With the great park as their backdrop, the neighbourhoods of High Park and Roncesvalles thrive on diversity and youth.
As both neighbourhoods enjoy a residential renaissance, businesses in the local area are seeing plenty of transformational changes.
A true icon of Roncesvalles, Granowska’s (175 Roncesvalles Ave.) bakery and café has served Polish food and pastries for more than 38 years. Kathy Klodas helps run the family business and says the biggest change in Roncesvalles has been the embracement of multiculturalism — while the area is still recognized as the seat of Toronto’s Polish community, it’s hardly exclusively Polish anymore.
“It was a lot smaller and cosier here before, and primarily Polish and German. Now there’s a vast variety of people. It’s more multicultural now and I think that’s a great thing. I think diversity is beneficial, yet it’s also nice that we get to continue to celebrate our traditions and cultures here,” Klodas said.
Tony Cauch, chair of the Roncesvalles Village Business Improvement Area (BIA) says Roncesvalles Village has one of the highest birth rates in all of Canada, spurred on by the influx of young couples and families into the area. He says the more than 240 local businesses are working hard to appeal to the changing demographics.
“We are known in Toronto as the Polish enclave and that’s a unique thing about us, but we’ve also become a lot more diverse. We want to attract young families and we’re trying to appeal to a fairly broad cross-section of people,” Cauch said.
Eva Bodura, owner of Eva’s Flowers (119 Roncesvalles Ave.), says the street has become more vibrant since she opened 18 years ago.
“It’s changing for the better – the street is nicer, people take care of their lots and businesses and things are moving forward. More non-Poles have started living here too and as the older Polish generation moved to places like Mississauga, the younger generation has stayed,” Bodura said.
Just north of High Park, life is less hectic but local businesses still find their niche.
Movie Art Decor (1566 Bloor St. W.) owner Edward Guca also chairs the Bloor by the Park BIA and says High Park Village has a slower, neighbourly vibe that has done well with the arrival of more young families and more varied businesses into the area.
“Fifteen years ago, you wouldn’t have seen many people on the street at all. Once we started the BIA we started getting lots of pubs and restaurants entering the area and now it’s gradually evolved. It’s still just approaching its teenage years as an area though – there’s still a lot of potential,” Guca said.
The low rents and an increasingly mixed demographic have helped for sure, and Guca expects the new condominium developments entering the area soon should provide a major boost to local business as well.
Nigel Naimool manages the Whelan’s Gate Irish Pub (1663 Bloor St. W.) and says while there still isn’t as much to draw people in to the street-level businesses as other more established areas, the influx of new blood is definitely helping business so far.
“I’ve noticed a lot more young families moving into the area and the neighbourhood in general is in transition. Roncesvalles is also becoming very desirable to live in. Restaurants and other establishments are moving in and that should help draw even more people,” Naimool said.