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2005 10 15
Small Box Retail

Just when we thought that big box retail was going to suck the life out of the small-scale businesses in Toronto, the opposite seems to be happening. A new generation is transforming Toronto’s main streets, remaking the City one shopfront at a time.

What Toronto lacks in grand unifying planning gestures it makes up for in its grassroots retail movement. In fact, much of the public face of the City was built with the energy and spirit of hundreds of mom and pop businesses. These working urban vitrines are often cobbled-together additions to old houses and are not structures of beauty, like most of the urban fabric of Toronto, but they are the glue that holds it all together. They are a continuously transforming public face and now more than ever there seems to be a renaissance of activity.

There are lots and lots of shopfronts in Toronto still available for modest rents. This proliferation and affordability has given rise to a culture for the young and enterprising to have their chance to effect change throughout Toronto. The importance of a brave new small business pioneering in a downtrodden neighbourhood should not be overlooked. A simple breakfast spot like Saving Grace on Dundas Street West can shift the demeanor of a street and cause a ripple of new community life.

Small box retail is so commonplace in Toronto that we take its importance for granted. Travel to other, surely more glamourous cities and witness firsthand the deadening effect that perfectly branded retail is having on the character of places.
[email this story] Posted by Andrew Jones on 10/15 at 02:54 PM

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