'Theft or no theft, we're here to stay': Community steps up to help Leslieville market after robbery
Local brewery hosts impromptu fundraiser to help the market recover
People don't often get to drink beer for a good cause, but that's exactly what a community in Toronto's east end did Thursday night — attending a fundraiser at a local brewery to help the Leslieville Farmers' Market just days after thieves stole everything it owned.
"We're having some warm and fuzzies right now, despite how negative an experience this was," Daniel Taylor, executive director of the market, told CBC Toronto.
Last Sunday, Taylor and his crew arrived to set up in Jonathan Ashbridge Park near Coxwell Avenue and Queen Street East around 6:30 a.m. and found their storage shed virtually cleaned out. Robbers had taken their entire PA system, amplifiers and electrical gear that the bands use. Even extra tents and water decanters had been swiped.
"It was just a really, really rough day," Taylor told CBC Toronto.
Taylor estimates that $5,000 to $6,000 worth of equipment was stolen.
Thanks to help from friends and neighbours, they went ahead with the market that day, although the band had to play unplugged.
"We know how to make a shoestring go pretty far," said Taylor.
On Thursday evening, the Rorschach Brewing Co., a brewery located right across the street that sells beer at the market, decided to put on the impromptu fundraiser with proceeds from the night's beer sales going to help recoup some of the losses.
"The market's been a huge source of us gathering info about what's going on in the community. It's been just an awesome group of people," brewery manager Ben Ragan said.
A Sunday destination
The market, which has been around since the spring of 2011, has become a Sunday destination for many in the neighbourhood.
Coun. Mary-Margaret McMahon says it has grown to become one of the best farmers' markets in the area.
"It's so busy and so well loved on Sundays," McMahon said.
"They're rubbing two nickels together to run that market. It's all volunteer supported; they work their tails off to run it," she said.
"Our farmers, our vendors,and our community — they all lose out on this. It's us not being able to have music, not being able to have kids programming, or lend vendors tents. It's a big hit for how we can be a community centre for the area," Taylor said.
'A boon for business'
The brewery is still fairly new to the neighbourhood and Ragan says many of their customers found it through the market.
"We notice that a lot of families at the market are kind of looking over [and saying], 'What's that building there?" said Ragan.
"They told us we helped drive traffic to the area. They really see us as a boon for business," explained Taylor.
"They get the connectivity with market," said McMahon.
"People love both and they're in the same vicinity, which helps to build up a community hub in our neighbourhood," she said.
'We can't just give up'
Despite the shock of the robbery Taylor says the response from the community has been "overwhelming."
He is hoping this fundraiser helps them get most of what they need to run for the next scheduled market day a week from Sunday. But even if it doesn't, Taylor promises the market will still go forward as planned.
"We can't just give up and throw in the towel. We're not going anywhere. Theft or no theft, we're here to stay."With files from Greg Ross