A Riverside bar owner's latest community-building initiative celebrates local heroes.
Sometime this spring, city councillors will approve of a plan to revitalize a neglected area in Toronto’s east end. They just don’t know it yet.
“It’s going to happen,” says Rachel Conduit. “It’s just going to be a lot of work. But I believe in my perseverance.”
Conduit—whose surname rather aptly derives from the Latin for “bring together”—has a penchant for community activism that is well-known to residents of Leslieville and adjacent Riverside, where she co-owns a bar called The Avro. Her most ambitious undertaking to date is something called East End Icons.
Conduit started EEI last summer in an effort to spruce up the community she’s called home for over five years. A fundraising campaign, aimed at highlighting the contributions of Leslieville and Riverside’s unsung heroes—its artists, entrepreneurs, and all-around good guys—kicked off in August. Residents were invited to nominate and vote for the local men whom they most admire. Four months, 42 nominations, and 1500 votes later, the 22 top male candidates decorated the pages of a fifteen-month calendar. (An all-female version is to be produced next year.) The finished product can be found at a number of local stores (listed below), for $20 each. The proceeds, according to Conduit, will be used to revitalize a neglected area in the neighbourhood.
Conduit says the “friendly, open, genuine, and communicative people” that appear on each of the calendar’s pages “embody the spirit of the east end.”
Perhaps none more so than Ron, a 72 year-old man whom Conduit describes as “the unofficial mayor of Riverside.”
“He walks the neighbourhood all day, every day,” she says. “[He] chats with every business owner; every staff of every business. Everyone knows his name. He even shovels everyone’s sidewalks. He’s the friendliest guy you’ll ever meet.”
And, as with the creation of the calendar, Conduit has left it up to the community to decide the nature of the revitalization project. “It’s the public that’s going to speak and say what needs to happen,” Conduit says. There will be a call for suggestions on February 1, followed by an online vote to determine which idea is most suitable. According to Conduit, work on the project will commence when the fundraising campaign has generated $20,000, pending City Hall’s approval.
Of course, the success of the East End Icons initiative depends upon those last three words, and Conduit recognizes the inherent risk in her preemptive fundraising effort. Still, she remains confident that council will assent to the project, especially as it will come at little to no cost to the City. Besides, she says, “it’s hard to ask permission for something ahead of time when you don’t know what the ‘something’ will be.”
For Conduit, it’s simple: “If you want something to change,” she says, “you’ve just got to do it.”
It’s an attitude that builds communities, and it’s one that we as a city must adopt.
Calendars can be found at:
- The Avro (750 Queen Street East)
- Atomic Toybot (978 Queen Street East)
- Dangerous Dan’s (714 Queen Street East)
- Dark Horse (682 Queen Street East)
- Ed’s Real Scoop (920 Queen Street East)
- Hooked (888 Queen Street East)
- Lady Marmalade (898 Queen Street East)
- Lil’ Bean n’ Green (1133 Queen Street East)
- Mercury Espresso Bar (915 Queen Street East)
- Nathalie-Roze & Co. (1015 Queen Street East)
- The Roy (894 Queen Street East)