Little Jamaica

Little Jamaica

by Ingrid Barrett

Eglinton West district in Toronto is also known as “Little Jamaica.” Its 

beginning traces to 1958, when a number of immigrants from the Caribbean, the largest percentage of them being Jamaicans, settled in Eglinton West.

The 1970s and 80s brought a larger wave of Caribbean people to Toronto, which created a thriving and vibrant community of today. Jamaicans imported their culture, particularly reggae music. In fact, Little Jamaica is the second largest hub for reggae music after Kingston, Jamaica. They opened music shops, labels, studios, nightclubs, barbers, beauty salons, restaurants, grocers and tailors.

Well known businesses in the area are Monica’s Beauty Salon and Cosmetic Supplies, Randy’s Take Out, where they also sell their legendary Jamaican patties, Rap’s Jamaican Restaurant and Spences Bakery. The area has not only been a business and residential district, but a vibrant cultural hub. In the summer months, you can purchase items from sidewalk vendors, fresh coconut water, mangos, Jerk Chicken and other favourite Caribbean food and beverages.

In 2015, a large mural was created to celebrate Jamaican contribution to the community and a Heritage Toronto Plaque is now located in the designated reggae laneway. The area spans from Marlee Avenue to Keele Street with the main strip being from Marlee Avenue to Dufferin Street. Toronto’s Caribbean residents frequent the area to get that “back home” feeling and hospitality.

Many business owners, residents and local artists are concerned that this heritage will disappear due to the gentrification of the area. The area is easily accessible by the Allen Expressway and the Eglinton West subway station. Crosstown light rail is under construction in the area, so the road traffic is very heavy. The good news is that its a short walk from the Eglinton West subway station. 
Note: Rapid transit is very popular in Toronto.