Local businesses thrive in Bendale, propped up by the support of local residents and thrifty overhead costs.
Cheap monthly commercial rents (costing about half, or even a third, of similar square footages in central or downtown Toronto) have allowed small businesses to prosper in Bendale, and the area is notable for its many mom-and-pop and other family-run operations.
Most of the businesses here are authentic, neighbourly and charmingly un-gentrified. Some chains have started moving onto freshly built commercial lots near some of the major intersections in the area but their effect has been mostly positive so far (and well-needed if the area is to serve an increasing number of condo residents).
Angela Kelly is co-owner of St. Andrew’s Fish & Chips (1589 Ellesmere Rd.), a traditional U.K.-style restaurant that has seen the area evolve in its 25-year history.
Kelly says when the restaurant first opened in the mid-1980s the clientele was primarily British. Today, while the clientele have become more mixed, the same friendly vibe remains, fleshed out by fresh faces from new high-rise developments.
“When we started there were a lot of British residents and businesses — many of them have since moved out. Now we get a mix of regular customers and the neighbourhood is still a pretty friendly place. We do get a lot of people from the new condos coming in as well,” Kelly said.
At Ruby & Ruby Saree Palace (2843 Lawrence Ave. E.), owner Jegan Kanagiah has sold traditional garments and fabrics for more than 11 years. He says business in Bendale is very much a local affair.
“The area is definitely geared towards the multicultural people that live in the area. A lot of the local business owners here live in the area as well — it’s that kind of neighbourhood.
While starting out was hard for him at first, he says the support of Bendale residents over the years has proved the community embraces local business.
“This is a nice area and there’s not a lot of crime here. We’ve developed relationships here with local people who know us and trust us. We don’t want to go somewhere to start again from scratch — we work together with the neighbourhood,” Kanagiah said.
Ravi Rul owns Simba’s First Class Bakery (2851 Lawrence Ave. E.), named after his beloved dog, Simba. He says the cheap rent and mix of customers have keep his business steady in the four years he’s been operating in Bendale.
“This area is very multicultural and I have a steady stream of regular customers. The landlords here are pretty good, so I feel it’s a good community for business,” Rul said.