This recent Roncesvalles arrival will sell you just about everything—provided it’s a quality hand-made good.
After a near-start in The Junction, Brooke Manning opened Likely General—where you can buy everything from cold-brew coffee to pottery to watches to even sex-enhancement products—this past summer on Roncesvalles.
How she got started: “Before I did this, I played music,” says Manning. “I toured around and, through self-discovery, I found that I was a little bit too shy to be that kind of musician. So I thought about my other dream, which was to open a shop. For a while, I wanted it to be a tea shop and community space to host music and events, but then I realized I really know very little about food, so it took a little bit of brainstorming about what I could offer and the people that I know who make amazing products and things that I really believe in.”
Despite her lack of experience in the food industry, Manning does have a background in retail. “My side jobs, when I wasn’t touring or playing music, was working in smaller shops,” she says. “It gave me a certain set of skills I would have lacked otherwise. I’ve learned a lot of lessons from working in smaller shops. But while working there, I couldn’t help but think, ‘I wish I was putting this effort into something of my own.’”
What’s in store: Manning has concentrated on bringing in a diverse range of product lines—everything from jewelry to pickles—that, in Toronto, are mostly unique to her shop. Despite this diversity, most of the products at Likely General do have something in common. “It’s all hand-made, small-batch stuff,” she says. “It’s just about being able to support makers who are doing really awesome things but don’t have the venue to put it out there.”
Manning does see parallels between her experience as a musician and running her shop. “One thing I did learn from touring,” she says, “is a sense of community, which is really important, and I think that’s what I would like to have here. Even with the makers I didn’t know very well initially, I’ve developed a lot of relationships that I wouldn’t have otherwise. You develop a more personal relationship when you’re ordering from one person specifically rather than a warehouse that will just send you a bunch of things from a catalogue. I’d rather deal with the person directly.”
There is also a sense of personal investment in all of the goods Manning sells. “I think over the past 10 years, there’s been an independent movement in shops, where people want to take more responsibility for what they offer,” she says. “Because it all comes back to you and I want to be proud of what I’m sending people away with. I’m pretty enthusiastic about everything that I offer. I really believe in everything—mostly, I believe in the people that make the products. I think that they have integrity.”
Location, location, location: Manning began her search for a space in the Junction. “Because I live in Roncesvalles,” she says, “I wanted to separate myself from it a bit.”
Tragically, just after Manning locked down a location, the building was destroyed in a fire and she was forced to begin her search again. “This space just popped up,” she says, “and we really fought for it. I’ve lived in the neighbourhood for six years and I’ve working in shops along the street, so I feel that when people come in, they understand what I’m doing without even asking. It’s not someone just plunking down on their turf—it’s my turf, too.”
Ultimately, Manning is pleased to have ended up on Roncesvalles. “This community is amazing,” she says. “Roncesvalles is the best neighbourhood I’ve ever lived in, and I’ve lived in lots of places in Toronto. Just in two short months, I now know names of people, they come in weekly if not more, and sometimes just to chat. And that’s great, because I feel like Roncesvalles is a village and I want to be a part of it. It’s really important to know your neighbours.”
Best sellers: Manning finds it difficult to identify a signature item from her shop. “It’s tricky,” she says, “because it changes. It’s a really interesting thing to watch in retail: When someone picks something up and buys it, it becomes a trend and, in a day, I’ll sell four of the same thing that I haven’t sold in ages. I have no idea why—it’s the magic of the universe.”
There is one product, however, that seems to stand out from the rest. “Maybe not surprisingly, or surprisingly, the Province Apothecary Sex Oil does really well,” she says. “Some people bring it up to the counter like it’s contraband and some people are really open about it and then it just becomes a funny topic of conversation at the shop.”
Likely General, 389 Roncesvalles, 647-351-4590.