Starbucks at Kensington?

I live in a very centrally located neighbourhood in downtown Toronto. I’m within a 15 min walk to just about anything – movie theatres, hospitals, schools, universities (two of them), shopping malls, you name it. There are at least four 24h grocery stores within two block of my appartment. The only thing that I don’t like about where I live is that there are no independent coffee shops close by. The closest thing is an Italian cafe at the Manulife Centre, a good 10 min walk away. There are plenty of chains though – Second Cup, Starbucks, Timothys, Lettieri are all around within a block. I’ve given up having espresso-based coffees in any of those places since none of them do a half-decent job. Lettieri is the less bad of all of them and occasionaly I’ll have a macchiato there.

To get my coffee fix, I go to Kensington on saturdays. It’s my therapy and my refuge from coffee-chain land. So, you can imagine my surprise and annoyance when I found out this week that Starbucks wants to open a store right in the middle of the market. Please. Give me a break. It’s not the place for it. But then neither is Paris or Barcelona but somehow they made it in. And it all comes down to landlords wanting to be greedy. A spot opened up in the market and what do they do? Well, apparently they don’t really want to have to spend money with renovations but want to charge 5,000$/month rent for a small store. Who can afford that? Only big corporations.You’ll see the resident’s response to that here.

One of the things that make me really sad when I travel these days is to witness the corporatization of businesses everywhere. North American urban centres and malls (and many rural shopping centres too!) look exactly like any other urban centre and malls anywhere else in North America. This trend is even getting to Europe where a shopping street in 15th arrondissement in Paris looks exactly like a shopping street in Barcelona. A friend of mine was having a baby shower here in Toronto and since I went to Paris in the spring, I decided to buy a gift there – I thought it would be nice to have a little outfit from a local baby store and it was kind of fun to go shopping for baby clothes in a foreign city. I got really disappointed when I got home and found out that the particular French store I shopping in has a store here in Toronto. What’s the point? I think all this homogeneization only stiffles creativity and tolerance for anything that is different.

Sorry for the rant.

PS: apparently Second Cup opened a store in the market a few years ago but it didn’t last very long…

Author: guerson

Born and raised in Brazil, a Canadian stole my heart and took me to Canada in 1999. After seven years between Montreal and Toronto, we then moved to Barcelona, Spain, where I did research for my PhD thesis. This blog began as a chronicle of our adventures while living in Barcelona and exploring the old world and has acquired a life of its own after we moved back to Canada.

5 thoughts on “Starbucks at Kensington?”

  1. A couple of weeks ago we were at Kensington, my husband and I, and I said to him that it’s one of the few places that look like itself only. There’s personality there. I guess I should stop saying that.

    One of the best things about traveling is being in a place completely strange and start to figure it out slowly. It’s not fun to have Paris look like Barcelona, look like SP, look like Toronto, look like NY.

    And who needs more Starbucks stores anyways?

  2. What with the U.S. stockmarket and all – Shouldn’t someone mention TD Bank – ain’t they the biggest promotor of Starbucks??
    My loyalty lies with the tiny corner cafe, and nothing beats the truly Canadian cuppa coffee or steeped tea like Timmy’s.

  3. I understand why people are pissed about Starbucks opening there.BIG STORE killed Queen west too. BUT….before we all yelling, let’s ask all the landlords about the monthly rent. There’s a space that ask for $7500 a month on Queen and Bathurst, when renting cost is that much who can afford it except Those Big stores

  4. There are a few independent coffee shops here in El Paso. I tend to frequent them rather than Starbucks. I was really shocked actually, when I was in Barcelona, at the presence of Starbucks!! What a crazy place to have them (and Kensington is equally as crazy).

  5. dhr,

    That’s exactly the problem! Part of the problem is indeed real estate speculation. I wish there was some form of rental control so that the small entrepreneur couldn’t be squeezed out of a neighbourhood or market.

    Dana,

    I’ve always favoured independent shops over chains. Sometimes that means paying a bit more for a product (with coffee it’s the opposite – coffee is always cheaper in independent cafes) but I pay that gladly if I can because it means investing in my own neighbourhood and city.

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