I think I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the fun things about doing this blog is tripping over art in unexpected places.
It happened to me again last week. I have had to start driving my youngest to school for a variety of reasons and I hate driving on the Danforth. I avoid it whenever possible, so we’ve been experimenting with a variety of different routes going to and from school. On one such excursion, I found myself on Lumsden Street heading West when lo and behold! I spy an Elicser! At least I think it was an Elicser, and the lettering looked suspiciously like Insight1’s work.
Sure enough, upon closer inspection, this is a new joint effort between the two artists. So, what exactly is an Elicser and Insight1’s collaboration doing on the side of a general store in North York anyway?
Well, to answer that question we need to get to know the Old’s Cool General store and its proprietors Zahra Dhanani and Mariko Nguyen-Dhanani.
Partners Zahra and Mariko opened Old’s Cool General Store in September of 2015 in what was once D&K Convenience. D&K was one of those ubiquitous convenience stores you find in every neighbourhood, and it had been supplying the local community with bread and milk for generations. But times have changed. The original owners had retired and things weren’t quite the same. Now, young families were moving into the area and looking for organic, gluten-free options along side of the usual corner store fare. So the question became how best to meet the needs of these two very different groups.
The answer for the partners was to become a general store, provide for both audiences, and expand their offerings beyond typical corner store fare. Not only can you get a liter of milk and a gluten free muffin at Old’s Cool, but you can sit back, enjoy a latte while trying to decide whether you want to purchase a David Bowie throw pillow or a handmade, one of a kind necklace. What makes Old’s Cool really unique beyond its eclectic inventory, is that Zahra and Mariko aren’t only interested in making their store a center of commerce, they want to make it a hub for their community, a place where neighbours can meet and greet and come together with common purpose.
But how exactly does one go about creating that sort of space? This is where art can play a huge role.
The title for this piece is taken from the lyrics of Depeche Mode’s song People are People:
People are people so why should it be
You and I should get alo so awfully?