Is this the beginning of the end for Kensington Market?
Imagine my surprise when, as I turned north on Kensington from St. Andrews heading toward European Meats, I spotted a fresh new bakery on the north side of Baldwin St. Not just any bakery--Cobs Bakery. The same Cobbs that's on Bayview Ave. in Leaside, of all places. Yes, that Cobs--with 40 locations in Canada! Just down from Graffiti's Bar and cafe. If there was ever a shop that looks totally out of character with Kensington, it's this one. I don't mind their products, but they have nothing in common with the ethnic diversities in Kensington. If any more places like this open up, there might as well be a McDonald's and a Starbucks, too. Too bad.
I was wondering something similar- but I think it's a further sign of the times for gentrification of the area- considering a couple recently bought a home on nearby Walmer Rd for a record price (forget what they got- they were offering 2 mill) on a house *that wasn't on the market* .
There was a giant pile of garbage bags outside of it when I went by & a passerby asked me if I thought the bags contained yesterdays bread..(not sure if it was a comment on his hunger or in regard to the general content of the bags, or..?)
Inticed by my nose I paused outside of Cobs, but after considering the lineup I then found Kensington Kitchen, where they were selling *their* day olds, which were still
(italics here/)scrumptious(\italics here), mention the new place to them, then they remarked they've been there for 15 years-and this was my first time there after living in downtown TO for 12 years!(k, real review to follow).
It was a quite a contrast to Cobs-so I think there's something to be said for product placement & layout design- clear windows with bright right up front- hard to avoid a sight like that..
Nike tried to open a store there under another banner. It was vandalized regularly. They closed it.
This could have a similar fate. But Foodland is there selling PC products, so, who knows if this is new.
All depends on what happens to rents.
Ahah! So it IS a chain. I saw it just today and thought it looked too put-together to be a one-off. I had a teensy bite of a sample of something or other and then went and bought bread at My Bakery a few doors west. I fear that it will do well because it's so tidy and the breads are very tempting - not at all in keeping with the wonderful grittiness of the neighbourhood. But then again, remember that the Second Cup tried to establish a shop there too and failed. Or so I assume, since it only lasted a couple of years before turning into something else.
I am officially boycotting the place on principle alone.
I don't think it's fair to fault *ANY* food service establishment for having neat, tidy, clean appearance. I think that there are far too many places in Kensington that don't keep up a reasonable minimum standard at all, and it will hurt them in the end. I would far rather buy my food from a shop that mops the floor, dusts the shelves, and fixes their lighting than a run down, stinky hole in the wall. Money aside, if you're going to run a food operation, you have to keep it clean.
I don't think chain stores belong in Kensington, but I think indies have to keep up. It's easy to make a better espresso than Starbucks (just use fresh coffee that isn't burned to a crisp), but why do so many indie shops have untrained staff that will serve you a 2-second or 60-second shot made from coffee ground 2 hours ago and call it espresso?
My issue with Cobs isn't that it is a chain. They can probably argue that it is an independently owned small business, which is true of most franchises. My issue with Cobs is that most of their stuff doesn't taste good. But they will succeed or fail on their own merits. If they succeed, it means that there was a place for them in Kensington after all.
One can take counter culture or, more appropriately in this case, reverse snobbery, to absurd extremes. Remember the shrill whining and panicking over the ValuMart a couple of years ago? Yet this place is NOT Loblaws. It is a long established local business operated by a family long established in the Market. They saw a niche for selling PC products in the MArket. If they are successful, then they were right.
I don't live in Kensington and, frankly, I wouldn't want to. But I will go there for Jumbo empanadas and Alchemy bread among other things. I won't go there for ValuMart or Cobs. But if I lived there, ValuMart would be handy to have around. Cobs I've tried elsewhere and would ignore. So maybe these "interlopers" will thrive or maybe, like Nike, they will fail. We'll find out soon enough.
Ew! Yuppie chain bread does not belong in Kensington.
I think the slick pre-fab signage alone will make it pretty clear they're a chain.