Imust admit to more than the occasional twinge of guilt as I drive by Tong's Grocery at 707 Haliburton St., heading for the mall and yet another bulk buy of groceries. Tong's is an old south-end institution and represents one of a dying breed of neighbourhood grocery stores that have somehow survived the dramatic changes in our shopping habits.
Kim and Ed Wong took over Tongs in 1991 and continued a tradition of serving groceries, snacks and sundries from this store that stretches back to the 1890s. Although I've followed the herd to the supermarket for my family's grocery shopping, Tongs has played a lovely part in our family life, serving as our essential ice cream destination and giving the kids their first independent shopping experience when we've run out of some staple or other, "and don't forget to say thank you. .. ." I was chatting with Ed the
other day and he talked about the challenges they face in keeping the business running. At times, he and Kim have had to supplement their income through other jobs and they have had to work long hours, seven days a week, to stay afloat.
Despite the challenges, they have managed to pull it off and along the way raise two fine boys, one in university and the other a masters-level mathematician with Statistics Canada. One of the great things about having a neighbourhood store like Tongs is that you can walk there. This is important if you don't have a car, (a reality for many south-end families), but you also get to chat with neighbours on the way, envy their gardens, catch up on the gossip and generally feel part of the ne ighbourhood."Livability" is the urban planning catchword and any neighbourhood design charrette that I've attended always seems to include an abundance of small, pedestrian friendly stores like Tongs. My question is this: if I care about the viability of a store like Tongs, what am I prepared to do about it? Anyone for ice cream?
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