A new Afro-Caribbean farmers' market has opened in Little Jamaica to show some love to small businesses in midtown Toronto.
Louroz Mercader, manager of the York-Eglinton Business Improvement Area, said the area has the largest concentration of Black-owned businesses in Toronto, if not Canada, and they have struggled not only with impact of the COVID-19 pandemic but also the Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction.
"This is a way for the neighbourhood to really show that we are reopen again," Mercader told CBC News on Sunday.
"It's been really tough for businesses during COVID-19 combined with the LRT construction going on at Eglinton. We want to show everybody that we're back. We want to bring the community together."
The weekly outdoor farm to table market, which opened on Sunday, runs on Sundays from July 4 to Oct. 3 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the area of Green P parking lot of 1531 Eglinton Ave W.
The market features "affordable, ethical, local and organically grown food of diasporic cultural origin," according to the BIA, which represents about 200 small businesses along Eglinton Avenue West.
Mercader said the market, which is open to the entire city, is a way to support the economy in the area. He said the area is not likely to be back to normal until 2023-2024. Many local businesses, including barber shops and hair salons, were forced to shut down during the pandemic, he added.
"It's very important that we support these small businesses because that's how we are going to grow and thrive as a neighbourhood and as Little Jamaica."
Lori Beazer, market manager for the Afro-Caribbean farmer's market, said the Eglinton Crosstown LRT construction has devastated the area for the last 10 years. It has lost more than 200 businesses. The market is one way to bring it back, she said.
When asked how it feels to have the market come alive, she said: "Amazing." Beazer said the market has brought together new and old vendors as well as local growers and importers.
"It's been a long time coming, a year worth of planning, and here we are. Our vendors are happy. It's a thing for them, the last year, with COVID-19 and everything. For them to have this platform now, to be able to sell, it's a bonus," she said.
"For us right now, it's really important that we try to infuse some of that energy back. This is a good way to do it, through food."
Mikaela Malcolm, owner of cheesekaekes, a Black-owned and female-led business that serves custom desserts across the GTA, said the market has given her company much needed exposure. Cheesekaekes has been in operation for more than a year.
"We're super excited and grateful to be here," Malcolm said.
"It not only builds the capacity of the businesses that are participating, but it provides people in the GTA with a place to shop local and Black-owned. It also generates a lot of foot traffic for the surrounding businesses," she added.
"Overall, I think it's going to help propel Black businesses, the owners and the entire community forward," she said.
Coun. Josh Matlow, who represents Ward 12, Toronto-St. Paul's, said in a news release that the market is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.
"This market will provide residents with fresh produce and delicious food that reflects our city's Caribbean communities and African diaspora. It will also create a vibrant and animated 'town square' every Sunday that brings people together and contributes to the economic and cultural development of Little Jamaica," he said.
Matlow said the market will help to preserve and protect the Black cultural heritage of Eglinton West and to revitalize the surrounding commercial district that has been negatively impacted by LRT construction.