Toronto Metropolitan University
DESANDOLI, Elysia.pdf (27.43 MB)

Reinventing the corner store: a case for small-scale neighbourhood retail

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posted on 2023-09-18, 20:51 authored by Ely DeSandoli

INTRODUCTION - 1st 3 paragraphs

When thinking of the “good old days”, what is it that makes us reminisce about those old fashioned neighbourhoods? Likely the idea of the corner mom and pop store, where one can pop down for some milk and eggs, chatting with the store owner or any neighbours that happen to stop by. These are often the stories told to us by our parents or grandparents, where, as kids, they would feel safe buying some candy without needing a parental escort.

Despite the fondness with which these businesses are remembered, this phenomenon of small-scale neighbourhood retail largely feels like a memory of a bygone era. No longer is the monotony of our residential streets broken up by the occasional coffee shop or grocery store. The proliferation of big box stores or brand name chains has made these small businesses a dying breed. However, they are not extinct yet; some live on in old neighbourhoods like relics of the past. In fact, there is mounting evidence that this type of small-scale retail, embedded in residential neighbourhoods, could be a benefit to the social and physical health of our communities. This has the potential to be especially beneficial for Canadian cities as, in North America, “the association between an urban neighbourhood’s sense of place and its locally owned businesses is amplified” since Canadians and Americans “spend the bulk of our time

outside the home either working or shopping” in comparison to the decidedly European tendency

to congregate in public squares and plazas (Gomez et al., 2015, p.18).

This major research project argues for the development of more small-scale neighbourhood retail spaces in and amongst residential areas. Using a mix of historical analysis, literature review, transportation observations, and interviews, I argue that, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, increased proliferation of these types of retail sites can facilitate social cohesion and active modes of travel within a neighbourhood.





  • Master of Planning


  • Urban Development

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • MRP

Thesis Advisor

Lyndsey Rolheiser