Serving Toronto's most liveable community with the Annex Gleaner

It Takes a Village

November 3rd, 2013 · No Comments

Unique Parent-Child Cafe’ Provides a Safe Harbour


Photo By Brian Burchell/Gleaner News

An inside view of a space welcome to child and parent alike, a very well executed renovation of the site of the former Toronto Women’s Bookstore.

By Erika Murray

As a new mother in 2002, Nathalie Robertson initially struggled to forge a social network amongst other moms. While she was commuting from Toronto to New York for work, Robertson found Moomah, a parent-child oriented café in New York. The atmosphere of Moomah left a distinct impression on her, and eleven years later she has set up RedFish BlueFish Creative Café, her own parent-child café that focuses primarily on fostering community between parents. “Nobody really tells you this, but when you don’t have that kind of community as a new parent, it can be very isolating,” says Robertson. “The CBC recently did a study on how women in urban centres are more likely to suffer from post-partum depression, and a contributing factor to that is poor social support from other parents.” After Robertson joined a moms’ group and realized how absolutely necessary this kind of support was, she remembered Moomah. “When we saw how much better parenting can be when in a community, that’s when we really thought ‘Let’s do this,’ says Robertson. “The main goal is to create an outlet for parents to get out of the house, have coffee, and talk to other parents.”

While the target consumers of RedFish BlueFish Creative Café are parents and their children, Robertson wants to emphasize that it is not an establishment exclusively for families. RedFish BlueFish is meant to be a neutral, non-threatening space where adults can come without children and still feel comfortable. The first floor is a kid-friendly café area with tables and chairs for family seating and an arts and crafts table for children, which leads to an outdoor backyard patio with a small garden and a fence overlooking Knox Presbyterian Church. “This main floor is meant to be an area where the friend of a new parent can come and feel comfortable and is oriented towards to the entire community to feel free to come inside and have a coffee. The second floor is more like kids-a-palooza, as it is where the children’s programming will take place,” Robertson says. Located on the outskirts of University of Toronto’s St. George Campus, RedFish BlueFish Creative Café receives a considerable amount of traffic from students in search of caffeine and free Wi-Fi.

RedFish BlueFish Creative Café opened on June 11, 2013, and Robertson says that the community response so far has been amazing and that “even already have regular customers who have made us a part of their routines.” Thus far, there has been no grand opening of any kind, but there is hope to have some celebration in September, after they have established themselves and received more feedback from customers. As it is still in the preliminary stages, the first year for RedFish BlueFish is going to be an experimental period. “We really want to hear from people about things they’d like to see or do here,” says Robertson. The café’s current hours, 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. during the weekdays, and 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM during the weekends, are subject to possible change as management observes the needs of customers. An after-school club is in the works, and Robertson is currently reaching out to moms’ groups as well as to homeschooling parents who may want to explore the environment of RedFish BlueFish.

“Kerry Clare’s essay ‘Love is a Letdown’, on how becoming a mother for the first time is a storm, is required reading for all baristas hired as it is crucial to understanding and empathizing with parents as customers,” says Robertson, adding, “A safe harbour in that storm is totally what we want this place to be.” The baristas are all students who have received thorough reference checks and often have had some form of experience working with children beforehand. A lunch menu has recently become available through Foodbenders, a vendor that works with nutritionists to create nutritionally balanced lunches for kids. Currently all the baked goods in RedFish BlueFish are coming from the bakery Desmond and Beatrice, and hopefully by September, individually pre-packaged gluten-free and allergy-friendly baked goods will be integrated into the menu for children with diet restrictions.

The café’s website is not yet in place, but they can currently be found on Facebook, and they are located at 73 Harbord W. in the location that was formerly the Toronto Women’s Bookstore.



Tags: Annex · General