Tontine Coffee Shop

This is a brief history of one of Toronto's first coffee shops

In the mid-1840s, the south side of King Street East between George Street and Frederick Street was home to the Tontine Coffee Shop — one of Toronto's first Black owned and operated businesses and one of the City's early coffee shops.

The business was run by Daniel Bloxom — a Black man. Its name was inspired by the Tontine Coffee House of Wall Street, New York City (established 1793) which gave birth to the New York Stock Exchange.

In the 1790s and early 1800s, the Tontine Coffee House of New York City was where shipowners would register their cargo upon arrival in New York — including cargo of enslaved men, women, and children. 

Mr. Bloxom was also employed as a cabman and labourer in Toronto. Prior to opening the Tontine Coffee Shop, the Bloxoms lived just around the corner on Lower George Street. By the mid-1850s, the Bloxoms had moved east nearer to Berkeley Street and Mr. Bloxom had taken up employment as a saw filer.

The Bloxoms may have arrived in Canada from the United States via the Underground Railroad, albeit this requires further research.

As of 1846, the Tontine Coffee Shop was one of only two coffee shops listed in the City Directory.

The Tontine Coffee Shop appears to have been midblock — approximately where the George Brown College School of Makeup and Esthetics (193 King Street East) now is.

The address of the Tontine Coffee Shop - as of 1846/1847 - was 150 King Street East - which was then located on the south side of King Street East (prior to the implementation of and switchover to Toronto's standardized address numbering system in the 1850s) and within the St. Lawrence Neighbourhood Heritage Conservation District.

Lead photo by

Toronto Archives


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