Despite being only a few years old, GTA Square mall boasts a loyal clientele by focusing on the largest visible minority population in the city.
The north Scarborough mall is a one-stop shop for traditional South Asian merchandise – and its growing success is due in part to the growing diverse population.
Satheesan Nadarajah helps manage a store specializing in customary South Asian clothing for weddings and other occasions. In his two years at GTA square, Nadarajah has come to recognize the value of “ethnically-driven” shopping centres in Scarborough.
“It’s important for to have something like [GTA Square] because it gives exposure to the outside world. This way people can get to know what South Asian culture is all about,” he said.
“For instance, if someone is interested in learning about traditional South Asian clothing, they can just walk into one of our sari stores – we have about three or four here.”
Walking around the shopping centre is definitely a learning experience. With two floors and more than 50 specialty shops – where shoppers can find everything from a traditional Indian sari, literature from Pakistan or spices from Sri Lanka – the mall, which open August 2008, is attracting individuals from Scarborough and its surrounding areas.
Rudy Ruthran, shop manager of A1 studio, believes the mall’s rise in popularity is linked to a sense of community among customers.
“South Asians are having their needs well-served – we have all kinds of facilities in one spot. People are free to speak their language and customers feel comfortable shopping here,” he said.
Although the mall is quickly rising in popularity, being only a few years old, it is still in its early stages of development. Despite the centre’s young age, comparisons to Markham’s Pacific Mall, an East-Asian supercentre, have already begun to surface.
“I’m sure that in the future this mall will become one [like Pacific Mall]. We’ve only been open a couple of years – it’s going to take some time. But as time progresses, things are going to get much better,” Nadarajah said.
According to the city’s census data, South Asians make up the largest visible minority population in Toronto and the second largest within Ward 41, where the mall is located.