston Road Flower Market
966 Kingston Road
Walking further down the street, after dropping off my order at Collected-Joy, picking up some books for the family at Ella Minnow, I head to my local flower shop – The Kingston Road Market – where I indulge in some Monstera leaves that last for weeks on end in my house. Helena will give me a lollypop to give to Oscar, even if he’s not with me. We talk about his change in schools, how he’s liking it and she imparts sound advice having raised her own kids in the neighbourhood. It’s moments like these, the little talks, that I cherish. After a few minutes of catching up, I pack up my leaves under my arm, and go on my way.
4. The Beaches Bakeshop & Cafe
900 Kingston Road
Puttering on, I’ll pop into The Beaches Bake Shop, where Anna is baking the most delicious, amazing Finnish food. I’m sure her cinnamon buns have been voted the best in Toronto, and were for a long time Oscar’s favourite. I’d pop in here before picking Oscar up from school and I’d have a bun waiting for him on his car seat. You have to call and reserve them though, if you’re visiting after lunch – most days she’d run out so I’d always call ahead to have her put one aside for Oscar, who was always excited to learn he was eating the very last one available that day.
And at last, I come home having chatted with the loveliest of people and loving my neighbourhood. So you’ve read about my favourite spots in my neighbourhood. If you take a moment, your neighbourhood must have a little shop, at least one, that is eccentric or wild, sweet and savoury or quiet and bookish, that brings you delight. I encourage you to #FindYourSpot for #ShopSmallBiz and tweet about it or share your love for your local love. Because these shop keepers are integral to the fabric of our communities. They are rallying for us with our MP’s, they are supporting other small businesses like mine (like Sharon carrying my lines in her store).