For those of you who don’t know, I grew up in a small town — Kapuskasing, Ontario — and lived there until midway through Grade 5. From then on, I lived in slightly larger places, Timmins, ON and North Bay, ON. Moving to Waterloo for school was undoubtedly the first exposure I had to a city where I was blessed with the gift of choice — I didn’t have to settle for the one grocery store or buy my clothes from one of the ten chain places in the mall. I visited my first farmer’s market, learned the value of supporting independent shops, and realized how good it felt to buy local. I’m certain that these revelations were what helped me decide to go vegan. Now that I’m living in Toronto, there’s even more choice with what I do, what I buy, who I support.
That’s why I’ve decided to start this series, I Love My City. Because, well, I love my city! The greatest thing about it is that no matter how long you live here, you can discover something new every day — a cool store you never knew existed, a cafe run by someone really nice, a clothing brand you suddenly fall in love with.
This week, I’m featuring Grassroots
Located at the corner of Danforth and Chester, Grassroots fits perfectly into the eclectic and open-hearted neighbourhood that is the Danforth. While I always knew of its presence, I first really discovered Grassroots when I was attending a yoga class at Moksha Yoga Danforth, which happens to be on top of Grassroots. While doing an exercise on our bellies, I turned my ear to the ground and could faintly hear one of my favourite songs playing in the store downstairs. After class, I thought, “Hey, they play good music, there’s gotta be something cool in there!”
I discovered a world.
Now, I’m used to eco stores that tend to have a singular focus. They’re either all about big things, like furniture and clothes, or they’re a world of tiny trinkets — accessories, travel mugs, cleaning products.
The amazing thing about Grassroots is that it’s bursting with both, from everyday useful little things like razors made from recycled yogourt cups and Klean Kanteens, you can also, you know, buy a bed.
Some of the great things you’ll find (besides of course the razors and Klean Kanteens) include eco staples like Dr. Bronner’s, Solar Boaters lanters and a variety of indoor gardening kits. Basically, the place is a huge collection of practical things that you never realized could make a difference like, say, chic reusable lunch bags. There’s also a ton of kid and baby-friendly items, so it’s a great place to go to find a unique gift for someone.
When I went in to get a good look at the store for the blog, Magenta explained to me that Grassroots isn’t just a place to sell eco products, it’s a hub for education. “If you need information on, say, why a natural bed is better than a conventional bed, we can provide that. There are all these layers of knowledge that we provide.”
Magenta’s journey with Grassroots unfolded in a real dream-like way. “I started as a customer here,” she said. “They just happened to need someone when I needed a job.” So how did she find the fit in to Grassroots and its environment? It seems like she got the idea right off the bat.
“I want the environment here to be really welcoming and I just want people to feel good when they come in here,” she said. “My thing is, when you come in here, you should just be able to come in here and totally relax. Because as an employee, you want to come back.”
When we talked products, Magenta revealed that she’s a huge tea geek, while I was still fascinated with my new yogourt cup razor (seriously the first time I’ve been able to find a razor that is not sold by a large corporation). It was then that she informed me that they also sell a razor sharpening block. “You’ll seriously keep your blades fresh for months,” she said. Looks like I’ve got another thing to purchase next time I go back.
As I checked out, I contemplated buying a pair of earbuds made from recycled wood (I decided against it, only because my current earbuds are only a month old and these will always be there) and Magenta’s super-sweet co-worker offered me a vegan shortbread cookie. I haven’t tasted shortbread in years, so it was a beautiful, amazing moment. They also told me about a few great places I should check out for my next segment, and I’m happy to say that next week I’ll be featuring Freedom Clothing Collective!
At its core, Grassroots is all about education — not just selling you something, but helping you walk away with knowledge and inspiration.