kensington market toronto

Older businesses in Kensington Market adapt to a changing climate by going online

With the exception of grocery and health food stores, as well as some restaurants (that continue takeout and delivery orders), many local non-essential businesses in Kensington Market have closed their doors over the last couple of weeks. 

Cece Scriver, member of the Kensington Market Business Improvement Area (KMBIA) and manager of her family's business and local vintage store, Courage My Love, says the small businesses in Kensington are finding new ways to get their products out there, including herself, who has taken a head-first plunge into selling online.

Scriver is using mainly Instagram, along with Etsy, to continue to sell her store product including clothing, shoes, incense, bandanas, sleepwear, and jewellery. 

All originally found in the store, these items are now available for pickup or right-to-your-door delivery.

Though newer vintage stores such as Lost Boys, CrazyLokoVintage, and Retro Heads already have a well-established online presence – the transition to an online platform presents a bit of a challenge for the older stores in the neighbourhood.

In the past, Scriver has never spent much time online and instead has always preferred for customers to come experience the store's carefully curated products in-person.

“People love the store, not because of me, but because of what it does for them. For some, coming here is like therapy,” she said. “I don't really care if people buy stuff. I'd rather they just come in and feel good when they leave.”

Drawing in Torontonians since the seventies, this local favourite closed due to COVID-19 three weeks ago. Scriver says this is the first time they've closed for more than two days in a row since her parents first opened the store nearly 45 years ago.

“I put a sign on the door that said, ‘I know that [Courage My Love] is a place that makes people really happy and I would stay open just for that, but we can't.’”

Scriver admits the computer has taken some mastering and says she's continually being stretched to try new things – like cropping a photo. Otherwise, she's been able to adjust quickly and is feeling the continued support from her customers. 

"A customer just this morning said, ‘My mom called me and made me buy something from you because she has decided that you’re the small business that has to survive this,’” she said.

“Most of them send a message with the things that they buy saying, ‘I can't buy too much, but I'll buy this.’”

Scriver says it's this type of support that local businesses truly need during this time. 

“Kensington is one of those places that people love so much, but I think people need to love it more now because there are a ton of places that might not live through this." 

Scriver says the KMBIA is also discussing starting a Shopify for Kensington Market as a whole to make the transition easier on businesses.

Though mastering the online platform may prove more of a challenge for some, Scriver continues to have faith in the resiliency of the neighbourhood that her tight-knit family has always called home. 

"I have never felt that the Market would not survive something like this. Everyone here is in survival mode already since we've all worked so hard just to keep our doors open," she said.

"We’re all in this together and we'll get through this together." 

Lead photo by

Hector Vasquez

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