oxford fruit

Toronto neighbourhood devastated after local grocer suddenly shuts down

Kensington market neighbours are sad to see the newest incarnation of the Oxford fruit stand close.

Joe and his family had quickly become part of the fabric of the neighbourhood, and his fruits and flowers were of particularly high quality, as well as being a visual treat popular with photographers and passers-by.

People have attached paper to the window outside, with notes for Joe and his family.

Oxford fruit had been operating for 40 years, and the previous incarnation had been especially beloved, and had been run for 25 years by Mrs Ng and her family.

When it closed in 2020 many were concerned that a more tourism-focused business would take its place and to some it was a relief that it remained a fruit stand, though other's continued to mourn the Ng family business.

Joe's version of the fruit stand opened during the pandemic, and for some acted as a symbol of hope that the market was maintaining some part of its soul even as times changed.

Especially during the early lockdowns of 2020, for many people home cooking became an important outlet and among so many closed or locked-down businesses, having the fruit stand in Kensington re-open was a rare beacon of good news, and Joe quickly built up a loyal following.

Joe's fruit was more high-end, with each fruit and vegetable seemingly chosen for flavour perfection and beauty.

here was a large organic selection as well, as Joe's Iranian background came into play with his excellent selection of pomegranates, sour cherries, and other fruits.

He often gave sample fruits to small children and neighbours. The cost was a bit higher though, perhaps a bit higher than the neighbourhood could bear, and some commercial clients may have been deterred.

Dr. Japji Anna Bas is a well-being expert who grew up in the market, and moved back in the midst of the pandemic. She told blogTO:

"Ever since I moved back to the market, Joe's fruit stand was so important. It was one of the first place that my kid's really got into going on their own to pick up fruits and things for home. Of all the places to buy produces you could always count on everything there being phenomenal. My kids started liking things they hadn't liked from other place. He would consistently give my kids different kinds of fruit to try, and was a friendly face in the market."

The intersection of Nassau and Augusta once had fruit stands on all four corners, with only Oxford Fruit remaining on the corner itself, though Augusta Fruit Wholesalers just east on Nassau continues to be busy, operating its iconic fleet of vehicles.

Kensington Fruit Market, at the corner of Kensington and St. Andrew, continues to thrive, as does Caribbean Corner on Baldwin, but many are concerned for the future of raw food and produce in the neighbourhood.

Bas continued:

"I'm honestly a little heartbroken. I'm both extremely sad about Joe's business closing, and also the shifting character of the market where a lot of places that provide market goods are having a harder time, and it's more and more becoming a tourist location with prices that are out of reach for a lot of market folks. So I'm sad about both this business, and as part of a larger trend."

Two other local business owners confirmed that the business was shutting down. To their knowledge it was not related to Joe's health, though caregiving responsibilities for his aging parents did play a role in the decision.

Community leader Dominque Russell, who is among other things a founding member of Friends of Kensington Market, said:

"I think the community's  first thought is for Joe, hoping that he's ok. And then, if Joe's not coming back, there's the concern about losing yet another fruit stand. Hopefully what goes in next will be connected to raw food, something that's good for the market".

Lead photo by

Megan Kinch

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