restaurant owners toronto

Someone in Toronto posts daily illustrations of local restaurant owners on their front door

A green door in Toronto has played host to almost 200 daily illustrations at this point, most recently depicting local restaurant and store owners.

Heidi Tsao started out doing her door illustrations on a flipchart, but as the pandemic progressed she moved on to a whiteboard. At first she drew funny cartoons with accompanying jokes as a way of coping with current events and connecting with her neighbourhood.

"When the second lockdown happened, I started featuring local businesses," Tsao told blogTO. "The reason, simply put, is because I like being able to walk to shops and restaurants in my area and I want to be able to keep doing so when things return to 'normal.'"

So far she's featured businesses like No Bull Burgers, Courage Foods and The Beech Tree in her drawings, which also often tell people the names of the owners and have a little accompanying portrait.

"I wanted to get people to think more about the people behind the business and not just make it about advertising. I also think it's more fun to draw faces than things," says Tsao.

There was a ton of other subject matter for her illustrations in between the jokes and the business owners as well.

While she initially incorporated hashtags like #DadJokeDoor into the illustrations she was sharing on social media, she was inspired to move on to #GreenDoorBlackLives and #GreenDoorIndigenousLives, sharing facts about Black and Indigenous inventors and historical figures.

"In doing my research, I learned a lot about these women and men who have played such vital parts in the world we live in today," Tsao wrote in a personal blog post about the project. 

"I found myself surprised by how many everyday objects had been introduced to us by Black and Indigenous people, as well as thinking about the bias in me that resulted in those feelings of surprise."

Tsao started the project on March 18, thinking it (like many things) would only last a few weeks. She took a hiatus for a bit, but started up the illustrations again after Thanksgiving with a more general theme of gratitude.

"Even though we couldn't spend the holiday with our families, I wanted to remind people that we have so much for which to be grateful," she says.

Some of Tsao's social media posts of her door illustrations that have been engaged with the most on a local neighbourhood group are about Courage Foods and Flower Centre.

Commenters on the neighbourhood Facebook group responded overwhelmingly to call out their favourite items at Courage Foods, with votes pouring in for sausage rolls, potato salad, pea soup and garlic bread.

"The owner, Andy Sue, is a real community leader," Tsao says of Flower Centre, with commenters adding that they agree they're incredible community members and complimenting the Christmas trees and flowers they've gotten there.

Other local businesses Tsao has highlighted include The Feathers, Fearless Meat, Ella Minnow and Somun Superstar, and Tsao isn't stopping anytime soon.

"Basically, this year has been really crappy," says Tsao. "For some, way crappier than others. Reminding yourself and others how lucky we are to live where we do and have the things we do is a way to build resilience and help us make it out of this gong show."

Lead photo by

Heidi Tsao

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