Vendor Queens

Vendor Queens is Toronto's newest pop-up market

At Vendor Queens, the small business is king. The "pop-up market", featuring all manner of handmade and vintage goods, will be taking over part of a condo development centre (the old Thrush Holmes Empire space) at Queen and Dovercourt every weekend until the end of 2013.

Artist Caitlin Brubacher, who masterminds Vendor Queens with pal and fellow artist Mark Savoia, came up with the idea while trying to find a brick-and-mortar home for Elephant In The Attic, Brubacher's collection of found prints from vintage books (which also makes an appearance at Vendor Queens).

"There wasn't just a lot of opportunities for people making their own stuff to be able to afford the rents in places that were high-traffic enough," she said. Instead, began bringing her wares to markets, and soon realized: "I can't schlep this stuff around." Having a pop-up store that lasts for several weeks, while still allowing vendors to come and go, allows them to "nest" and carve out a space for themselves: "You can treat it like your own little store within a store."

The idea of taking pride in your business and your wares, she says, is what gave the event its name. "Basically, I don't think that there are enough spaces in Toronto to be a small-scale business owner and feel really puffed-up and proud of your product," Brubacher says. "I think that having a sustainable situation where you can build a community, build a name for yourself over time, leaves space for people to own what they're doing more, and take it to the next step. It's like an incubator."

vendor queens toronto

Vendor Queens will be celebrating the launch with a "Queen's Inaugural Jubilee" bash this Thursday night at 8 p.m., with music, live performances, and interactive installations at vendor booths; the vendors are even set to dress up as regal versions of themselves. (There's even party favours: A pair of vintage deadstock underwear, silkscreened with the Vendor Queens logo.)

Sellers will come and go during the length of the pop-up; here are just a few of the vendors you might find from now until December.

Owner/chef Sarah Gaby-Trotz, like many others at Vendor Queens, is a visual artist, but Brubacher persuaded the experienced chef to bring her vegetarian variations on the breakfast sandwich to the market. "I love farmer's markets, and that kind of homemade feel, so just getting back to that connection of food and people on a smaller scale really appeals to me," Gaby-Trotz says.That homespun approach comes through in the Herb N' Homestead's menu: chevre and pickled beets, balsamic mushrooms and cheddar, and guacamole, all served with scrambled eggs on homemade buttermilk English muffins ($8 each). She's planning to add soups later in the market for the late-afternoon crowd during upcoming weekends.

Cherry Picked's proprietor freely admits she uses her vintage business as an excuse to shop: "I have a bit of a passion for secondhand stores," Christa says. Her stall at Vendor Queens is packed with great secondhand threads sourced from spots around Ontario -- most dating back decades, though some are modern. Bargain hunters, take note: Prices are quite reasonable, with pieces like velour dinner jackets and mod dresses going for around $30. Quick turnover, she says, gives her more of a reason to go hunting for even more stock...

Michael Young is giving houseplants new life through his plantpanic project. "We're making inroads to recycling all kinds of things in society, but we don't think about recycling plants," he says, adding too many are bought for cheap and left to die, or thrown out after a season ends. "I'm trying to think of them less as disposable." Young takes found or given-away plants and transfers them to discarded, repainted pots with beds of moss ($5-45). For an extra dose of whimsy, there's Young's "extinction" collection of planters -- hollowed-out shark and dino action figures painted gold ($25-35).


Made in Brockton Village's whimsical, hand-painted greeting cards and calendars are the brainchild of illustrator/graphic designer Marika and writer Tomas (who, true to the name, are based out of the west-end neighbourhood). You'll find adorable florals, bicycles, and a menagerie of anthropomorphic animals wishing you Happy Birthday (Marika says the fox birthday card is their most popular), all clocking in at about $5.

In addition to co-organizing Vendor Queens, Mark Savoia makes stained-glass window catchers "for our generation -- because, as I'm sure you've noticed, most window catchers are butterflies and angels." He'll be bringing his geometric creations ($60 to $200) to Vendor Queens, but only sample versions; buyers will have to order their own, since each piece takes between six and eight hours to make.

Robin Fitzsimons didn't start out making accessories or working with leather. But after committing to making a piece of art every day for a year, the OCAD sculpture grad found herself with more than a few leatherwork pieces -- and plenty of friends telling her she should start selling them. Fitzsimons' pieces range from bow ties and jewelry to cell phone pouches, with prices ranging from $7 for an earbud holder to $65 for a sunglass case. Fitzsimons builds her pieces to last, with materials like natural leather and copper rivets and chains meant to age over time.

The Melissa was once a Queen St. store brimming with vintage collectibles; though the storefront is now gone, Melissa Levin's eponymous business still lives on at markets around Toronto. Most of the pieces, which range from housewares to retro board games to art and textiles, hover in the $10 to $75 range. However, there are a few high-priced standouts, like a massive piece of art made from intricately folded cigarette packs ($500) -- the largest of its kind she's ever seen, Levin says.


They may be made with alternative grains, fair-trade organic chocolate and sugar cane, but Sarah Fortunato's baked goods make for a perfectly sweet pick-me-up during an afternoon of shopping. Fortunato's "nutrient-dense" treats, which include lemon-cranberry shortbreads and salt caramel brownies, are made at her bakery at Dundas and Gladstone and can be found at cafes around the city; she's currently working toward opening her own storefront. (Check out the banner behind the counter for a gallery of her custom-made sculptural cakes.)

Nicole Tirona makes costume jewelry with a mix of new and vintage elements. Her ornate pendant necklaces and earrings clock in at about $30 each (a fave of ours is her birdcage necklace on a beaded chain). Each piece, she says, tells its own story. There's also a selection of light switch covers featuring vintage pulp novel covers and propaganda posters; proceeds from those will fund typhoon relief in the Philippines.

Yep, that's "pi" twice. Cybele Stein, who quit her job in health care communications to follow her passion for ceramics, makes beautiful, inexpensive dishes, using texturized slabs and stamps to create ornate patterns and topping them off with layers of glaze to create washes of colour. All are food-grade and microwave- and dishwasher-safe, and nothing in her stall is priced over $100.

vendor queens

Photos by Denise McMullin

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