These people are helping Toronto’s artisans survive the pandemic

Event organizers strive to support local artists and small businesses during the pandemic

Leslieville Flea
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the Leslieville Flea was a popular outdoor destination for shoppers and artists alike. COURTESY LESLIEVILLE FLEA

On many spring and summer weekends, shoppers make the Leslieville Flea a destination, flocking to a cheerful array of tents on a sunny day to see what artisans and small businesses have to offer.

For many, rummaging through antiques, collectibles, and hand-crafted goods while indulging in artisanal food is the highlight of the weekend.

Now, however, such markets are all done over Zoom and online sites. The pandemic has changed marketplace for small sellers. Several groups and entrepreneurs in the Greater Toronto Area are helping them cultivate community and connect with customers online.

Watch: Local markets move online to help artists

Organizers of the Leslieville Flea, which has been in business since 2013, are now hosting events on Instagram.

“We wanted to provide a platform or place to promote local artists and their vintage collectors, and also to promote a sustainable lifestyle of reusing and repurposing items,” co-founder Brigid Elmy said in a telephone interview.

Creators of the Leslieville Flea Brigid Elmy and Christine Roberts. COURTESY LESLIEVILLE FLEA

For small businesses to collaborate with the Leslieville Flea, they must complete a $65 application to become vendors. If it’s approved, they get to take over the flea market’s Instagram stories for two hours and get a listing on their vendors page.

Restaurants such as the Jinglepear Deli, The Good Goods, and Mexicados have all taken part.

“In-person is definitely the better choice. Virtual markets are fantastic, but most people would agree that they would like to meet in person with the collectors before buying,” Elmy said.

Others are also pitching in with their own efforts to help local artists, such as the newly formed Toronto Virtual Market.

New online venues popping up

The Toronto Virtual Market provides an online community for local artisans and east-end businesses to be discovered on social media. It launched last November.

Before that, one of the founders of the market, Steve Thompson, was a stay-at-home dad and hockey referee. He said he simply wanted to help out.

Steve Thompson, one of the creators of the Toronto Virtual Market. COURTESY TORONTO VIRTUAL MARKET

“The point of this is to help others,” he said by phone. “If I lead with the intention of helping others, then things will fall in place.”

As the Toronto Virtual Market was created during the pandemic, Thompson discussed the importance of protecting people’s safety by shopping online.

“Virtual markets are just a way to make sure business owners still have a platform to introduce themselves to the community while being safe,” he said.

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Posted: Apr 16 2021 2:00 pm
Filed under: News