For me, gentrification means that I am spoiled. I really have no need to leave the neighbourhood as everything I could want is just a walk from home.
There is my already mentioned favourite restaurant, The Blue Plate, where they serve ‘gourmet home-cooking’, for lack of a better description. There is Aris, with its all-day breakfast, The Barque, a popular ‘destination’ restaurant and I’m sure there must now be a dozen to choose from.
There are interesting specialty shops – the kind you read about in magazines, like the ‘beading’ store where you can buy every imaginable kind of bead, and even attend a workshop on jewelry making. There’s a new and unusual restaurant called Smock, which combines parent-child activities with food! There are drugstores, fitness stores, dance and yoga studios, beauty salons.
There is Fetch, a dog-supply store with dog-care and grooming; and The Mercantile, which sells special imported food-centered items. I could go on, but it would be so boring.
What makes it wonderful are the people. They bring a glass of sauvignon-blanc to me when I sit down at The Blue Plate, and they kibitz. They’d love to live in this neighbourhood too. Chef Julia supports the local businesses – the butcher, the fish store – as does the manager at The Westerly – buying her coffee at my favourite cafe, Alternative Grounds. And the owner of the café in turn contributes to the greatness of the community not only by supporting countless good causes, but she helped create a vegetable garden in a local park and helps keep it beautiful. It seems to be part of neighbourhood culture that residents and business owners alike have created a network of mutual support, and understand the need to nourish what we have. They seem to get that it doesn’t just happen.
It’s not any one thing that makes Roncy unique; but it’s the only place I’ve lived where I frequently hear people express love for it. People hate to leave it, and even former neighbours who moved to more affordable places like Leslieville tell me they miss it years later. Friends in other neighbourhoods will often comment that they’d love to move to Roncesvalles Village – “there’s just something about it.”
As I pack up and head for home now, I know I’ll bump into at least a half dozen people, and no doubt will stop to chat with half of those. Combine that with lots of public transportation heading off in all directions, and you have pretty much a perfect urban village.