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My Toronto: Kensington Market

By Natalie Taylor | @nearafar

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My best friend makes fun of me because whenever we walk down the street, I always tell her “Oh, that’s my spot.” Like many locals in Toronto, we all have our spots. For me, the concentration of those spots –especially in the summer–is in Kensington Market. Kensington Market is my “spot.” Whenever, I’m stressed out, I wander around the market. It feels like being in another world. Being there invigorates my soul.

Kensington Market Toronto

Kensington Market for me is more of a vibe than anything. The colours coming from the cluster of fruit markets on its corners; the vintage signage on storefronts; the reggae music emanating from an unknown store at Kensington and Baldwin; locals in vintage outfits walking or riding their bicycles in the streets; the mix of old generation immigrants and youthful hipsters sitting side by side on the bench at Casa Acoreana at Baldwin and Augusta. Though Kensington is a “market,” it’s the streets and the people that make it the lively, bohemian village that it is. Kensington has welcomed me with open arms. The streets are mine. I criss cross them with exuberant enthusiasm, never going to just one place.

I might pick up some cheese at Global Cheese; sit and chat with friends and browse vintage records I’d never buy at Sublime cafe; sit and watch some more on my favourite patio at the Embassy; say “hi” to the owners at the clandestine Cold Tea when it’s open (or for a night cap); grab a taco at Seven Lives and browse through some of my favourite shops. On rotation, my favourite stores include the food-centric book/lifestyle shop, Good Egg; Model Citizen, which features Canadian designers and jewelry (plus silk screen workshops); Courage My Love, a staple of the market’s vintage scene; Flashback, where it’s easy to find a leather trench and where I found discounted Hudson Bay Blankets; the quirky stationery shop, Kid Icarus, and the lovely jewelry shop, Anice.

Kensington mural

Anice’s motto, “Old treasures. New Love” reminds me of what the heart of Kensington Market is. From its wave as a Jewish community in the ‘20s and ‘30s to its concentration of Latin American grocery stores, empanada and churros stalls in the early Millennium, Kensington Market has evolved but never lost its soul. Many multinational corporations have tried to put their mark on the neighbourhood but residents and shop owners have fiercely protested. The evolution of bigger corporations wanting a piece of the quirky neighbourhood vibe is never a good thing. It’s the mom and pop shops and the hood’s dilapidated, hippie exterior that keeps Kensington Market what it is – a gathering place for the long lost older generation and young minds. It’s those residents with their vintage threads you can bump into during Kensington’s Pedestrian Sundays monthly festival in the summer or a chef hand rolling ravioli in the window of Thomas Lavers. Those scenes fill me with nostalgia and a deep love of a market I hope will continue to evolve but retain its character.

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