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Carted Off

The St. Lawrence Market Cart program is being terminated, leaving an empty perimeter
where the Markets outdoor life thrives.

Ive already booked my bed at the homeless shelter, David Gareau tells me. Hes only halfjoking.
Gareau is one of the vendors of the St. Lawrence Markets cart program that is facing eviction
by the city on April 1st. Rumours of privatization that have haunted the Market for the last three
years are coming to a head, with the Market vendors believing that they are being pushed out
for a large restaurant chain.
According to the city, the program is nothing more than an unfortunate casualty of the
redevelopment of the North Building. In a letter released to the vendors on December 22nd, the
Markets current manager, Nick Simos, detailed the space constraints involved in the North
Buildings redevelopment. The temporary setup for the Saturday farmers market and Sunday
antique market is 9,000 square feet to the North Buildings 12,000, meaning that the small
wooden carts that surround the perimeter of both the North and South building that the Market
vendors occupy will need to be freed up to accommodate the Saturday farmers.
Local councillor Pam McConnell offered an explanation that differed from the letter that the city
released. McConnell claims that the St. Lawrence Markets advisory committee has had their
eye on retooling the Market cart program for a while, while calling the rumours regarding the
chain restaurant ludicrous. According to McConnell, its likely that the retooled program would
exclusively involve personally handcrafted artisanal goods - criterion that would leave Gareau
as well as Sky Kumpar, who imports silk scarves from India, out in the cold.
The retooling lines up with the promotion of better market processes outlined in Simos letter.
However, this leaves questions about why the space constraints are being emphasized as the
primary reason; many of the vendors in the program dont even occupy space that the city
claims it will need. For example, Gareaus Worldbeat Crafts occupies a corner of the South
buildings basement.
[The farmers wanting our space] is not a valid excuse to close our program, said one vendor
who wished not to be named for this story. Theyre only here once a week. There are six
vendors left in the basement that have been asked to leave; that number itself has fallen over
the past three years since Simos has taken over.
Theres definitely an air of emptiness to the place - after taking the elevator down to the
basement, I was immediately faced by 30 feet of empty corridor. Once Simos took office, tighter
regulations began to be enforced for the vendors - regulations that stipulated that the vendors
needed to be in at the same time as the farmers, 5:00am on Saturdays. Unlike the farmers,
though, the Market cart vendors sell artisanal jewelry, imported scarves, bomber jackets, and

other non-perishable items. There isnt the same motivations to drive a jewelry customer to the
Market at 7am like there is for a customer looking to pick up produce for the day. To Gareau,
these arent reasonable expectations: Theyve simply been leveraging vendors out of here, he
says.
Orna Braginsky shows me the warnings that shes gotten from the city for failing to be open at
these times. One is accompanied by a timestamped picture of her booth, Ornas Ornaments,
shuttered close. The timestamp reads 5:26 am. My customers dont start coming in until 11,
she laments, and they want me sit here for six hours? Shes received five warnings to date for
not being there at the stipulated time - a rule that all the cart vendors know is not being enforced
across the board. Braginsky has resorted to recording videos surveying the market on Saturday
mornings. The videos start with an empty market, with farmers not setting up shop until around
6:30am.
These rule changes, as well as a 70% increase in rent for the indoor tenants, have forced out
vendors who werent able to meet the new standard of regulation, many of whom were
physically disabled according to Gareau. Four vendors have left since 2013. These are people
who counted on the market for their livelihood, he remarks. One by one the weakest have left,
and for those of us who have toughed it out and remained, its come down to get out.
In a 2014 letter to Simos and the Citys real estate director, Joe Casali, the vendors pleaded for
a retooling of the operating hours based on vendor type. The timestamped pictures and
warnings continued. Weve had no communication with Simos, no meetings unless weve
asked for them, notes the anonymous vendor, and we had to go over his head just to get
them. He wont even answer our emails. Cart vendors who attended a November 2013 meeting
of the St. Lawrence Market Tenants Association on the topic of the Market hours were kicked
out, with Simos refusing to start the meeting until they left. Simos and Casali both declined to
comment on this story.
Things were not like this three years ago. From 1996 to 2012, the Markets manager was Jorge
Carvalho, whose tenure was a marked difference from Simos. Then, one week after National
Geographic named the market The Best Market in the World, Carvalho was gone. It happened
very quickly - I come in one Saturday and Jorge was fired, Gareau tells me, and what for?
There was no reason given. It was really suspicious. After being heavily involved in the media
coverage surrounding his firing, both the city and Carvalho suddenly went mute.
Ever since Carvalhos departure, the Market has been dogged by rumours of privatization. The
current whispers talk of clearing the basement of the South building to make room for a major
chain restaurant, one that already has a location across the street from the vendor. These
murmurs just represent a manifestation of the fears of those vendors who recognized that they
were being pushed out. They want to clear everybody out and have a restaurant, because
theyll get big rent from a big chain, claims the anonymous vendor. But is that what a historic
market is really supposed to have? A friendly call to the chain in question turned into a terse
no, goodbye when questioned about their plans for the Market.

A group of vendors including Gareau and Kumpar are spearheading a campaign to get City
Council to reverse the decision and preserve what they say is both one of the citys only barrierfree opportunities for small business as well as an integral part of the spirit of the market. Were
fighting for [Kumpar], were fighting for the people remaining whose whole livelihood is this,
were fighting for the atmosphere and the culture, says one vendor.
Theyve all but given up appealing to Simos, Casali and Casalis boss, the citys Chief Operating
Officer Josie Scioli. The phone calls have been going nowhere, Gareau claims of his
conference calls with Casali and Simos. As Im chatting with David, Orna pops over to let him
know that shes completed the registration process to become a for-profit lobbyist for the city. Its
the first required step to plead their case to City Hall. Im coming to the end of the civil servant
ladder, says Gareau, so now were looking at the mayors office, elected representatives.
In order to talk to an elected official about a for-profit business issue, you need to be registered
as a lobbyist. For Gareau, its just the next logical step in his attempts to preserve his work of
the last 27 years. He gave up a career in reporting to open his shop; the Market brings around
people from all walks of life. I realised when I was 40 that the real commodity isnt money, its
time, he says. You gotta fill it up with as much life as you can. He can only hope to keep the
Market full of life too.