As part of the many waves of immigrants who have moved through Kensington Market as their first stop in Canada, and subsequently left their mark, our family arrived in Toronto in early 1957, seeking freedom and a new life as the result of the Hungarian Revolution, and we settled in Kensington Market.
My father, Paul, then 42, was an experienced housewares and hardware retailer, and my mother, Lily, was an informally trained but masterful chef. Together, in 1959, they established Fortune Housewares, Canada’s first kitchenware store, in Kensington Market on Spadina Avenue, catering to the needs of the many ethnic groups arriving to the neighbourhood during those times.
Over the ensuing years, “Fortune”, as it was called, became a must-see-destination, not only for the thousands of immigrants putting their cultural touch on the market, but also for journalists from every food and lifestyle magazine and newspaper, who sought out Lily’s down-to-earth advice on how to make the best rolled cabbage or which dumpling maker, sausage stuffer, boning knife or poppy seed grinder to use. Lily’s goulash recipe, published in the Toronto Star in 1989, was a special hit, and generated non-stop calls and visits to the store. With Paul’s product experience and knowledge, Fortune imported many products that were not otherwise available in Canada and it became a hub of activity in the market for over 50 years. By all accounts, Fortune played an early transformative role in the Toronto food scene by providing high-quality kitchen wares to home cooks and restaurant chefs alike.
The soul of Kensington Market is the real and personal connection and sense of community that is shared by its residents, businesses and visitors. I spent my childhood years (and well beyond) helping Paul and Lily at Fortune and shopping and roaming in the market. It was during that time that I learned to love and appreciate Kensington Market as part of my heritage. As an entrepreneur, an enthusiastic food lover, and as a tribute to my parents’ own mark on Toronto’s early food scene, it has been my longtime dream to establish a food brand that stands for local, delicious, and creative ethnic foods in keeping with Kensington Market’s heritage.
Consistent with the distinctive character and authenticity of Kensington Market’s intriguing past, and as a beacon for its vibrant future, we have established Kensington Market Street Food, a variety of all natural foods, including organic coffee. It is a pleasure for me to be able to offer great foods with bold flavours that bring back not only the feeling of Kensington Market through the years, but also to create new and wonderful foods that capture and reflect its current international flavour. As our story evolves, the aim is, and always will be, to find ways to ensure that the distinctive character and history of Kensington Market will endure. We have already begun connecting with Kensington Market businesses with that goal in mind and welcome your ideas. Please share your own family’s Kensington Market stories, photos, and recipes, past and present, with us, and we will be happy to feature them on our site.
For me, it is simply a labour of love, and Paul and Lily are watching devotedly from their photo on every package. Stay tuned for news of great food ideas and future developments for Kensington Market Street Food!