Marienka Bishop-Kovac and Phat Le write about local landmarks and reflect on the changing neighbourhood
When they walk around the Trinity Bellwoods neighbourhood, Marienka Bishop-Kovac and Phat Le often bump into familiar faces.
On a recent stroll, the U of T architecture students, waved hello to a gallery owner and to Le's 80-year-old great uncle, who was on his way to play tennis.
But the students say the neighbourhood has changed considerably since their childhood. Fancy restaurants and boutiques have moved in, replacing neighbourhood fixtures such as Superior Sausage, a butcher shop which opened in 1937 and closed just four years ago.
Bishop-Kovac and Le, who grew up a few blocks away from each other but only met at the University of Toronto, reflected on the evolution of the area in a zine titled I'M SO MAD.
Le's parents came to the city as refugees from Vietnam while Bishop-Kovac traces her family's roots to the former Czechoslovakia.
What are they “mad” about, exactly?
“We grew up around this area, and you start loving it. But then you realize that everyone is trying to push you out,” Le said.
Phat Le, seen here with his mom, My Nguyen, grew up in an apartment above his family's store Hong Phat Variety on Queen Street West near Ossington Avenue (photo by Geoffrey Vendeville)
He and Bishop-Kovac write about local landmarks that continue to endure – like the St. John's Lutheran Church where Bishop-Kovac's grandparents were married – and bygone landmarks – like the convenience store where Le and his grandma would stop for beef patties.
They are putting their memories into words to start a dialogue about gentrification, Bishop-Kovac said.
At the same time, they wrestle with the question of whether they are part of the problem: “It is a complex, emotional hypocrisy to try and process,” Bishop-Kovac writes. “I am so mad that this city has been destroying the landmarks of my childhoold, but I do love me some vegan quinoa onion rings.”
The students are planning at least two more issues this summer, one about Honest Ed's (R.I.P.) and another featuring other people's stories about the city.
U of T News recently went on a trip down memory lane with them, chatting about landmarks in the neighbourhood.
Le's family made friends with the owners of this convenience store, which is no more. Le has fond memories of stopping here on his way to school with his grandmother to buy beef patties. (All graphics are by Phat Le and Marienka Bishop-Kovac)
“My dad used to go here to rent VCR of Vietnamese variety shows or Vietnamese dramas,” Le writes.
They would pick movies from a dusty catalogue of titles.
“I never got along with the owner's kid,” Le said, adding the kid was “probably a gemini.”
St. John's Lutheran Church
“This was the church my grandparents, who were political refugees, were married in, and I was baptized there,” Bishop-Kovac writes.
She also went there for Sunday school.
“I was part of a boy gang in Sunday school,” she says. “We would mostly run around the church playing hide and seek.” (The church is on Concord Avenue, a few blocks north of the Bellwoods area)
The old butcher shop was frequented by both Le's and Bishop-Kovac's families. Sausage, sauerkraut and raspberry syrup from the shop were always at Bishop-Kovac's dinner table at Easter and Christmas.
“Our traditional feast has altered in flavour as the ingredients are more challenging to acquire,” she writes.