Last month, some friends and I took a trip to Guelph for Kazoo Fest. I had never been to this unassuming riverside town. It definitely wasn’t on my radar and I must admit that my expectations were low. Turns out Guelph possesses its fair share of small town charm. Highlights included lazing by the water, The Cornerstone, live music, a print-makers market and The Common.
This buzzy coffee shop has a sister store, right here in the city, on Bloor Street. That said, the Toronto location is distinctly different from its Guelph-counterpart which is truly a community gathering spot. During our visit, the bright, airy space was filled with families, couples, market goers, dog-walkers and caffeine addicts alike. Every corner hummed with conversation and the smell of fresh ground coffee permeated the air.
Near the front windows too adorable little girls in hats with rabbit ears were playing. Toys provided by the shop were scattered across the floor as if they were in their own home. Another parent watched his toddler crawl around the floor while sipping his latte and chatting on his cell. Stacks of board games, cards, books and newspapers perched on counter ledges. Two older kids and their dad played foosball near the back.
While we waited for our drinks my friend Coutts pointed out slips of paper taped to the wall behind the cash. They were handwritten tabs. Locals names scribbled at the top and little doodles or scratched out balances underneath. I fell in love instantly. It was as if this café stood in place of a town square. Half-nursery, half-coffee shop, half-soup-kitchen, half-living-room.
It might seem cheesy or over-rated but I believe good food (coffee too!) brings people together. We need more places like The Common to reinvigorate our sense of community. Eating or drinking is a social activity — a time to reflect, take a break, express gratitude, nourish loved ones. Sadly, we are losing that in this fast-paced world. The Common in Toronto is populated by a rather stoic crowd of millennials, hunched over their laptops, headphones blocking out the possibility of interaction. Next time you grab a coffee consider chatting to your barista, find out who supplies their beans or meet a friend to catch-up.
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