3 min

Getting squeezed by juice

Church St businesses say they don't get no respect

Credit: Dean Tomlinson

Some Church St businesses say Pride Toronto hurts their sales at the busiest time of year by setting up competing vendors right in front of them.

In the most glaring example, Pride Toronto placed a juice vendor right in front of Booster Juice and The Second Cup.

“It’s a slap in the face,” says Second Cup manager Derek Gamelin, who says his iced-drink sales were down because of the competing drink vendor. “After donating stuff to Pride, their reaction is to put vendors in front of us.”

Gamelin says many Pride attendees bought their beverages from the street vendor because it was more accessible. (The owner of Booster Juice did not want to comment about the competing juice booth.)

Pride co-chair Ayse Turak says that organizers try to be careful about where they place vendors on the street, taking many factors into consideration. She admits the placement of the juice vendor was “an oversight. It slipped through the cracks. We try not to do that kind of thing.”

Kristyn Wong-Tam, owner of Timothy’s on Church, says she’s seen it happen before, though.

Last year, volunteers set up a food and drink vendor right in front of Timothy’s. Not only was the vendor a business competitor of Wong-Tam’s, but she says the vendor blocked the entrance to her store. Wong-Tam says the vendor didn’t haul away his garbage, so her staff members were stuck picking it up, and she was the one to pay to have her garbage and the vendor’s garbage removed.

Wong-Tam says Pride tried to do the same thing this year, but she was prepared. When the vendor began setting up, Timothy’s staff went outside and pushed him over to in front of the empty storefront once occupied by PrideVision TV.

Wong-Tam, who has volunteered for Pride and estimates she’s donated between $15,000 and $20,000 worth of support, says she feels disrespected and unappreciated.

“It’s not like I don’t care about this neighbourhood and Pride,” says Wong-Tam. “Church St is not just a canvas for them to paint on…. They need to take a long, hard look within their organizing system.”

Turak says that the presence of food vendors does not prevent people from getting into stores. And she doubts the presence of the hot dog vendor in front of Timothy’s could have significantly affected sales last year. But Wong-Tam says sales were up 20 percent this year, with an obstacle-free entrance.

“And that’s even with less people out for Pride,” says Wong-Tam.

A couple of doors down, at the Music Authority, owner Charles Tabone was faced with a Pride stage directly in front of his store, with speakers pointed towards it. Tabone says the set-up made his store invisible.

“It’s almost like [the Pride committee] targeted us intentionally,” Tabone says. “A juice vendor in front of a juice store, a music stage in front of a music store, a beer garden in front of a bar…. Pride is like a bulldozer. It’s like they’re saying, ‘We’ll do whatever we want. Fuck you all.'”

How are the vendors chosen and placed?

“We try to give people the best possible value and a lot of variety, taking all things into account,” says Turak.

Does that good value include $3 for corn on the cob?

“We try to give people the best possible value and a lot of variety,” repeats Turak.

There are business costs associated with Pride. That weekend, Timothy’s goes through about a week and a half worth of toilet paper. That’s a lot of shit going through – and often clogging up – their toilets.

“We unplugged our toilets over 15 times over the week,” says Wong-Tam.

Wong-Tam attributes the increased washroom usage not only to having more customers during Pride, but due to a lack of portable toilets on the street.

“I understand that there aren’t enough facilities for the number of people [during Pride], which is why I offer mine as a service to the community,” she says. “I also know that we have the only wheelchair-accessible washroom except for the 519 [Community Centre] on the strip that weekend. Others shut down.”

Turak says business owner who have issues are welcome to attend Pride Toronto’s annual general meeting. It’s at 7pm on Tue, Sep 2 at The 519 Community Centre (519 Church St).