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It’s a Small World After All

Ten years ago we moved to a tiny Upper Beach semi in Toronto. My job was getting bigger and more intense, and commuting back and forth from the suburbs was becoming taxing. Coming back to the city just made sense for us.

We fell in love with our new neighbourhood immediately.  Little one-way streets populated by small, charming century houses that were once cottages for affluent city dwellers headed to the beach for summer vacation.

The prevalence of local businesses that lined Kingston Road — shops, pubs, nail salons and other small enterprises — combined with an expansive waterfront area, parkland and boardwalk, made this community irresistible.

Last year, I became a small business owner myself.  Instead of heading downtown every day, I was spending my days right here.  And while I had embraced shopping local from the time we first moved here, I was experiencing the neighbourhood on a different level.  I came to know many owners, they told me their own unique stories of how they transitioned from corporate roles to running their own show.  I heard about the victories and the failures — the immense highs and lows — and felt even more proud of the neighbourhood I had the good fortune to call home

These days, as in neighbourhoods across Toronto and around the world., the shops and services of Kingston Road are eerily quiet.  The crowds aren’t taking a leisurely walk along the streets dropping in for a bunch of fresh cut flowers, picking up a one-of-a-kind birthday gift or treating themselves to an afternoon pint.  I can’t help but wonder how my friends and colleagues are coping under these adverse circumstances. 

Even in these tough, unpredictable times I am amazed by the resilience and innovation of these business owners who make our community so vibrant. From restaurants who have adjusted their business models to offer takeout and free delivery, to tattoo parlours donating protective gear to our local hospital, to music stores launching live, virtual music events – local business owners are making crisis lemonade and supporting the belief that I held to be true when I first moved here — local businesses are invested in their community.  

It seems we live in a big world where technology tends to dominate everything we do.  A world that enables us to detach, if we choose, from the people around us.  But in a crisis such as we are experiencing right now, we often see the best in others and we realize that it really is a small world after all.  With people, not machines, looking after people.  It’s my sincere hope that when our world returns to “normal”, and people are back immersed in their busy lives, they will remember these every day heroes and support them the way they have always supported us.

And speaking of local talent, the stunning image above is courtesy of local Toronto Beach artist, Paula Whitlock.  We offer some of her amazing pieces printed for the outdoors and you can see more of her work at

Lisa Hartley
Off the Wall On the Fence

Lisa has an extensive career as a brand strategist and marketer in major Canadian organizations including The National Ballet of Canada and Scotiabank. In addition to operating her new business, Lisa mentors a number of young professionals, and is often called upon for speaking engagements, consulting and writing service