On Saturday May 13th, Toronto’s Parkdale neighbourhood is hosting the Parkdale Spring Festival. Walk the West Queen West strip from Dufferin to Roncesvalles, and enjoy outdoor shopping, Kids Zone (including a pirate ship!), Mobile Skate Part, Parkdale Flea, Toronto Designers Market Pop-Up Patio, Cycling Zone with free tune-ups, Crown Flora Mother’s Day Flower Market, Foodora Night Market, and MORE!

In anticipation, we’re interviewing some of the local shopkeepers and restaurant owners who are integral to building this strong and colourful neighbourhood that we’re proud to call home.

Meet Alison Barrie, co-owner of The Grand Trunk, a Parkdale pub with a “Local Supporting Local” mandate.

SDTC: What was your first impression of Parkdale?

AB: I first discovered Parkdale when I moved into the Queen and Sorauren area in 2008. I loved its quirky independent vibe, and that most of the stores/restaurants were mom and pop shops and small businesses. Not much of that independent vibe has changed in almost ten years.

Why did you decide to open your business here and what do you love most about the neighbourhood?

In 2011 I started working at Cardinal Rule, a small/cute diner located right around the corner from Grand Trunk. Whenever our shifts were done at Cardie, we would pop around the corner to the then 1718 for a night cap.

My business partners and I really loved the space, with its warm atmosphere and exposed brick wall. When we found out the business was up for sale, we really wanted to buy it and make it our own. The previous owners actually approached us and we were able to take over the business and turn it into The Grand Trunk we know and love! We were both able to save our favourite watering hole and become business owners! We got very lucky and it really was a dream come true.

We love the real neighbourhood and community support feel of Parkdale. It remains very much its own, and that makes it very special. We take care of each other. It’s like a small town in a big city. There’s no real sense of competition here; we all share a piece of the pie. Whenever I have a rare day or night off, you can always find me drinking or having dinner at neighbouring businesses like Amicos or Food and Liquor. And on their nights off they come here! We all look out for each other.

How are you celebrating the Parkdale Spring Festival? What offerings will you have?

We will be having a table set up out front of the bar showcasing different pieces from artists that we have showcased over the last year and a half. We feature a different artist every month and have had some really amazing ones come through here since we’ve opened.

A very talented musician friend of mine, Jesse Daly, has offered to busk in front of the bar for the majority of the festival. A portion of her earnings will be donated to PARC (Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre), which is an amazing facility that offers programming, decent meals and assistance to at-risk people in our neighbourhood.

Festival aside, what else is exciting right now? Do you have anything special that you are working on at the moment?

We have now been open for a year and a half! Wow, has the time flown! We are looking towards bringing in some exciting nightly programming, like weekly movie nights and video game tournaments. We are also working on a super yummy snack menu so our lovely customers can get their late night food fix!

For people who’ve never visited your establishment, what’s a quick way to share what you’re all about?

We are all about local community engagement. We support as many other small businesses as we can. We like to stock our bar with as many locally made food and alcohol products as we are able to. Our pickles are made by April Voth, who makes the most delicious pickled goods through Voth’s Pickled Delights!

We have a chill and welcoming vibe. We want you to walk in here and feel like you are part of the community, part of the Parkdale family. We really have a personal touch with everything we do.

What about this season do you love most?

As a bartender for over a decade, one of my favourite springtime traditions is finding a patio to drink on as soon as temperatures climb above +5C. It always seems like such a Torontonian thing to do. Like, “I know I’m still wearing a scarf and a toque but damn it, the sun is shining and I’m having a drink outside!” I love how the city and the streets come alive when it gets warmer. People are laughing and talking and out for a walk and a drink! The energy is so amazing!