Sunday, December 14, 2008

Dundas, between Gladstone and Sheridan

My neighbourhood is evolving. In the span of seven months, which is how long I have lived here for, I have seen new businesses pop up that I don't think serves the majority of those who actually live in the area. I live on Dufferin, just south of Dundas, bordering Parkdale, in the Portuguese neighbourhood.

The Dundas strip, between Gladstone and Sheridan, is, in my opinion, rapidly transforming. The strip I'm talking about is a mere two blocks. 

When I moved to my place, West Side Stories, the lezzies-run video rental store, was already in business and had been for a while. Within the last seven months, the following businesses opened up on the strip:
1. Multiple Organics - organic grocer
2. Henhouse - restaurant and bar (owned by Katie Sketch and Jenny Smyth, band members of now defunct band, The Organ)
3. Zoot's Cafe - ...cafe

Now, all of these businesses are small and independent (and run by some pretty awesome people!), but I can't help but wonder who these businesses are serving. From my highly reliable and empirical study of my neighbourhood, I can say that the majority of the people who live here are elderly people and families with three generations under one roof, many of whom are immigrants. I highly doubt my Christmas decoration-loving neighbours are likely to visit the Henhouse for a Thursday night drink. 

And then there's "us," the alcohol-guzzling, art-making hooligans in their twenties and early thirties. This definitely includes me. I rent videos at West Side Stories. I drink cappucinos and use wireless at Zoot's. I've had several rounds at Henhouse. I've purchased organic avocados at Multiple Organics. It's an age-old conundrum of being critical and aware of a certain issue but, at the same time, participating in the exact problem. I obviously don't have any answers. 

Oh and it's really quite something to see these nicely packaged businesses next to run-down storefronts with "for rent" signs in their shit 'n spit-covered windows. I haven't immersed myself long enough in this neighbourhood to know what used to occupy those spaces (or I'm just too busy visiting the exact places I'm writing about to learn). What a sight.

Basically, it's just astonishing how quickly the small two blocks have changed in such a short period of time. What it comes down to is me feeling weird about all of these hip places opening up, yet being a regular at all of them. But that weird feeling dissolves quickly after a few round at the Henhouse. Ha.

3 comments:

garconniere said...

even just living in toronto for a few months, and having been visiting it semi-regularly for about 7-8 years, i feel really wierd having noticed the drastic changes that happen. i don't really know much about gentrification but i can't imagine living in the same city for decades and seeing the complete condofication of neighbourhoods.

remember that paper i wrote for ilya's class about vintage clothing stores? two of the five stores i wrote about are still open; one sells new shit now, and the other two are completely gone (one is empty, the other was demolished). it is so, so strange.

T. Cheng said...

i keep thinking about what it's like to have lived in a neighbourhood for decades, too.

it must be devastating and angering. it's fucking scary how quickly the change comes about.

ugh.

Jessica said...

In response to garconniere...Is the store that sells new clothes but used to sell vintage clothes Brava at Queen and Augusta? Because I used to frequent it and it was my favourite store since I was 16 until their vintage selection slowly faded away.

And as a new resident to the Dundas West neighbourhood, I don't really see these new business as the same kind of gentrification as Queen West. There aren't really any condos, and all of the businesses are kind of secret, as if to keep the riff-raff out. For example, The Black Hoof, The Chelsea Room, Magpie, The Henhouse, and The Communist's Daughter don't exactly have the most visible signage because they preserve the original architecture and sign. To me, Portugal Village and Rua Acores is like a little secret treasure chest of mellow hangouts.