Heart and Soul of the Community
Local Independent coffee shops bring community closer
By Tom Grinnell
How does a corporate store compare to the local coffee shop? Does it create the same sense of place and neighbourhood as an indie shop? What is the relationship between coffee shops and sense of community?
The coffee shop connects neighbours and neighbourhoods, and brings us into community. Recently we lost the Panda Bay Café, an independent coffee shop and gathering place at Kingston Road and Victoria Park. It is rumoured that it will be replaced by a Tim Hortons. Tim Hortons stores are more focused on drivers, drive-throughs, and people on the move. I have great concern with this model of urbanity which moves people through a neighbourhood rather than encouraging them to stay and mingle.
Sense of community is inextricably linked with place—a common place for people to share ideas, and exist together, or separately. Human beings are social animals by nature. Whether out of need or desire, human beings have created places and communities to share with one another. Houses of god, marketplaces, town halls, plazas, schools, libraries, theatres, and even Starbucks and Tim Hortons have all served as places for people to exist in community. That place can change and evolve as the community grows around us.
The identity of the Beach is closely tied to the village-like atmosphere of Queen Street, with its shops, restaurants, and more importantly, its coffee shops. How many Beachers have you heard say “BLAH! Queen Street is all coffee shops.” Let’s think about that and what coffee shops mean as a place for the community.
In this day and age, coffee shops are often the heart and lifeline of the urban community. The coffee shop is one of the only places left in the community that you can just go and be—and for just the relatively inexpensive price of a cup of coffee.
I spoke to Steve Walkinshaw, owner of the Savoury Grounds coffee shop, which has been an anchor of the Kingston Road Village community for seventeen years (Kingston Road and Scarborough Road). Having enjoyed many a calm morning at Savoury Grounds, I suspect that patrons are drawn to it because of the way it exudes a warm sense of place and community.
“We’re a gathering place,” Walkinshaw says. “Artists have painted pictures and novelists have written books at Savoury over the years.”
He tells me that since the recession of the 1990s, coffee shops have flourished as an affordable meeting place for all members of the community. Walkinshaw says his clientele ranges from mothers and children to regular coffee sippers, to students studying, and tourists visiting the Beach. The big draw to his shop is that he roasts all of his coffee beans on site. With fresh beans being roasted every forty-eight hours and fresh coffee brewed throughout the day, it is no wonder Savoury Grounds produces such tasty coffee. He tells me people from the community often come to his shop to watch the beans being roasted.
When asked why coffee shops haven’t flourished east of Victoria Park Avenue, especially along Kingston Road, Walkinshaw said, “Kingston Road becomes a highway at that point. People are thinking about one thing—getting to and from work.” He tells me that he’s been a part of farmers’ markets and other community activities, but feels as you move deeper into Scarborough, there are fewer places to come together.
This is an observation I strongly share with him, and hope that the future brings change. Every community needs a coffee shop. Everyone needs a place to be, and to feel like they live in community. Our local coffee shops and retailers help us to create a communal space where we can come together. Even greater than the affordability of independent coffee shops is the common bond that community members can benefit from when we support each other in our co-existence.
What are your thoughts on neighbourhood coffee shops? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For a more in-depth discussion about Kingston Road see Tom’s November article at: http://bluffsadvocate.ca/all-the-way-out-the-highway/. Savoury Grounds coffee is located at 283 Scarborough Rd (Kingston Rd. and Scarborough Rd.)