Five years after Dooney's Café closed down, the former Annex institution is reopening — only not in the Annex.
Dooney's Café will reemerge a block east of Ossington Avenue at 866 Bloor Street West. It is reopening, says original owner Graziano Marchese, because many of the customers of the old Dooney's still want to go there.
So Marchese says he is opening a Dooney's that will be a lot like the original, only in a different neighbourhood.
"The difficult part in the Annex was the enormous rent," says Marchese of the original Dooney's at Bloor Street West and Borden Street."The area was changing a little bit."
The café was celebrated among Toronto's literary, artistic and political circles. The clientele included Jane Jacobs, Rick Salutin, Ian Adams, Howard Engel, Adam Vaughan, Margaret Atwood, Barbara Hall and many more. It had been open since 1982, and was an icon of the Annex.
It was some of those regulars, Marchese says, that encouraged him to reopen. They still meet for coffee regularly and urged him to bring back Dooney's. "Everybody needs a place to go. We need a place for us to be together," he says.
In 1995, the café became a battleground for the neighbourhood. A Starbucks Coffee chain attempted to take over the lease and was met with fierce resistance. The Dooney's regulars rallied to save the café, an ordeal captured in the 2003 book Local Matters: A Defence of Dooney's Café and Other Non-Globalized Places, People and Ideas by Toronto author and Dooney's customer Brian Fawcett.
The words "Save Dooney's" can still be seen in the pavement on the corner of Bloor and Borden streets, where the cafe once stood, ironically across the street from a Starbucks franchise.
That history is not lost on Marchese. "I'm doing this out of love," he says, "rather than economic benefit."
'I miss it a lot'
The building Dooney's will take over is only a couple blocks from Marchese's family home. His brother, former MPP Rosario Marchese, used the building as a campaign office in the last provincial election. The owner, Joe Longo, used to deliver vegetables to the original Dooney's.
The Dooney's sign will be as much like the original neon sign as possible, says Marchese. He still has the original espresso machine, which will also be in the new location.
As much as the new location will be the same, Marchese admits there will be one part of Dooney's he cannot recreate, and that's the Annex neighbourhood of decades past.
"I miss it a lot," Marchese says. "I'd like to have a wall of photos of everyone we've become friends with, to make it like the old Dooney's — get back the feeling and the mood of what it was."
The new Dooney's is set to open late this year or in January 2015.