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Design Stores

Blue Banana Market

Posted by Tim / Posted on November 11, 2007

I've often thought that Toronto could use a really good artists market. I'm thinking something like Madrid's Mercado de Fuencarral or the Market NYC in Lower Manhattan. So I was pretty excited when I noticed that something called the Blue Banana Market had just opened its doors in Kensington Market.

Located in a huge, three-story space at 250 Augusta between Nassau and Oxford, Blue Banana takes understated to the max as it bills itself as "Toronto's new-fashioned shopping scene", filled with "one-of-a-kind items from more than 100 of today's most inspired artists, jewellers, craftsmen and importers". Unfortunately, this Blue Banana is rotten, or at best not yet ripe.

I'm going to give Blue Banana the benefit of the doubt here and admit that the market could at some point have potential. The second floor space is still under construction and the ground floor is at best half-full; so it's probably not fair at all for me to make sweeping judgments in these early days.

That said, first impressions do matter, and the Blue Banana I saw this weekend was filled by tired and tacky looking crafts. Think blocks of fudge, the kind of pottery you'd find at touristy and overpriced flea markets, greeting cards, Putumayo world music CDs and cheap leather belts.

Don't believe me? Take a look at the photos below:



beth maher / November 12, 2007 at 01:29 am
Wow. Looks like Kensington is officially lame.
Way to go yuppies for taking the life of yet another thriving community.
Didn't they used to have things exactly like these (lame, crafty consignment stores) in malls ten years ago?
Kathy / November 13, 2007 at 07:02 pm
I'm going to have to disagree with you. I wandered into this store one the weekend, and was really happy with what I saw. I took some time, and spoke to one of the participating artists -- a french lady who makes lamps and paintings for children, and I think what Blue Banana has going on is really great.

You portray the store as full of main stream merchendise, but I saw hand made hats, hand painted glass ware, turkish antiques, expensive (did you look at the price tags?) leather belts and tons of canadian made stuff.

I think this store has great potential, let's give it a chance and go back when its done.
Anthony / November 19, 2007 at 02:04 am
It has been a week since the opening of the market and things are coming together. Their official grand opening, according to cards they are handing out, is not until December 1st so thus far the days that they have been open has been an introduction to the Toronto community. Many artists/artisans are still moving in as well as their products; like any creative endeavour, it is a process (socially constructed labels, such as yuppies, aside). Any creative process takes time to develop and it seems that this endeavour has the potential to energize Kensington with creative energy as well as Toronto as a whole.
Gord / November 19, 2007 at 06:23 pm
This is a great concept! Finally someone has the vision to create a place where art can be appreciated by the average person in a friendly environment. This is just what the Kensington market needs - a long overdue facelift; the bohemian feel is still present with the addition of the Blue Banana Market...well done!
???? / November 21, 2007 at 02:08 am
The question is do they have any desire to try and make the market a better place by giving incentives to local artists or try and exploit the neighborhood the artists created.... so far I havent seen one stall in there that is owned by anyone from the community...And the front the building??? The sliding glass doors do nothing to add to the character of the neighborhood... There are actualy by laws against this... In a neighorhood that is desperatly in need of community space the blue banana so far has offered nothing, which is sad because they now occupy the largest retail space in the market...'ll see what dirrection they choose to take...
Ella / November 24, 2007 at 03:03 pm
Sigh, someone's got give the Blue Banana Market a talking to. This space could be incredible but I don't think that they are actually connected to the arts community to really make it happen...but we'll wait and see.
steve / November 26, 2007 at 03:44 am
I was happy to see some of the positive feedback after the intial review. I think the Blue Banana is a great concept - it is still very new, and based on how it is set up, it seems like it will be constantly evolving. A local entrepeneur going out on a limb with a unique concept to help out other local artists/entrepeneurs - this seems to embody the spirit of Kensington Market. I look forward to seeing how the Blue Banana develops, and I hope the local Toronto artists take advantage of it to help their own development.
Michael / November 27, 2007 at 03:34 am
Yeah, this place sucks. I was there this week (Nov 24th), and there's simply nothing interesting or creative in the whole place. The space is great, but the stuff they're selling sucks (with the exception of a couple unique artists). I'd say if you go to this place, get the artist's information and contact the artist directly, then you can buy the art from them at a lower price (no commission paid to the store).

Meaghan Armstrong of Le Petit Chapeau / November 30, 2007 at 02:11 am
O.K. I have to interject here. I realise that there are haters in the world and believe me, I have encountered my share but what the blogger fails to realize is that this market is full of interesting,HAND MADE items from many places. I am insulted that he posted a picture of my work and intimated that it was junk, overpriced and likely not made by an artist. I have been a full time milliner (hatmaker for the uneducated) for nine years now and was flattered and impressed by the introduction of the owner who found me at the Queen West Art Crawl in my very busy booth. I make every one of the ladies hats that I sell and although the mens hats are made by a small company in California I decided that my loyal customers deserved a fair price for quality work. This, by the way, is not offered by the only men's hat manufacturer in Canada that wholesales at a large scale. The other work in the store is of excellent quality and craftmanship and I have participated in many large shows with these other artists. Why is it that when somemone tries to take an old idea and revamp it for a new market people complain. The store hasn't completed its opening and other artists haven't moved in but you make sweeping judgments about something before it's half finished? Why? Why do people always get testy when artists try to make money at what they do instead of some pastoral idea of the starving artist? What do you do for a living? Can I come to your job and rip it to bits when you are just trying something new? I'm not tired and tacky and neither is anyone else there. Have you been to a flea market lately? Have you been to art gallery or artists studio at all? I want to say a lot of unpleasant things to you because of your slander towards myself and others but I realise the waste of time that would be. Instead I suggest that you go back after it has fully opened and read the artists statements and talk to the people who work there and maybe just maybe you will change your mind and stop being ...well, you.
Tim / November 30, 2007 at 03:04 am
Meaghan - I actually really liked your hats. I thought they were by far the best stuff in Blue Banana.
/ November 30, 2007 at 02:20 pm
All I can say is for all of us to wait and see until the shop is finally open and in full swing. Its pretty pathetic that you have nothing better to do but criticize a WONDERFUL SPACE, a GREAT IDEA, and an oppourtunity to bring local artists (and more) into one great space for all to enjoy. Blue Banana Market is an amazing addition to the market and will continue to grow and change as needs arise. Kensington is a great area that can be even greater and losers like you will have to find some other hole to crawl into.
Tim / November 30, 2007 at 02:54 pm
I agree but perhaps if the shop isn't ready to be reviewed yet the owners shouldn't be taking out ads in Now Magazine.
Elana / December 2, 2007 at 04:57 am
I was at the official opening of the Blue Banana Market today and I have to say that it's a pity that anyone was able to visit the space before it "officially opened." If you had gone there today, you would have seen a fantastic collection of pieces, wonderful and original paintings, scultures, hand-made one-of-a-kind items. The main floor and stairway walls were full of interesting and beautifully made items. For all of its critics who visited the space prematurely, I encourage you to return to see it now for the wonderful neighbourhood contribution that it is.
Simone / December 3, 2007 at 09:48 pm
I am a vendor at Blue Banana Market. My booth features hand-made ceramics from Morocco and hand-crafted ceramics from Jerusalem. Ceramics from Turkey are soon to follow. All of the overseas craftspeople with whom I'm dealing are thrilled to have their wares being sold at fair prices, by someone who truly appreciates their efforts and skills. (And the history of their craft.) True, these artists are not based in Toronto, but Kensington Market has a history and a present that is supremely multi-cultural, and developing a new space like this is an organic thing, it will take time. To all the local artists out there looking for an alternative to gallery showing, come in and talk to the owner. We WANT Blue Banana to be part of the community, but you have to come in and make it your own too! By the way, you can find unique, beautiful, fair-trade gifts from $10.00, this Market has something for most people, and you don't need big bucks to support a venue that is here to add something fresh, and wants to be inclusive. Check it out before you dis it, y'all.
Chris / December 4, 2007 at 01:34 am
Let's hope that the naysayers who have contributed to this site have no influence on the future of the Blue Banana. I have lived in the market for more than a decade, and welcome the addition of a place that sells finely crafted items that I would be proud to have in my home or give as gifts.
My question to the complainers: have you actually bothered to talk to any of the artists whose works are displayed there? I would also be curious to know what each of you feel that YOU have contributed to the art and culture of Kensington market. PS: Simone and Meagan... I think your stalls are great-- Hopefully the people who have posted negative comments will either re-visit and rethink, or find something else to complain about.
George / December 8, 2007 at 07:50 pm
WOW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! This is exactly what Kensington Market needed!! This space is ABSOLUTELY GORGEOUS. I have never seen a concept like this before in Toronto and I am so glad that LOCAL artists have a space and a voice for their creations.
Michelle / December 16, 2007 at 01:38 am
When went here today for the first time and we loved it. We'll both be going back this week to do some holiday shopping. There are many unique and creative items for sale at all price points and I'm glad to have this new addition to the market.

The person who wrote this article was overly harsh and critical, and contributes to the difficulties artists and craftsters face in establishing themselves in this city. And I'm sure the artists who's work you featured really appreciated having their work referred to as "tired and tacky." Way to be supportive!
Tim / December 16, 2007 at 02:33 am
I stand by my original post. Like I said, I *really* want there to be a decent artist's market in this city but this just isn't it. My post has nothing to do not supporting local artist's work. As you can see by the comments above I wasn't the only one disillusioned with what I saw in Blue Banana. The place was filled with generic touristy merchandise and if anything detracts from the reputation of Kensington Market.
Estelle / December 19, 2007 at 04:41 pm
Hey Toronto, if they don't want you, the Blue Banana would be MOST WELCOME in Vancouver!!!!!!!
John / December 20, 2007 at 10:11 pm
Hey Tim, have you been back into the Market?
Trevor / December 22, 2007 at 03:23 am
I thought the store was great. My g.f. and I wandered in there for the first time last week and enjoyed browsing. While the store still needs more items to fill in the empty space (especially the second floor), there is great potential and they are off to a good start. Plus I went back today and did some Christmas shopping. So, mission accomplished on their part.
Jason / December 22, 2007 at 02:48 pm
As a person who has lived in the market I welcome the Blue Banana. I have been in both before and after the 'grand opening' and each time I visit the location has changed and developed into a more welcoming and inviting space everytime.
I wonder if Tim (our reviewer) thinks that the artists markets in other world cities sprang from the ground as what they are today? These markets evolve and grow as each year passes. It is simplistic and short sighted to imply that a market based on hand made goods will exactly the same every time one visits, never mind completely misunderstands the concept of unique.
I have been to several artists markets throughout the world and always, always found a combination of commercialized fair trade goods, baked goods and confections as well as a large quantity of handmade goods. I wonder if our reviewer has experienced the same in his travels?
Again I welcome the Banana to MY community and look forward to visiting them whenever I need a unique crafted gift or a new object for just for fun.

Tim / December 26, 2007 at 04:50 pm
I recently made a return visit to Blue Banana and was impressed with the progress the store has made. That said, I still think the market leaves a lot to be desired and can benefit from some "editing" so that tacky items like fudge are removed.
/ January 7, 2008 at 07:43 pm
It's truly sad that some market residents feel the need to dig for dirt re: Blue Banana. While I don't believe this is the second coming of an arts scene in the market, or indicative of the artists who live there, it brings business. As someone who has spent 30 odd years in Kensington on both side of the economic coin (spender and seller) I can say more people spending money in the market = better for everyone.

That aside, it's nice to see art sold in the market by people wearing shoes. But that's just me.
/ January 26, 2008 at 06:24 pm
There is nothing tacky about fudge Tim... seems like you'll find any excuse to complain.
DH / February 16, 2008 at 07:11 pm
I was really hoping for more of the local independent stuff, like T shirts, bags, you know local people that had made ( maybe up and coming designers and artists can showcase their stuff not just jewellers - nothing againts them !!!)but, more options. certainly not furniture or crafts that came from another countries, that's not original.
lina d. / March 17, 2008 at 09:00 am
What makes me sad is not that the goods are lame or otherwise (I'm not much of a consumer- I prefer spending my hard-earned money on not working) but that the place is upping the ante, turning the screws on the Kensington that really matters: the Kensington of fish stores, Roach-O-Rama and Ideal Coffee, of apartments too skanky for the uncritically aspirational. Whether the place is full of beautiful stuff for clever people in expensive condos, or lame stuff for dumb people in cheap condos, isn't the point. Practically and aesthetically, Blue Banana belongs somewhere else. I'd put it, on some fundamental political and cultural level, in the same category as Presto (hah!) and Cobs Bakery (bah!). Yorkville here we come. Where's Emma Goldman when you need her?
/ March 18, 2008 at 05:04 pm
I believe that the Blue Banana market is a great place to showcase new products. It has great atmosphere and the ambience is chic and sophisticated.
candypants / August 5, 2008 at 09:05 pm
I went to the Blue Banana Market last weekend and was really thrilled by many of the amazing gadgets, crafts, crockery, and baubles. I just looked at the pictures attached to this article, and the place has really changed. I suggest that you make a return visit.
whitebuddha / September 14, 2008 at 10:19 pm
I was in TO on business lately (Last two weeks), a friend of mine took me down to the market and we stumbled across The Blue Banana. I am from Calgary and found this market reminded me of one we used to have (Eau Claire) except less commercial. There were a lot of unique gifts, and talking to some of the artists there was really interesting. "Tim" has obviously never tried his hand at the art of candy making, or he would realize that fudge and other types of traditional treats are not easy to make and it takes a skilled craftsman. Out of all the gifts I brought home from TO my husband liked the fudge the best. (I myself love my Cocktail Shaker). There are different tastes out there as to what constitutes fine art, but there are different levels of art, different talents, and different cultures which find different things satisfying to they eye, touch, taste. (art is all encompassing when it comes to the senses). Tim comes across as uncultured, and extremely closed minded. Pretty sad......
Tim / September 15, 2008 at 01:21 am
@whitebuddha - I think you just proved my point. If fudge is the best thing at Blue Banana then what does that say about the other stuff that's sold there?
Whitebuddha / September 25, 2008 at 05:10 am
The fudge wasn't the best thing from the blue banana. But my man thinks with his stomach, his other gifts were from various other shops in the GTA. But the fudge was his favorite. I picked up many unique pieces of handmade jewelry, handmade hat, cocktail shaker etc for other family. The point I was trying to make is that when it comes to art, there are many different forms, and you obviously don't appreciate all of them. Nor do you seem to have an understanding of the various cultures surrounding the various forms of art.
You seem to be an extremely closed minded individual with a lack of appreciation or understanding of other cultures/art forms/expressions.
The comment posted by the woman who manufactures the hats is a prime example. You seem to have no real clue as to the effort or skill that goes into making some of our everyday items that are also an expression of artistic ability. Maybe you should revisit the definitions of art.


1 the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination, typically in a visual form such as painting or sculpture, producing works to be appreciated primarily for their beauty or emotional power : the art of the Renaissance | great art is concerned with moral imperfections | she studied art in Paris.
? works produced by such skill and imagination : his collection of modern art | an exhibition of Tibetan art | [as adj. ] an art critic.
? creative activity resulting in the production of paintings, drawings, or sculpture : she's good at art.
2 ( the arts) the various branches of creative activity, such as painting, music, literature, and dance : the visual arts | [in sing. ] the art of photography.
3 ( arts) subjects of study primarily concerned with the processes and products of human creativity and social life, such as languages, literature, and history (as contrasted with scientific or technical subjects) : the belief that the arts and sciences were incompatible | the Faculty of Arts.
4 a skill at doing a specified thing, typically one acquired through practice : the art of conversation
Tim / September 25, 2008 at 03:45 pm
My beef with Blue Banana has nothing to do with the hat place. It's the overall collection of stuff - which, btw, I'm comparing to other artists markets I've visited around the world. So don't go on about me being close-minded. I've seen what world class artists markets offer and this ain't it.
soren / September 30, 2008 at 04:05 am
Agree, Tim. Blue Banana is charmless and Whitebuddha is from Calgary. Just sayin.
Anu / November 5, 2008 at 09:15 pm
I think the Blue Banana is a great place and our product has retailed very well there. Our customers get the opportunity to touch and test the products and through their feedback we have come up with several innovative designs. As a local manufacturer of bean bag chairs we always looking at ways of providing the best to the community. Check out new Christmas SALE prices on beanbags at the Blue Banana.
ForgetParis / December 13, 2008 at 12:26 pm
I'm going to check it out today!
AshleyD / December 15, 2008 at 01:30 pm
I really think the store deserves an updated review and photos... a lot has changed in a year and these photos are really doing a spot with some unique treasures and a great space a disservice. Readers - it is definitely worth a look, it is nothing like these photos any more.
JJ / January 17, 2009 at 03:48 pm
I was in there recently and it's looking better and better everytime i'm there. I was also pleased to do the majority of my christmas shopping there. I am a bit confused to the addition of Coke and Red Bull to the coffee shop though.and what happend to the goodies from Coras. I am also wondering happend to that lovely brown haired jewellery artist who worked in the coffee shop. I have not seen her there on her usual days. She was always so friendly and always had a good word for everyone. By far the best staff member in the place. I could never work out what she was even doing working there anyway.
Sara / February 7, 2009 at 06:54 pm
Was there today, it doesn't ruin Kensington at all. It gives lots of local artists the opportunity to display their work. There were a lot of interesting things here and the store has a great vibe.
/ February 13, 2009 at 09:47 pm
OMG this place is awesome i just went there today and bought a valentines day presendt fro my mom this is my new favoutite store
ILOVEQUEENWEST / April 1, 2009 at 02:17 pm
This store is getting better all the time. It is evolving and Rome wasnt built in a day. This store is WAY better now than when it first opened. (its called growth) figure out what your customers want then go about doing it, or close your doors and lease out the space. this store is great, it will be even better in a few years, i like to visit once every few months, its worth a commute. their stuff is unique and that is important...
ILOVEQUEENWEST / April 1, 2009 at 02:18 pm
update the pictures too, the store looks totally different now....
John replying to a comment from Tim / May 13, 2009 at 01:15 pm
I purchased one of your hats made by Le Petit Chapeau Millery.
I love it. It fits extremely well, and many of my friends like it as well. I am extremely pleased with it. Can you tell me where I can get a summer hat of the same style and quality. And to add more joy to my find is the fact that the hat was made in Canada.
Merci beaucoup Meaghan. As for the Blue Banana, Renato and I like the diversity and high quality of your products. We can't resist going in there when we pass by to see what new items you will have. Congrats on the store.
Terie replying to a comment from beth maher / May 15, 2009 at 02:45 pm
I totally agree. Half the store was "Made In China". Pure crap hiding behind shifty marketing.
horizon633 / October 21, 2009 at 05:27 pm
I have to somewhat agree with Tim. It did start off a bit rocky and perhaps not yet ready for launch but it has improved over the years. I don't see it as a real artist market. Lots of booths are occupied with wholesalers merchandise.. ie. abbott, wildly delicious. This however appeals to the tourists who frequent kensington market. They are the type of people who aren't exactly looking for something original and are happy to buy something commercial from a trendy artsy area. So yes Tim, I do agree that a real artist market is long overdue but it doesn't make BB a bad place. Fudge can hardly be described as tacky..the outside of the building..I will agree is horrible. Looks like an elementary school. Perhaps it would be better off located somewhere else as I firmly believe anything commercial should not be allowed in the area. I will end this noting their staff is extremely friendly and the concept is great.
SB / November 21, 2010 at 11:57 am
I think this post needs to be updated because Blue Banana does not look like that anymore. I enjoy walking through there once in a while and seeing handmade pieces. What I really like about it is that the vendors aren't there. I feel more comfortable to browse and take my time knowing that someone isn't watching me. I especially like their jewelry section - quite a variety of different styles. It's a great place to find gifts to buy for others.
Anonymouse / December 5, 2010 at 02:40 pm
The store might look different now but it has the WORST customer service in the world. Not one of the employees there even come close to smiling. I've been there three times and each times it got worse. I wanted to give it a chance but the rudeness was overwhelming, I will not be back.
Janice replying to a comment from Anonymouse / January 18, 2011 at 05:25 pm
Every time i have been in the Blue Banana the customer service has been wonderful. The staff sing, dance and look as though they are enjoying their jobs.
The store is a lot of fun. One of my favorite places in the city.
Jessica replying to a comment from Janice / March 22, 2011 at 01:55 pm
I agree with "Anonymouse" worst customer service ever. A friend of mine is a local artist who rented a jewelry case from the banana. She had customers contact her directly to buy stuff because some staff were too busy texting each other.

It seems like Janice works at Blue Banana. Come on, who the heck sings,and dances at their job. Lame.
Lisa / March 31, 2011 at 03:43 pm
Seems like Jessica might be a bitter local jewelry artist who's unhappy her product didn't sell. Also pretty lame. I've never had any issues with the staff. I realize their approach may be more of having customers come to them with questions, but better that then annoying sales staff on your ass trying to help you when you don't want help.
Toronguy / June 22, 2011 at 05:42 pm
I love the oil paintings there like Abstract Toronto by G.Jin and other artist named Hernandes. The brushstroke(Knife-stroke) is amazing. I brouse there often, and each time I can see many guys there enjoying the pictures.
Toronguy / June 22, 2011 at 05:57 pm
by the way, is there any other places same like Blue Banana? which means you can brouse without the owner standing besides you, and the merchandises are from different dealers?
Cora / July 30, 2011 at 05:36 pm
I went here today and I was so impressed! The pictures need to be updated BlogTO ;)
cindy / March 19, 2012 at 08:07 pm
I don't mind this store. but customer service sucks, such rude people.. including some old hag who looked like the owner/manager who barked something at me as I was looking at something. Relax already.
Vicky / December 13, 2012 at 10:00 pm
Great store! Filled with cool products!
Francis / March 6, 2013 at 01:28 am
This place is a tourist trap. Customers think they are "buying local" and "support artists" but in fact you are purchasing 95% from China/India.

I've also overheard customers who were looking at purchasing something from a jewellery case, but none of the employee where around to open it.

Unfortunately many people will still shop even after reading this, but if you care of the mom & pop stores around, you will pass spending your hard earned cash here.
marie / April 11, 2013 at 06:44 pm
Unfortunately, classifying this as "an artist market" as Blog TO has done is quite misleading. As someone mentioned before, a lot of this stuff is all imported and about 5-10% of it is ACTUALLY local. I had a booth at here in the past and I happen to be a local artist, but I was disappointed going in with the staff, customer service, and found the owner to be unprofessional. I will never shop here again when Toronto has so many other unique and local stores to offer!
Clark / September 9, 2014 at 04:46 pm
If heroin was legal, this place WOULD sell it. Why don't you take a real look on what they are selling on their shelves. THAT is a "Taste Of Kensington Market" ??

This place is corrupt with JUNK. The only REAL artistry is in some of the glass jewellery cases that is tucked away in the corner of the store on the stairs. The Maple Syrup section is just as good as the shops in Chinatown/Spadina and most of the staff really don't care for any Merchants there. It has become one big money making machine and does not do any good for the future of the world community. They are also lacking heart and empathy for those real artists who do make the community what it is and it's diminishing the culture that Kensington Market created for themselves. This place is rotting from the inside out and it is only a matter of time that things will fall apart. So, who ever is the owner, I advise you to please wake up and smell the aroma. It stinks!

To close this off with a positive note, this place still has the potential to be something great and it creates so much 'people' traffic (to bad the customers are all exposed to filth in the store) that if, Blue Banana Market can fill up the space with real original artists with real messages and creates a new plan so that the customers can organically leave the store with something positive to bring into the world, then consumers would be proud to shop at this unique idea of a store. Its never to late.
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