Northronces.com is given a welcome mention in Hilda Hoy’s article in today’s Sunday Star (the article does not appear to be freely available on line) on the future opening of a Starbuck’s coffee shop in the old Bank of Montreal building at Dundas and Roncesvalles.
Hilda writes that Northronces.com, unlike others in the neighbourhood, is not that taken aback by this development, and that is indeed the case. She does not mention, however, the main reason for this lack of concern and that is that North Ronces, north of Hewitt Avenue, could use the boost to its profile.
As mentioned in a previous blog entry this part of our neighbourhood is generally considered an afterthought to area residents, a stretch that one visits only on the way to Loblaws or the Dundas West Subway station. Although there are a number of interesting small businesses—both old and new—in the area they face a challenge that other Roncesvalles businesses do not. Starbucks will hopefully signal the beginning of increased care and attention to the Dundas-Ronces corner.
Hating Starbucks has become a pop culture given
Is this a case of “gentrification”, “corporatization” or “globalization” and should we be concerned? Perhaps. There is definitely no shortage of Starbucks hatred, both justified and not. There is even a Starbucks “delocator” which helps you find out where Starbucks “is not” by showing where you can find non-corporate coffee shops across Canada. I have experienced this sort of generalized “Starbucks panic” first hand a number of other times, most notably in Vancouver’s east end back in the late 1980s. At the time, funky Commercial Drive, a cross between Toronto’s Little Italy and Queen Street west of Bathurst, was already home to a number of wonderful, well-established Italian and Portuguese cafés and was well known across the city as the place to grab an espresso or capuccino. Starbucks—back then a relatively new phenomenon even out on the Left Coast—opened up in the midst of this coffee plentitude to much consternation, probably more than I have experienced today in and around the Roncesvalles neighbourhood.
What ended up happening? Well, Starbucks was an instant success. What was even more shocking to some, however, was that the older establishments continued to thrive as well. I noticed that Starbucks simply attracted a different clientele that was not usually seen in the, shall we say, more colourful and idiosyncratic cafés. Further, the patrons of the latter became even stauncher in their support of their favourite hot-watering hole. Today, on Roncesvalles Avenue, while Starbuck fans will undoubtedly flock to the new location, many others will continue to frequent their caffeine provider of choice. In my case, that would be Alternative Grounds, for its great Fair Trade coffee, but even more for the unique local flavour and community it provides.