street vendor history toronto

What street vendors used to look like in Toronto

Street vending started in Toronto at the turn of the 20th century in Kensington Market. Handcarts pushed by predominantly Jewish merchants were, in fact, how the neighbourhood got its started as a marketplace altogether. It would be easy to say we've come a log way since then, but the truth is that Toronto street vending has only just entered its renaissance with the birth of the food truck and freshly loosened regulations that will actually allow vendors to operate on, you know, city streets.

For years, Toronto street vending was dominated by the candy/cashew vendor and the hot dog stand. In fact, judging by the photos below, you'd have been lucky to get much of substance at all on Toronto streets until the mid '80s when more and more street meat became available. Prior to that, you were looking at ice cream, pop corn, candy apples, and the aforementioned cashews.

Yes, the street eats of Toronto's past were nothing to get excited about. Some of these photos actually look a little sad, but that's what makes great. As a kid growing up in the 1980s, I can assure you that these stands were the most wonderful things in the world, filled with things you weren't allowed to it. And then the wool is pulled from your eyes and you realize you've grown up -- just like Toronto's street vendors.



Kenington Market, 1910s


Newspaper stand at Yonge & Queen, 1925


Kensington Market, 1926


Kensington Market 1970


Candy Apples on Yonge, 1971


Outside A&A Records in 1972


Pop corn vendor in 1973


Yonge & Dundas, 1978


Hot Cashews in 1979


Across from the ROM in 1980


Yonge & Dundas, 1985


Queen West, 1988


Yonge & Bloor, 1980s


The ill-fated A La Cart program, 2000s


Wacky food truck by Danielle Scott


Trusty hot dog vendor at Bathurst and College by Brian Cameron

toronto food trucks

Photo by Jesse Milns

Photos from the Toronto Archives unless otherwise marked. Special thanks to the Toronto History Flickr page, from which most of these photos were sourced.

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