Toronto: Likely General
Words by Joanna Han Photographs by Katie Merchant
We asked Brooke Manning a few questions about her brand-new Toronto shop Likely General.
Tell us about Likely General. How did it begin?
As most ventures do, Likely General began as a daydream. I have always wanted to own a supportive, multifunctional space. Having a background in music and art, I had initially envisioned creating a space that could support both mediums. I’m a strong believer in my friends and the quality of small-batch, handmade work that is currently being produced in North America. Once I made the decision to make it happen, I began considering the need for a space that promoted these products and ideas within my community. What began as a two-year business plan turned into four months of hard work and late-night planning to make my daydream a reality.
What were you doing before this?
I went to Queens University and OCAD University for Art and Art History and remained in Toronto after I graduated five years ago. After graduating, before opening the shop, I played music, toured and worked various odd jobs, including nannying for touring musicians. I still play music of course, but it feels right to actively pursue it at my own pace.
How does your art and music background influence Likely General?
My background influences the business in variety of ways. I’m quite attracted to various elements between the late 1800s and early 1960s. Design with simple color [or even lack thereof] is what sort of sticks for me. The friend connection is also obviously present as I sell a lot of my friends’ work, including prints and records, and most of this work is by people I went to school with or played music with.
What’s the primary objective of your store?
Likely General is a neighborhood shop featuring handpicked products from up-and-coming artists and longtime craftspeople. The main objective is to promote artists and designers who create both exciting and responsibly made products. After hours, the shop functions as a community space with artist-run workshops, community gatherings and small musical events. It’s all about good vibes—supporting thoughtful makers, and offering nice things to take home.
Speaking of nice things to take home, what are your three favorite objects at the shop? What are some bestsellers?
My three shop favorites aren’t for sale: First is the Likely General logo designed by artist and pal Melinda Josie after I sent her a screenshot of a Mrs. Dalloway cover font and a picture of my dog. Second is the wallpaper designed and screenprinted by Alicia Nauta [another pal] exclusively for the shop and featured in the kids section. Although the wallpaper isn’t for sale, a lot of Alicia’s work is! Lastly, I love the wonderful industrial pipe shelving created by local craftsmen and new friends from Sixpenny Joinery.
Other favorites include Hamish Robertson prints and cards, Scout and Whistle pillows and beautifully delicate spoons and cups by Seattle ceramic artist Suzanne Sullivan. Coincidently, Likely General is the only Toronto shop to carry works by all three of these artsits. I think it’s quite important to feature work that isn’t represented in our city yet. Surprisingly [or not], one of the top sellers in the shop is the all-natural Sex Oil from local maker Julie Clark of Province Apothecary. Other top sellers include local Cold Brew coffee from Northwood, Juniper Ridge wild-harvested incense and local artist Stephen Schramm’s Magick Sigil Typographic pattern poster print.
What do you like most about your job?
I really enjoy the relationships I have with the makers that I supply—they are very supportive, hardworking and kind. The most satisfying part of my job is meeting a customer who is genuinely excited to visit. I also love being my own boss—the simplest of pleasures is the freedom to open a little early, close a little late or clean the shop in the morning if I’m too tired to do it at night.
Any exciting plans for your business in the near future?
The shop is still quite new, so everything seems pretty exciting to me at this point. I’m really looking forward to some of the workshops lined up, as well as hosting little book and CD release parties.
389 Roncesvalles Avenue
Toronto, ON M6R 2N1, Canada