The West End Food Co-op: Riding on Real Food

The September 2011 issue of dandyhorse magazine will be our first Food Issue featuring guest editor Bob Blumer of the Food Network. In preparation for the Food Issue the dandyBLOG will be posting stories related to the important fuel all cyclists rely on, food.

James Partanen, a facilitator for the Community Cannery program delivers produce to a canning workshop with the West End Food Co-op's new bike trailer.

Story and photos by Emily Van Halem

Food and cycling are increasingly common bedfellows these days. Advocates for both camps are often one and the same – with proponents of a local, sustainable food system likely to be the same folks who believe in low-carbon transportation. As a big foodie and avid urban and long-distance cyclist myself, I was thrilled to hear that the Toronto-based West End Food Co-op was fusing my two favourite worlds together in really innovative ways.

The West End Food Co-op is a member-based co-op calling the Parkdale-High Park area home. Currently, the co-op is the force behind the weekly Sorauren Farmers' Market, a community canning program, and a lot of fundraising. By the end of 2011, they hope to settle into their new home in the Parkdale Community Health Centre located near Queen Street West and Dufferin. The site will boast a grocery store featuring local, organic, and fair trade products and a kitchen with a full slate of workshops and meal programs.

Committed to valuing food at its true cost (i.e. not cheap), the co-op has many plans in place to ensure equitable access to their programs and good, healthy food. The co-op hopes to achieve this goal through job skills training programs that will eventually employ people in their kitchen or retail store and with a bicycle delivery fleet that will be used to deliver grocery orders to folks with limited mobility. The co-op has also recently partnered with Urbane Cyclist (also a co-op) to help train at-risk youth and others on how to maintain the bike fleet and handle deliveries. The West End Food Co-op has recently purchased its first bike trailer putting it to use for delivering up to 100 kgs of produce from the Sorauren Farmers' Market to community canning workshops where the food is preserved for the winter (or until you just can't resist any longer).

Community canning workshop preserving cherries

For the West End Food Co-op, the kitchen is where their food and social justice missions ultimately intersect. While they have already secured a space, the co-op still needs to raise the necessary funds to renovate and install a full-fledged kitchen at their Queen and Dufferin location. Staying true to the co-op's values and with the goal of also having a fun fundraiser, the Ride for Real Food Bike-a-Thon, will be held on September 25, 2011.

In typical West End Food Co-op style, the fundraiser will feel more like a farmers' market and include local musicians, an outdoor pizza oven, and lots of delicious local food. The Bike-a-Thon will take riders on a 30 km tour through Toronto parks and neighbourhoods leading to The Living City Campus at Kortright, ultra-locally farmed by Matchbox Garden & Seed Co. who are also members of the food co-op.

Sally Miller, the coordinator of the West End Food Co-op, explains the idea behind the Bike-a-Thon, "It's a fun version of the work we want to do. It's also to one of our member farms, a farm that reflects many of the co-op's principles because it’s so local and is at the Kortright Centre – a centre for sustainability."

The West End Food Co-op is tackling some big issues. "We're trying to save farmers and address food security at the same time," explains Miller. "Not an easy solution. One co-op isn't enough but our vision is to catalyze more of this. Then it will really create a change."

If you ask me, this little co-op in west end is already en route to making big change. Why not join the Bike-a-Thon and help them really get rolling?

For more information about the West End Food Co-op and riding in the September 25th Bike-a-Thon, visit

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dandySHOPS: The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar

Story and photos by Laura Warner

Cycling along the Annette Street bike lanes in Toronto’s Junction, Max and Amara Mancuso stumbled upon a boarded up shop at the corner of Quebec Avenue. With a baby on the way, the couple immediately saw this location as a way to shift gears away from their hectic lifestyles. "We just fell in love with the place," Max recalls. The young couple had been looking for a place to open a coffee shop and this simple bicycle ride helped them uncover what would soon become The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar.

Located on the mostly residential street just south of the hustling Dundas West strip, The Good Neighbour opened its doors in April 2010 and has been living up to its name ever since. Stepping through the front door and into the café’s welcoming atmosphere feels like walking into an old friend’s living room. (An old friend who happens to make amazing cappuccinos.) Having both spent many years working in the restaurant business, Max and Amara found opening a neighbourhood coffee hub came naturally.

“We wanted to keep the shop local,” explains Max. The rustic yet elegant interior decor is a mix of old, new and converted materials, mainly from furniture stores just down the street. The bird’s eye maple counter top is salvaged from a 100-year-old Junction bowling alley. An antique mirror, matted with black and white photographs, hangs on an exposed brick wall and there is a set of cozy arm chairs next to a book shelf and fireplace, perfect for settling into on a cold morning.

On the menu at The Good Neighbour are baked snacks and a wide selection of organic beverages. The focus is on local and ethical menu choices including Intelligentsia coffee, a company whose fair trade practices pay bean farmers directly. The beans are roasted the week they are delivered to The Good Neighbour. Julian, a shop manager, also praises the quality of the coffee, "They really know how to roast beans, they’re extremely consistent.”

Quality and attention to detail at The Good Neighbour does not end with the furnishings and menu. The employees, as Julian explains, "are all seasoned baristas, have worked in other cafés, know what they’re doing and care deeply about the quality of product they present." The employees take pride in the work they do but don't expect to find attitude here. After speaking with staff I was impressed by their genuine graciousness and positive energy (although, the day-long access to caffeine may explain their never-ending energy).

Amara and daughter Delphine, photo courtesy The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar

As the owners and many of the staff are also cyclists I came to find out why there is such a strong affinity between people who ride bikes and coffee. “There’s such a strong, symbiotic connection. I don’t know how to explain it.” Max laughs and continues, “I guess coffee is like gasoline for bicycles.”

Stop by The Good Neighbour on a Saturday or Sunday and the few bike racks outside will certainly be full. “We are in a huge cycling community,” explains Julian, “after their weekend errands or recreational tours cyclists come in to fuel up. It’s like an energy boost; it gives them that extra push.”

The Good Neighbour Espresso Bar

238 Annette Street
Toronto, ON
M6P 1R1

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R.I.P. Jack

Photo by Colleen Kirley

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Final Art Spin Tour of 2011 Thursday, August 25

The Art Spin team is poised to take art and bicycle lovers on one more engaging and entertaining ride this year. This time around there's live music, short films, puppets and much, much more. See the invitation below:

It is with great pleasure that we invite you to the season finale tour of Art Spin on Thursday, August 25th - it promises to be an exciting cap to our season. As usual we will be meeting in Trinity Bellwoods Park at the Queen St. gate between 6:30 and 7pm, with the tour leaving at 7 sharp. The Bike Pirates will be on hand for any quick bike fixes as well as a cycling inspired puppet show by Clay & Paper Theatre. We’ll head off to see a bicycle and musical performance by Evalyn Parry, bike drawings by the Tongue & Groove Collective, a selection of short films from the Bicycle Film Festival and the historic 48 Abell studios before it disappears forever – to name some of the exciting stops on this tour. There will be many surprises along the way and the whole tour ends at 99 Gallery where Art Spin has curated the inaugural show in a fantastic 6000 square foot exhibition space, with some stunning installations, sculptures, paintings and video work by TH&B Collective, Gareth Lichty, James Gauvreau, Keith W. Bently, Gillian Iles, Vuk Dragojevic, Sarah McCaw, Tom Ngo, Scott Eunson, Wrik Mead, Vanessa Maltese and Markus Heckmann. An after party with musical performances will follow.

Art Spin’s Annual Exhibition at 99 Gallery opens Thursday, August 25th and will remain on display until September 24th where you can visit it during regular gallery hours: Tuesday to Saturday, 12-5pm, or join us after the Art Spin tour for the opening celebrations from 9 until Midnight with drinks, musical performances, live video projections by Jerrem Lynch, performance pieces by Basil AIZeri and Maryam Taghavi, and a wheat paste installation by Faux Reel.

Whether or not you’ve been on Art Spin before, this tour and exhibition opening are poised to be two of the most exciting art events of the season and are not to be missed!

On behalf of all of us at Art Spin we would like to thank you for making the 2011 installment of Art Spin such a huge success and so much fun. We hope to see you all on the 25th!

For more info visit and or email us at

The Art Spin Team
Layne, Vanessa, Rui & Casey

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dandySHOPS: Merchants of Green Coffee

The September 2011 issue of dandyhorse magazine will be our first Food Issue featuring guest editor Bob Blumer of the Food Network. In preparation for the Food Issue the dandyBLOG will be posting stories related to the important fuel all cyclists rely on, food.

By Carolyn Pioro
Photos by Christopher Kaiser

Coffee and cycling, coffeehouses and indie bike shops—concepts not quite as ubiquitous as, say, coffee and cigarettes. However, at Merchants of Green Coffee in Toronto's almost-east end these pairings couldn't be more perfectly matched.

To point: the shop has ample bike parking out front and still patrons are more than welcome to bring their bikes inside. Merchants of Green Coffee also provides bike storage for their employees and the other like-minded small business owners who work and rent the offices upstairs. And daily—by means of bike and trailer—they deliver their freshly roasted beans to local cafés and businesses, like the newly opened ING Direct Café on Yonge Street.

Morgan Yew, the company's Green Bean Manager, waxes philosophical about this coffee/cycling connection. “Independent coffeehouses, like bicycle shops, promote a thoughtfulness,” says Yew, “which can lead to best practices and meaningful community involvement.”

In 1994, Merchants of Green Coffee began importing fair trade and organically grown green coffee from small-scale farmer cooperatives and independent growers throughout Latin America. In the last 17 years they've expanded to not only import high-quality arabica coffee, but to roast the beans daily (hourly even) and run a thriving café and coffee-information-super-hub.

The space, outfitted by a tasteful tangle of reclaimed-wood tables and chairs, is warm and charming—it provides a refreshing contrast to many of the city's overly chromed and polished coffee shops.

The store acts as home base for Merchants of Green Coffee’s myriad community involvements: Yew updates the shop's engaging social media feeds; they host and organize events like music shows and book readings, ongoing coffee research and education, plus corporate and private tastings; Merchants also has a strong presence at many of the city's seasonal farmers markets. All of this outreach, all of the education, helps in communicating their mantra: Fresh Coffee, Fair Trade, Green Business. And in doing so, Yew describes how Merchants of Green Coffee's green business model and fair trade ethos speaks to a concept that many cyclists hold dear to their heart: sustainability.

Merchants of Green Coffee's practices and policies strive to balance the desires of coffee drinkers with the goal of not compromising the future needs of the farmers, other workers and the planet. “We hope to inform by example, asking people to slow down (as we do with our Steep & Filter Coffee) and consider their role in the coffee-chain and the city.”

Hand roasting coffee beans at Merchants of Green Coffee

As he demonstrates their Steep & Filter method of coffee preparation, it's a wonder that all it takes to turn earthy green coffee beans into aromatic splintered grinds is a small countertop roaster, a grinder, a reusable hemp and cotton filter, a subtly warmed glass carafe and a stainless steel pitcher of boiling water. This method seems alien in a world of steampunk-inspired espresso behemoths and over-packaged single cup systems. The Steep & Filter method borrows from countries with rich coffee cultures like Ethiopia and Costa Rica.

Many a cyclist starts or ends her ride with a cup of coffee. Caffeine is the only legal stimulant allowed in bike racing. Pro riders travel with their personal espresso machines, some cafés will sponsor whole teams and a recent article in Bicycling magazine talks about consuming five to six cups to recover from a long ride. What makes Merchants of Green Coffee a little different is that the end goal isn't just about a caffeine kick, the java jolt or sweet candy-like coffee concoctions, it's about being mindful about consumer culture and leaving the smallest footprint, bit of grind, tread of tire.

“By itself [coffee's] not a sustainable trade-good—what is?” Yew muses, “The real question is whether it is socially sustainable, from farm to cup or between point A & B. In addition, how long can any generation maintain best practices if there is no infrastructure to support it? We are all engaged in this struggle. I think it is our job to make it meaningful.”

Merchants of Green Coffee
2 Matilda Street
Toronto, Ontario
M4M 1L9
1-888-741-5369 (Toll Free)
416-741-5369 (Local)

dandyhorse magazine is proud to have Merchants of Green Coffee as a retail supporter. The Food Issue is currently for sale at the cafe and they also have copies of the Food Issue for sale at the weekly Evergreen Brick Works Farmers' Market, Saturdays from 8am to 1pm.

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