Building pride in Scarborough, one T-shirt at a time

How Scarborough Spots' manager found community by promoting his community

Cam Greenidge-Douglin stands in front of Scarborough Spots
Cam Greenidge-Douglin, manager of Scarborough Spots, stands inside the brand's first storefront in Eglinton Square on May 24, 2024. (James Bullanoff/Toronto Observer) 

You hear the roar of the subway approaching. The cars screech as the train grinds to a halt. The iconic TTC ding plays as the doors open, announcing the next station as you stand on the platform.

Suddenly, the doors shut, and you hear the train rushing off into the distance as you wait for the next one to arrive.

Then, you are interrupted by the Family Feud intro. You’re transported to a game show, where you hear an announcer ask you a simple question: “What year was Scarborough amalgamated?

After a short pause, the announcer tells you, “1998!”

This subway-gameshow simulation is the storefront of Scarborough Spots, a social media-based retail store, recently opened in Eglinton Square Shopping Centre, where 22-year-old Cam Greenidge-Douglin works as the manager.

On the surface, it’s a clothing store, but behind the scenes, the store is a community for Greenidge-Douglin within the ever-evolving place he calls home: Scarborough.

“Change is Scarborough. Scarborough is always changing. From the diversity, to the people, to the restaurants, everything in Scarborough is always new,” Greenidge-Douglin said.

New too, is Greenidge-Douglin’s greater involvement with and appreciation of Scarborough, cultivated through his work at the store, which aims to bridge the gap between breathing new life into Scarborough and removing the negative connotations associated with the area.

Where it all started 

Scarborough Spots originally began as an Instagram account that started during the COVID-19 pandemic. The page aimed to promote local restaurants in the area and eventually featured Scarborough news, memes, and original merchandise. 

“It evolved into talking about people, talking about the places, talking about our experiences growing up, talking about what it’s like to be from here,” said Jesse Asido, owner and founder of Scarborough Spots. 

Jesse Asido, owner and founder of Scarborough Spots, sits at a bench in the first storefront resembling a subway station on May 24, 2024. (James Bullanoff/Toronto Observer)

Greenidge-Douglin met Asido through mutual friends during the time he was working at a shoe store in Scarborough Town Centre (STC).

“Seeing [Asido] start that change, starting the brand in the pandemic, just to bring more value into Scarborough businesses,” Greenidge-Douglin said. “That’s just a little bit of change that he was like, ‘You know what, us as Scarborough people … we need to support our local people first.'”

From there, Greenidge-Douglin was asked to work for Asido and joined the Scarborough Spots team in the summer of 2022.

“I never really got involved with the Scarborough community [before],” Greenidge-Douglin said. “I always just hung around, did things with my friends. And then I was like, ‘Wait a second, it only really takes one person to have that change of mindset to lead an army of change.'”

After setting up tables and a pop-up shop at STC, Scarborough Spots was able to open its first storefront at Eglinton Square on March 2.

One big change for Greenidge-Douglin was transitioning to the new store’s location.

“A lot of people don’t really know that Eglinton Square’s not really like the typical shopping centre like Scarborough Town Centre, like Fairview [Mall], things like that, where it’s constant traffic.”

Originally built in the 1950s, Eglinton Square was one of the first new concepts of an enclosed shopping mall. The mall has retained design elements from the past, giving it a more retro look and feel, and unlike STC or Fairview, it’s not situated close to a TTC station.

Scarborough Spots’ retail space, however, is designed to resemble a subway station, with four sections each representing different areas, such as Eglinton East, Malvern, and the Scarborough Bluffs.

Each section has different clothing created by Scarborough Spots and merchandise that caters to specific areas. Their Neighbourhood Drops collection features T-shirts from notable areas around Scarborough.

The store also acts as a hub for events and promotes awareness of the area. Greenidge-Douglin has lived in Scarborough for most of his life, and through the brand, he has been able to promote local businesses and initiatives. 

He mentioned community fundraisers such as Love, Scarborough and the Boys and Girls Club of East Scarborough, which Scarborough Spots spotlights.

The brand also has original clothing collections, where 100 per cent of the proceeds go to groups such as the Scarborough Health Network.

“This is more of like a communal mall,” Greenidge-Douglin said. “You’re making different connections with people, you’re talking about things in Scarborough, talking about their lives, rather than just serving the product.” 

For Greenidge-Douglin, working in the store feels different than your average retail space. He compared it to “spending time with your family.”

Cam Greenidge-Douglin, manager of Scarborough Spots, browses through Neighbourhood collection t-shirts on a clothes rack on May 24, 2024. (James Bullanoff/Toronto Observer)

Removing “ghetto”

One of the main goals of the brand is to change the perceived negative connotations associated with Scarborough.

“Growing up, we were always told where we live is the ghetto. Where we live is a place that you don’t want to go to and growing up here I could never really truly understand that,” Asido said. 

Asido has always had a deep passion for the area and previously told the CBC that if he ever had a do-over, he would always choose to live in Scarborough.

These days, a lot of people are choosing to live in Scarborough. Scarborough has seen a lot of expansion in recent years, most notably the incoming redevelopment of the Golden Mile.

The area has been known to host different people from a variety of countries and backgrounds.

According to a City of Toronto Community Council area profile, the immigrant population of Scarborough was roughly 346,345 people, or 55.5 per cent, in 2021.

The area also hosts a multitude of parks and green spaces, has a bustling multicultural food scene, and lower crime rates that are often skewed by negative headlines.

“I just decided to take it upon myself to really celebrate Scarborough and show what the real Scarborough is,” Asido said.

The store’s grand opening drew a large crowd and was well received by the community. The brand’s Instagram account currently has 110,000 followers.

“Scarborough Spots is simply a reflection of the community in which it serves,” Andrew Miller, a former Big Brother Canada contestant and sports producer, said. “Which I think is a great thing, because people love Scarborough.”

Change is Scarborough Spots

For Greenidge-Douglin, his main goal is to continue working with the brand and keep promoting Scarborough.

“I don’t really see an end to me working at Scarborough Spots,” he said. “I’m definitely going to be still spending at least a big portion of my time helping these guys out.”

“Scarborough is really home for a lot of people, you see a lot of things, it changes you. But I don’t think it’s changed anybody in a negative way,” he said.

“It prepared me for my life.”

About this article

Posted: Jun 17 2024 12:30 pm
Filed under: News Profiles

About the Author

James Bullanoff
James Bullanoff is a fourth-year journalism specialist at the University of Toronto Scarborough Campus (UTSC). He is the Deputy News Editor at the Varsity, U of T's tri-campus newspaper. He is also featured in the Annex Gleaner.