After almost two decades in business, The Souvenir Market situated inside Toronto’s St. Lawrence Market is no more. Last Saturday was the last day for the little souvenir shop. Owner Jenny Huang survived everything from a recession to COVID-19 lockdowns to a dearth of tourists, thanks to a closed border. But she could not survive a bureaucrat with a chip on his shoulder.
As we reported last month, Jenny alleges she was targeted for eviction because she had the utter temerity to complain about a busker with addiction issues. This busker would perform outside her shop, and Jenny says his erratic behaviour scared away customers from her store.
Alas, she should’ve kept quiet. That’s because Jenny alleges that one of the market’s real estate managers, Daniel Picheca, took a dim view of her complaining. Apparently, a shopkeeper should be grateful to do business under any conditions in the city-owned St. Lawrence Market. And so it is that this individual allegedly carried out an inexplicable vendetta against her. (We reached out to Mr. Picheca, but he declined to comment, directing all our queries to City of Toronto spokesman Brad Ross.)
Last month, Mr. Ross had this to say: “[The St. Lawrence Market] is a City asset that must maximize revenues from its vendors. We have a responsibility to Toronto taxpayers to manage the Market and the leases responsibly. In short, this means business decisions are sometimes made that are not going to please everyone. We are very sympathetic to Ms. Huang and her desire to continue as a merchant at the Market, but the issue here is a combination of an over-representation of the souvenir category, the need for tenants to operate during set market hours as required by the lease agreement, and the City's right and obligation to make decisions that are best for the Market and all of its vendors to ensure the Market's continued success.”
Mr. Ross avoided all mention of Mr. Picheca’s role in Jenny’s eviction. As well, if the people running the St. Lawrence Market feel that there are too many souvenir shops, why pick on Jenny? Her shop was the very first souvenir store to open in the St. Lawrence Market some 18 years ago — why is she the first to go?
Such is the injustice that Toronto criminal defence lawyer Calvin Barry took on Jenny’s case pro bono, but even he could not slay City Hall.
And yet, it makes no sense: how is it that a busker with issues who doesn’t pay a penny in rent trumps an entrepreneur who never defaulted on her lease agreements? It’s gross. It is unjust. Where are you on this file, Mayor John Tory?