Franco Rovazzi is painting the town pink – and yellow, blue and green.
Rovazzi is co-owner of nine stores in the Gerrard India Bazaar that are getting a major facelift. Besides bright new colours, there will be new signs outside and interior renovations.
“We didn’t want to change the character,” Rovazzi said, looking over architectural drawings at the corner of Gerrard and Coxwell.
“We had an option – I won’t even tell you what it was – but basically to raze the place and put up maybe a drug store, and we said no.”
“We liked it the way it is – it’s a neighbourhood.”
Just as the colourful project was getting underway, Gerrard India Bazaar was the subject of an eye-catching travel feature in the New York Times.
Rovazzi happened to be in New York the day it came out.
“I read the headline and went crazy – I called everybody.”
That headline, ‘For Toronto’s Little India, A New Crowd,’ sits above a list of several new businesses in the area, from the Flying Pony café to the Swag Sisters toy shop, the Tea ‘n Bannock restaurant and Gerrard Art Space.
Dawn Chapman, owner of Lazy Daisy’s café, said the new shops are welcome. A long-vacant store just up Coxwell was finally rented, there are business owners interested in at least two more vacant stores, and a local pop-up shops initiative is helping to bridge the gap.
As for the new look above her own café, Chapman said it’s fun to see.
“You want to have colour, you want to have vibrancy,” she said. “This is the first time that I’ve seen a landlord make a real financial investment here.”
The busy kids’ corner at Lazy Daisy’s and the Swag Sisters next door speak to the number of young families moving to the community.
“There wasn’t a lot around that did cater to families,” said Chapman, whose son was six months old when she opened three years ago.
“But I knew the families were out there.”
Besides new shops, the changing demographics have helped bring new life to nearby Moncur Park. Chapman joined the Friends Of Moncur group that helped with the city’s recent upgrade of the park, which includes a new play structure and a new ball hockey rink where her daughter just learned to ride a bike.
“People use it, and it’s beautiful,” she said. “That was huge.”