At the corner of Spencer and Queen is a old brick building, slightly ramshackle, hosting apartments upstairs, and a corner store down. But tucked behind the corner store on that main level, a small coffee shop is hiding. If you didn’t live in Parkdale or know someone who did, you’d never know it was there. “The Abbot” is scripted across the windows. It leaves you wondering who in the world decided that was a good name for a coffee shop, and what is the story behind the name? And why in the world is it located here? The storefront sits beneath the fire escape on the side of the building.
Your curiosity gets the better of you, and beckons you in. The cheery, rustic interior lifts your mood as you enter. It’s bright, simple, and intimate. The smell of coffee reaches your nostrils. The large, wooden communal table to your right is littered with newspapers, and a couple of gentlemen are sitting, sipping their drinks, and mulling over the morning news. To the left are a set of small, round, mismatched tables. Ahead of you is a long, white counter of rough-hewn board creating built in bookshelves that displays products and aintiquey knickknacks. Behind the counter, a happy woman smiles, and you feel like you are home.
At times, the line up at the shop is out the door, or so you’ve heard. But now, there is no line, and so you ask the woman with a curly dark hair, “Why the Abbot?” She tells you it’s in honour of the first black doctor in Toronto, Dr. Rufus Abbott. You order yourself an Americano, and because the muffins are beckoning your name, you tack on a blueberry muffin.
After paying for your drink, you take your Americano and muffin to one of the small round tables. It’s bright red. You park yourself on the chair, and gaze around you. You take a sip of the dark liquid in the cup in front of you. Bliss. Bliss with a lovely crema. You think to yourself, “I could get used to this.”
Two weeks ago, I found out that my work was sending me to Toronto to go through training. My first thought after family and friends was The Abbott. Of Rita, with her bouncy curls and bright smile. I couldn’t wait to get back to my old stomping grounds and spend my morning in the coffee shop that had provided me so much joy in the past. It was my homework local while attending school, and it was also my go-to coffee stop on my way to classes when the night before hadn’t provided enough sleep.
As it was, I had only one day in Parkdale, and I had to make it count. Although I’d had grand intentions of also hitting up another favourite coffee stop, I wound up at The Abbott twice—once in the morning, and once in the evening. The second time, I was dragging my suitcase behind me. When I entered the shop, Rita greeted me. I was on a tight schedule so I ordered quickly. As another barista made me my iced Chai (a little too sweet for my taste—remember to order half sweet!), Rita said, “You’re gone already?”
My words were tinged with regret. “Yes, quick trip this time. Next time I’ll try to stay longer.”
“You do that. Have a safe trip!”
I thanked her and headed out the door. Who knows when I will get to step through the door tucked under a fire escape along the side of an old brick building at the corner of Spencer and King. But I know, that whenever it comes again, it’ll be just like the first time I walked through that door. It will feel like home.