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2006 02 21
Notes from the Discontented New Dad Wandering Ossington with a Stroller Full of Used Books
I dropped in at Babel bookstore over the weekend. It's a used bookstore on Ossington between Queen and D that's been around for a year. I brought ten or so books from my basement, hoping to trade them in for books that I actually wanted. Tim, the proprietor, was cool about it -- he gave me a credit and we were both happy. I won't miss those books which were mostly big picture book types that were taking up a lot of space.
Anyway, me and Tim got to talking about how the store is doing. He said things are okay, not great. He's excited about the opening of a new Ideal coffee shop almost across the street from him. I'm less excited -- it's a chain place and we already have the Starbucks that just opened on Queen and Dovercourt and the Starbucks that just opened on College and Dovercourt. The new place isn't a Starbucks, but does that really make a difference? A franchise is a franchise. The neighborhood changes, turns generic, spews takeout coffee cups into gutters. At the same time, I like Tim's store and if it will help him survive by attracting new walk-by, hey, then it's a good thing. In the end, there are far too many complex moral ambiguities about gentrification and retail for me to really make any complicated definitive decision. Generally local is good and anything else is not as good, but sometimes the anything else helps the local. So, more on this some other day? I notice that the Reading Toronto site does not have a gentrification topic thread. Why not? Too boring and predictable a topic? Talking to an editor at the Globe and Mail Toronto section about this stuff, I could hear her rolling her eyes over the phone line. She basically said they had done so many stories on the topic, there was nothing left to say. I fear that the posting above proves her right.
While I'm on the subject of Ossington, though, let me ask a few questions. Has anyone ever been in the cigar factory? Does it still operate? Does it make cigars? Are they good cigars? Also, has anyone ever been in the grim looking detox centre at the bottom of the street? What's it like in there? Is it as ominous andunfriendly inside as it is outside?
A final note: I'm a new dad and have been spending a lot of time wandering the streets with my stroller. Ossington shops are veryun-stroller friendly. Babel has two big daunting steps (though we made it up) and the good Portuguese bakery that has tasty sandwiches and pizza has, like, three or four narrow steps that make access impossible. When faced with these obstacles (obstacles that sound pretty familiar to anyone in a wheelchair, I'm sure) I am tempted to do one of two things: 1) Leave the baby in the stroller while I do my business. or 2) Take the baby with me and leave the stroller on the sidewalk. However, option 1) is a) illegal - says my wife and b) a very bad idea - says my wife. Option 2) is a) way too much effort just to go into any particular store and b) likely to result in having the stroller stolen.
So I end up going into places that I would normally not go into, but now enjoy for their stair-free entrances and wide aisles. Such as the Starbucks at Queen and Dovercourt...
Hal Niedzviecki
[email this story] Posted by Hal Niedzviecki on 02/21 at 12:08 AM

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