Each Tuesday, Metro will be focusing on the small businesses within one of Toronto’s many neighbourhoods and how they keep their communities humming along.
With a clientele that is as discerning as it is loyal, small businesses at The Beach thrive on being a part of their customers’ daily lives and acting more like good friends than just business operators.
In a tight-knit community of loyal, local-shopping customers like The Beach, carving a niche is crucial and Wild Earth Bakery (2142 Queen St. E.) owner Brad Owens, 36, took the initiative to fill a dietary void he saw at The Beach.
“It’s been great so far and they real key to our success has been that we’re 100 per cent nut-free and we offer many gluten-free goods too. It’s a market niche that was underserved,” Owens said.
A former director of health and safety for Bell Canada, Owens opened Wild Earth six months ago at the height of the recession to pursue a lifelong dream. He says the clientele at The Beach is highly loyal so he was worried whether locals would give his bakery a chance but now he feels like a partner in the community.
“This is a community that is extremely loyal, therefore with all the established businesses in the area it’s hard to break through, but once you do, you’re able to build real relationships. We now know our customers by name and we know their lives,” Owens said.
Especially in colder months like this one, Owens says businesses at The Beach thrive on repeat customers.
“Once the tourists are gone, these people are your bread and butter, that’s why loyalty is so crucial here. There’s a real authenticity and genuineness in their support. For me it feels like I’m entertaining in my home,” Owens said.
Lifelong Beacher and entrepreneur Aileen Selkirk, 49, has seen The Beach change much over the past several decades, with her fashion and beauty store Posh (2016 Queen St. E.) changing right along with it.
“I change with the times and my business evolves as the community does. When I was growing up this area was more blue-collar, now it’s more professional but still, always, very family-oriented,” Selkirk said.
She opened Posh, her second store, 20 years ago selling tie-dyed hippie threads and imported clothes; today she focuses on stylish, Canadian-made designer brands and jewelry. Posh has survived and prospered through three different recessions and Selkirk credits the success of her store on her old-school approach to business.
“My staff are like my family and I have very loyal customers who I remember dressing when they were kids — now they dress their own children. It’s a very old-fashioned business,” Selkirk said.