support local business

People are coming up with creative ways to support local businesses in their Toronto neighbourhood

People in Toronto is finding unique ways to help out local businesses who are in need of support.

Bonny van Rest is one such person. She has been making goodie bags filled with items from shops in the West Queen West neighbourhood.

"It’s sad to see a lot of our local stores being closed or facing challenges of lower number of visitors every day due to the outbreak of COVID-19. It started me thinking, about something that I could do for our neighborhood," Rest told blogTO via email.

The initiative is called Locals for Locals TO and Rest says it was inspired by a similar idea from her home town Rotterdam.

The bags cost between $80 to $100 (plus delivery) and include things like fresh veggies, cookies, coffee and more.

The proceeds from the bag go to pay the local stores for the products they contribute, as well as a $3 donation will be made to Daily Bread Food Bank

Their first 50 deliveries are this Easter Weekend and will continue on a weekly basis with rotating products and participating shops, according to Rest. 

Similarly, restaurant manager Todd Pinnell put together a three-day dinner package from a selection of Kensington Market restaurants.

Pinnell says the idea was part inspired by a friend's potluck dinner party that was cancelled and part inspired by a need to keep their businesses afloat when they found out none of them qualified for government support.

"We've already lost three places in Kensington due to this. We can't lose more," he said.  

While a potluck turned out to be a bit too hard to organize, a pix-fixe menu with three to four meals over the weeks with revenues split equally seemed completely do-able. 

For $45 people can choose take-out meals from BonafideFresco’s British Fish & Chips and Maracas. The first run of this will be April 13 to 15, where each night a different restaurant is featured.

Pinnell explains that meals are prepared in advance so that all the customer has to do is come to the door to pick up their hot meal each night.  

"We're completely overwhelmed with the response we've had from the neighbourhood. They don't have to say or do anything. Just them placing an order is such a wonderful feeling," he said, adding that they've sold 30 tickets already.  

There are ideas to do more but Pinnell says they haven't put plans in motion yet. 

"We have a lot of restaurants in the area who want to be involved, so we'll see what's next," he said.

Another way people are supporting local businesses is by making sure locals know which places are open or not. 

Several Toronto Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) are putting together directories to help keep track of which shops, restaurants and services are open or closed during the pandemic.  

Riverside BIA has a colour-coded interactive map, which let's you see which local businesses are open in-person or online and which ones are temporarily closed. And there's also one for Danforth East

Other people, like Sylvia Schmidt, have gone a little less fancy with a simple blog post about Leslieville businesses you can support from home.

Finally, some people are helping local businesses ramp up their digital side. 

For example, a new Toronto startup, the neighbourgood, is helping local businesses sell e-gift cards that can be redeemed when they open up again. The operation is entirely not-for-profit and all a local business needs to do is sign up on the website to get a page listing at no cost.

Meanwhile, Digital Main Street is offering free digital training workshops to help local businesses figure out how to navigate the pandemic and The Yonge + St. Clair BIA launched a $500 grant.

The grant is available to 30 local businesses within the BIA boundaries  on a first-come, first-serve basis with the intention of helping them to grow and transition their business online.  

"We want to provide our businesses with the tools they’ll need not only to ‘weather the storm’ but to help them become more resilient in the long run," said Yonge + St. Clair Community Manager Jessica Myers.  

"Most of our businesses are technologically savvy, however, they may not have always had the time or money to focus on their digital marketing efforts. We hope this grant will change that."

Since launching over 20 businesses have started the application process. 

"We hope to have many success stories come from this whether it’s purchasing equipment to create webinars, setting up an online shop or even hiring someone part time to manage social media promotions and contests, every little bit helps," said Myers, adding that next week they plan on launching an even bigger funding initiative. 

"It's amazing to see how this challenging time, triggers solidarity and creative solutions that are introduced into our communities," said Rest.

"We've got to find ways to continue this fight and we can't stop. We gotta keep trying," added Pinnell.  

Lead photo by

Francis Mariani

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