The owners of a Kensington Market storefront are keeping the old tenant, sort of.
Until recently, 225 Augusta Avenue, in Kensington Market, had a banner outside its storefront that said, simply: “What Would You Like to See in This Space?” Also on the sign was an email address where passers-by could send their responses.
The banner was an unconventional attempt by landlords Dwayne Evens and James Moyer to decide on a new tenant for their building’s ground-floor commercial space that would suit the mood of the market.
In the end, as it turned out, the call for suggestions was answered from the inside. In a last-minute deal, the former tenant—a Colombian restaurant called Los Perros that Evens and Moyer had decided to evict for falling behind on rent—sold its business, including the lease, to another Colombian eatery.
The new tenant, Columbus Bakery, hopes to be open by April 1. It will continue to serve some of the Colombian fare Los Perros offered alongside its own signature empanadas, pastries, and baked goods.
This will be the bakery’s third location, in addition to its shops at near the corners of Jane Street and Wilson Avenue, and Dufferin Street and Glencairn Avenue. Owner Stewart Muriel told us he has been eyeing Kensington Market for a long time.
“It’s hard to get in there. But we wanted to be in Kensington. It has great people, great atmosphere,” he said.
“It didn’t go the way we planned, but in the end it’s a win-win for everyone,” Evens told us. The decision to evict Los Perros was difficult for him and Moyer, since both they and the restaurant owners had invested a lot of time and money in the space. This way all parties can recover some of their costs, and the fabric of the neighbourhood will be fairly untouched.
That’s a bit of good news for those worried about recent changes to the market, like the looming Loblaws and the potential closure of Casa Acoreana after 50 years at Augusta Avenue and Baldwin Street.
But it’s not such good news for Seema Pabari, owner of Tiffinday. She was close to a deal to move her small vegan lunch delivery business, which has been operating out of a restaurant kitchen for almost three years, into 225 Augusta. Pabari got in touch after hearing Evens and Moyer on the radio. She thought the market’s existing collection of vegan, organic restaurants would have been the perfect fit for her business. But in the end she couldn’t match the offer from Columbus Bakery.
Evens admits he was sad to turn down Tiffinday’s offer, which he thought would have been a “really, really good fit.”
Pabari wasn’t the only vegan, locally-sourced food company that wanted to set up shop. Evens says the majority of the offers the banner attracted were for similar restaurants.
Then there were the unique suggestions: a chess club, an art gallery, and even a strip club. The experiment has helped Evens land a few new clients. He recently got his real estate licence and he hopes to help some of the business owners he met find spaces.
Evens has lived in the market for 12 years and he’s on the board of the Kensington Market BIA. Though he says he hopes he doesn’t have to repeat this process any time soon, he thinks it’s a good approach for the market.
“Kensington is a special place and we want what’s best for the community. It’s going to change, change is inevitable, but we’d like to be part of that change.”
Because of an editing error, this post originally quoted a banner that had been affixed to the outside of 225 Augusta as saying, “What Would You Like to See in This Store.” In fact, rather than “store,” the banner used the word “space.”