Toronto’s birthplace and always-beating heart, St. Lawrence is where the industrious merchant spirit of old times still thrives.
When the British bought what is now modern-day Toronto from the Mississauga First Nation in 1788, the area was already known as a meeting point for merchants — a fact that is still true today and most readily visible at St. the Lawrence Market’s wealth of food sellers’ stalls and shops.
Often referred to as Old Town, the web of streets and parks south of Queen Street East and running between Yonge and Parliament streets houses an eclectic mix of restaurants, design stores, art galleries and pubs whose souls all lead back to the St. Lawrence Market on Front Street.
On a busy Saturday at the market, Scheffler’s Delicatessen and Cheese (93 Front St. E., Upper Level 7) owner Odysseas Gounalakis cuts fragrant cheese by hand while his staff dart around helping customers.
He bought the business in 1991 after spending almost 10 years working in the market building itself and says he loves the frantic life of the market and its open, outgoing ambiance.
“I like the atmosphere of the market. In ancient times, the market used to be an educational place — Socrates even taught in the market. You find it the same here, you can talk about food, creative things, politics, anything you want. It’s like a little microcosm of Toronto and even on a slow day the place is alive,” Gounalakis said.
Robert Biancolin co-owns Carousel Bakery (93 Front St. E., Upper Level 42) with his brother Maurice and says the melting pot nature of the market is not only it’s most enduring quality but a blueprint for the city at large.
“So many people connect with each other here — it’s really bringing cultures together. The market was the anchor for a lot of the change in this city,” Biancolin said.
To the north of the neighbourhood, condominium developments which sprung up along Richmond and Adelaide streets have breathed new life into the entire area, turning it from a checkpoint for tourists heading to the St. Lawrence Market into a vibrant, thriving neighbourhood all its own.
Michael Duggan, owner of Duggan’s Brewery (75 Victoria St.) and former president and founder of the Mill Street Brewery, says there’s still plenty of room for growth throughout the area.
“It’s in transition. I remember this area 10-15 years ago when businesses were moving out and there were no condos — it was almost a ghost town. Now with all the condos moving in, it’s brought a lot of business back,” Duggan said.
Duggan feels the healthy mix of residents, businesses and tourists makes the neighbourhood attractive to do business in.
“There’s a real neat mix of high density residential and businesses here and it’s kind of got the best of all worlds. My biggest thing is connecting with people and there are so many people who live and work down here that its good for business,” Duggan said.