For the first time, Toronto’s historic St. Lawrence Market will be opening on Sundays as part of a year-long pilot project, but some vendors fear the extended hours will leave them with almost no personal time.
Starting March 15, the international food market’s main building, which houses 64 of the complex’s 120 largely independent vendors and farmers, will have extended weekday hours and a new Sunday opening. The City of Toronto hopes the change will boost the market’s attendance, particularly during the summer.
Some merchants, however, aren’t sure the longer hours will translate into increased sales and are worried about the extension’s effects on their businesses and personal lives.
“You’re talking with vendors of 40, 50 years,” said Giovanni Grisanzio, owner of Domino Foods. “That adjustment is going to be tricky for some. There’s people that are scared about it because it’s a different schedule.”
Nesrin Akdemir, the owner of Anything Goes Accessories, a small jewellery boutique operating in the market since 2000, is concerned the extended weekday hours in particular will burden smaller, family-operated merchants with only one or two employees, like her business. She said the decision to keep the market open until 8 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday was “not popular” among vendors, despite a community consultation process undertaken by the city, which involved stakeholders, market merchants and the general public.
“I don’t think there’s really going to be any business,” Ms. Akdemir said. Lunchtime is the 217-year-old market’s busiest period, and Ms. Akdemir said that between 6 and 7 p.m. Friday, the latest closing time of the week, she often has few to no customers. She hopes the new Sunday opening, however, will draw in a larger weekend crowd.
The hour changes will mean that Oleg Konachenkov, co-owner of Honey World with his wife Alla Konachenkova, will have to work 61 hours a week as he is his shop’s only employee. He hopes that after the pilot period, the hours will be changed back.
“It will be very tough to survive as one person operating a business,” Mr. Konachenkov said, adding that he will have “no personal life” because of the additional hours. “It means I will never have dinner with my wife because the market is open until 8 p.m. and I won’t be home until 9 p.m.,” he said. “I have a daughter and I will see her when she’s sleeping.”
The market’s new hours will be 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. The market will remain closed on Mondays.
The change stemmed from the results of a 2019 consumer research survey conducted by the City of Toronto in partnership with Phase 5 Consulting Group Inc., which indicated that one of the public’s biggest barriers for using the market were its limited hours of operation, according to Samantha Wiles, the supervisor of communications for the St. Lawrence Market Complex. She said 80 per cent of respondents indicated they would be more likely to attend the market if the hours were extended.
The expectation is “not that anyone will be working all of these hours themselves,” said Ms. Wiles.