Thriving new businesses still don’t bring in desired pedestrian traffic
Archive 2014 Oct 22, 2014 Stephanie DePetrillo
Peter Adamo knew that if he wanted a larger space for Sense Appeal – his Spadina Ave. coffee bar, roastery, and bakery – he’d have to look outside of downtown for something affordable. He didn’t realize that he’d have to move to the “boonies” of Toronto to find it. It turns out the move to New Toronto was a great thing for his business.
“We were three months in and we were above budget, and we weren’t expecting much at all here,” said Adamo. But the area surprised him.
New Toronto isn’t known for its trendy new shops – Lake Shore Blvd. is currently home to several Polish bakeries, discount clothing stores, and a strip club – but trendy businesses like Sense Appeal have been moving into the neighbourhood over the past five months. Sense Appeal opened in May at Islington and Lake Shore.
Local business owners hope that these restaurants will attract attention to the area but are still wondering how they can entice people enough to visit and stay in the developing community.
“People are trying to get into the area while it’s still affordable,” said Carol Ledden, owner of The Loot Lady and secretary of the Lake Shore Business Improvement Area (BIA). “We see competition and we see it as a healthy thing. If we become known as a restaurant area, if we’re known as an area with great coffee shops, it will bring people in that wouldn’t necessarily come down here.”
Ledden has been working as the secretary of the Lake Shore BIA for two years. She says it is the only BIA she knows of that is a collaboration of several BIAs together. The BIA is responsible for the streetscape and general look of the neighbourhood, so they work with business owners in the communities of Mimico, Long Branch, and Lake Shore Village to help make the sidewalks more visually and aesthetically appealing.
“We think south Etobicoke is under known, undervalued, and we’re better off pooling our resources to promote south Etobicoke,” said Ledden. “We had our first joint directory last year and joint street-scaping plan, so there’s some unit of the look and feel of the areas.”
The mission of the conjoined BIA is appeal to pedestrians by having a cohesive street-scape along the Lake Shore in south Etobicoke.
At the other end of the BIA at 30th and Lake Shore, Thrive Organics, an organic vegetarian restaurant, opened in April. People are curious about the only strictly vegetarian restaurant in Long Branch area. The owner, Pat Zisis, has gotten a lot of business since she opened in May. Although the restaurant has gained a lot of popularity within five months of opening, Zisis said she noticed that many of these customers are only stopping through the neighbourhood – pausing to check out one or two shops and then leaving.
“It’s a hard business in this area, it’s a tough area to make things happen. I find a lot of people don’t really support area, and as much as people say they want to and say they do, there’s numbers that say otherwise,” said Zisis.
The lack of foot traffic in the area is something both Zisis and Ledden say is a concern for new businesses. There are a lot of more industrial type stores such as insurance brokers and dealerships, as opposed to shops that would bring people to the area rather than to a specific store. The specialty stores and boutiques are few and far between.
“You’d hear a lot of talk about how the area is developing, and never really noticed much at the beginning, but I’ve actually really noticed it within the past year,” said Zisis who has lived in the area for 10 years. “I’ve noticed a lot more young families coming in here asking what the area is like, and I have nothing but good things to say. It’s a slow development, but I think the Lake Shore is definitely developing up.”
Stephanie graduated with a Bachelor of Journalism from Humber College in 2015.