Roncesvalles, a desirable neighbourhood in the west end of Toronto, is an eclectic community where retailers, residential, businesses and institutions coexist. It transitioned from farmland to a residential neighbourhood in the early 20th century and was inhabited by the British. Post WWII, the Polish community immigrated and set up all sorts of businesses in the area- some of the best Polish bakeries are still on the street.
Today, Roncesvalles draws Torontonians and visitors alike to it cosmopolitan high street for its bakeries, coffee shops, restaurants, workshops and breakfast spots. It is no wonder, a store like Likely General fits right in to the landscape. Owner, Brooke Manning, opened her doors three months ago on Roncesvalles Avenue and refers to her multi-functional store as “a warm and peaceful community space and shop in my neighbourhood”. Her lifestyle shop carries a broad range of handmade goods by up and coming artists. “A loved one mentioned that Likely General has “everything in general, nothing in particular” and I think she nailed it- a little bit of everything both useful and surprising” says Brooke. In addition to her wares, the store hosts monthly Sunday Gatherings where the designers come into the store and teach participants about their craft and skills. Since the launch this summer, the store has seen a warm welcome and support from the Roncesvalles community as well as tourists popping by to check out the area.
INTERVIEW: Brooke Manning, Owner of Likely General, Toronto
01 What do you look for when you source items for Likely General?
The most integral factors for me is the maker/designer’s relationship to their work and the quality of their product. I really enjoy getting to know each designer and I feel that if I am going to speak about their work and sell it, I should be as excited about their products as they are. There is nothing more exciting to me than someone who believes in what they are doing. I also find humility quite beautiful. Some of the most incredible pieces in the shop are created by rather timid, first-time designers who make because they feel, rather than make intentionally for profit. These pieces feel special to me because they weren’t intended to be in a store upon first conception. Items like these mirror a positive universal energy that I want present within the walls of the shop.
02 How often do new items come in store?
I try to get new items as often as I can. Likely General has only been open for three months but in that time, we’ve grown quite a bit. I’m always looking for new things and chatting with people. It’s become rather addictive in a way as it excites me to see what people are creating. It’s also wonderful when a customer refers a designer and we end up carrying their products- that’s happened a few times!
03 Why did you set up shop in Toronto and locate the store in Roncesvalles?
I have lived in Toronto for 10 years. While the city hasn’t always excited me, it has in the past few years. Toronto is a very supportive, dynamic community with many people creating and supporting those that create. I chose Roncesvalles after a fire damaged the space above the original location which was set to be in the Junction. Luckily, I hadn’t moved anything into the shop, but I had friends living above the shop and they lost their home entirely, which was horrible. It was shocking and I can’t still can’t quite get over their optimistic spirit. I ended up settling in Roncesvalles because I am familiar with the neighbourhood, and it felt right- the community is down-to-earth, growing and vibrant, and the shop owners on the street are kind and supportive. A funny thing though- my friends are now living a block away from the new shop.
04 Do you entertain at home?
A few years ago, I entertained quite a lot. I used to live in an open loft space which was conducive to hosting monthly dinner parties and potlucks. Now, our home is quite cosy and I find that I am more inclined to enjoy my personal time when at home. I also find I’m entertaining at the shop instead which makes for a nice balance. My style is simple and comforting. The last gathering I organized at my apartment involved serving healthy, seasonal comfort food. We lit a lot of candles and sat on pillows in the living room while enjoying big batches of autumn soup, a lot of apple pie, and many hot toddies.
05 What is next for you and the store?
In the very near future, I plan to host more Sunday Gatherings, cosy music events, a resident Tarot card reader, and many new items.
06 Do you ship internationally?
Not yet. The shop hasn’t quite branched into the e-commerce world yet, as I haven’t had the time, but I hope that we will get there eventually.
07 What is going on in the Toronto design scene these days?
A lot of designers have made their workshops pop-up in store fronts, which is so wonderful. It’s a real gift to be able to see the process of creation. Sometimes we forget that this was once a very normal thing and somewhere along the way we sort of lost it- but lately, there is a huge change and resurgence.
08 What are your top five favourite tableware items for fall?
- Kat and Roger are a couple that live in Los Angeles. Their coffee drippers and cups are perfect for a cosy fall day. Thrown by Kat and hand-painted by Roger, their ceramics are only carried by Likely General in Toronto. Their speckled pottery reminds me of my favourite childhood mug.
- Clark Woodfire is Yolanda and Lee Horus Clark. Together they live in the rural village of Queenstown, New Brunswick with their three children. They built a 25 foot long wood-fire kiln on their property in 2012. I love their sake/whiskey set- it is pretty perfect. The earthy texture and colour of their pieces are really inviting.
- Steve Rollings is an electrician by day and a wood-worker by night. A long time friend of mine, he has made me several pieces over the years including a huge harvest table which now (wah) belongs to an ex because I do not have the room for it. But- I still have his bowls and asked him to make some for the shop. He came up with beautiful pieces that are painted with milk paint. They are perfect for a simple harvest table center piece.
- Pollen Arts is the work of Peter and Juwels, husband/wife and creative partners. Together they gutted a 1975 Winnebago, “Winnie”, left their past lives, and began creating a new life travelling and making beeswax candles. The candles are cast from antique bottles which they found in their travels. These candles smell amazing, benefit the air, honour our Queen (bees), and look amazing once they start dripping.
- Friends, Heidi Johannsen Stewart and Michael Shannon created Bellocq Tea out of passion for their love of quality teas. Each atelier bag is handwritten and filled with interesting organic loose-leaf combinations. If you really feel like getting fancy, they also sell tea in a real silver container. I’m a fan of the atelier bag of The White Wolf tea (sharp but mysterious) steeped with their handwoven brass strainer over Montreal’s Atelier Make handmade ceramic mug.
Photo Source: Likely General