likely general toronto

Toronto store that showcases local makers is just trying to survive for another two months

Likely General is a store in Toronto that celebrates local artists by showcasing their designs and works through its retail space and by hosting community events and workshops.

It's been closed and struggling to survive since Toronto declared a state of emergency in March. Now, a group of artists are using a crowd-funding campaign to save the beloved Roncesvalles store.

Poet and musician Brooke Manning is the store’s owner. “Once we figured out that all nonessential businesses were closed, we sort of went into this fear mode,” she says.

But the campaign wasn’t her idea. “A bunch of artists that we support contacted me,” Manning said.

“I hadn't really thought about doing a GoFundMe just because I feel very aware of how everyone is struggling right now,” Manning said. “I have a hard time asking for help and I have a hard time taking up space like that.”

Manning’s friend Morgan Dowler, an artist whose work has been carried by Likely General, organized the fundraiser online along with another friend, artist MJ Renshaw, all on Manning’s behalf, but with her permission.

Hi beautiful friends. The outpouring of support for our GoFundMe over the last two days has been incredible. I am humbled and deeply grateful. I wanted to briefly mention something. I’ve been talking to ~30 small business owners closely, daily. Many that don’t own small businesses see what the government is offering us and might not understand that this isn’t a lot of help. In fact, it’s hardly any help. I don’t say this to sound ungrateful but the reality of our situation is that most small businesses can’t afford to take on $40,000 (only eligible is you have payroll of $50,000 FYI!!) worth of debt. Most small businesses are already deeply in debt and realistically aren’t in the position to go further in order to pay for our empty spaces. Most don’t have the funds coming in to front the 75% wage subsidy so we would have to rely on the government loan offering to meet this. After taxes, maintenance, insurance, rent, bills, this doesn’t leave much for us to continue operations as “normal”. These funds will burn out fast and unfortunately they don’t leave us in a position to “come back strong” once this is over. Costs of running a small business in Toronto are incredibly high. We care about our communities - it’s why we exist. We honour closing in order to help flatten the curve because it would be irresponsible of us as community members not to. We did this when Toronto declared a state of emergency March 14th. Most small business owners I know are working 16 hour days, unpaid, driving around the city delivering, trying to get their website in order, doing everything they can just to keep livelihood afloat. Most are relying on their incredibly supportive communities working at grassroots level in order to help them out. Likely General means the world to me. It’s a place for US. 7 years of my hardest work. I can’t see it go down and I will continue to fight for it just like every other small business owner I know. Your help, your sharing, your voice is encouraging us to keep going. We all need our communities now more than ever. Thank you for calling MP’s, for listening, for being there. We love you, and we want to see all businesses survive.

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The money will cover two months of operating costs for the store. “Operating costs for about two months at Likely are around $25,000 to $30,000,” Manning said.

The money will go toward paying the store’s rent, taxes, insurance, as well as paying other artists and the store’s employees, Manning says. She says she pays herself as much as she pays her employees.

“We're really there to represent artists and without that space, over 300 people will lose pockets of their livelihood,” she said.

In other words, Likely General is an integral part of the Roncesvalles neighbourhood and the community it serves.

Looking through the fundraiser’s page is liable to bring tears to the eyes — it’s full of comments from donors who have passed through the store talking about how special it and Manning are to them. Many donors refer to the place lovingly, saying it’s a safe space for them, that it’s “home.”

To show her appreciation for every person who donates to keep the place from getting lost, Manning is working with a friend to create a rainbow quilt.

Laurie Leclair is a friend Manning made through Likely General — she met her through donating to Leclair’s fundraising efforts for the United Way.

Leclair knit together 100 individual pieces to form a quilt that she gifted to Manning. Manning then decided to transform the quilt into a symbolic art piece to be installed in the store in June.

Each square will contain the names of the first 100 donors who give $50 or more. Manning will sew the quilt to form a rainbow, which will be hung in the store’s window next to a list containing the name of every other sponsor who supports Likely General’s campaign.

“We usually do big things at Pride every year because I'm queer and it's important to me and important to a lot of the people that we have in the store,” Manning said.

The quilt will hang in the store’s window whether Likely General closes or not, Manning said.

“The space means so much to me,” Manning said. “To lose it, it's just heartbreaking.”

Lead photo by

Andrew Williamson

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