Walk Leaders: Stina Dios, Maya DasGupta, and Lindsay Eve
Text by: Stina Dios, Maya DasGupta, and Lindsay Eve
Photographs by: Jeremy Kai
Everyone is connected to a convenience store. You may know it as a “dépanneur”, “corner store/shop”, “variety store”, “mini-mart”, “bodega”, or even a “five and dime”, but no matter where you live, it’s likely a vital part of your neighborhood. These are the places we grew up, earned our first independence, spent our first earnings and sometimes had our first taste of rebellion. As we grow, the meaning of these places may change to us, but they always hold an important place in our hearts.
People frequently referred to their local store as “my” store. This highlights a sense of ownership and connection that is felt towards convenience stores which we wanted to explore. Jane’s Walk presented a perfect opportunity to delve deeper into the importance of these places by placing people directly in front of stores and exploring how each one speaks so specifically to it’s surrounding community.
Beginning at The Gladstone Hotel in Toronto and ending in Kensington Market (with stops at stores along the way), participants were encouraged to share their experiences with convenience stores. Many walkers were initially shy until we provoked them to share the names of their local stores; they then progressed to describing the little quirks that made their stores unique and from there the conversation blossomed. One lady used to have drinks after hours with the owner of her store, while a few participants regularly left spare keys with the shop clerks. Another person had stolen a chocolate bar as a child and was dragged back by their parent to apologize and return the candy. Stories told ranged from coming of age, integration and rebellion, to tales of trust and hope.
As the walk progressed, the storytelling shifted to discussion of acceptance, appreciation and celebration of these independent stores, recognizing not only their ability to meet our immediate needs, but also to act as a social, political and economic barometers of our neighbourhoods, and creators of vibrant street dynamics and safer communities.
Many participants left the walk with a new perspective on convenience stores, celebrating them as integral parts of neighbourhoods and communities, proving that even the simplest story has a memorable and significant impact.