Ice Cream Treats Creating Havoc for Local Residents | By Stephen Gosewich

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Dutch Dreams, an iconic landmark of the St. Clair West community, recently made a move to its new home at 78 Vaughan Road at the corner of Ellsworth Avenue.

The property was formerly occupied by a convenience store and has been transformed in recent months into the same Dutch Dreams that offers delicious cold treats, that we all remember in their original location just north of the Vaughan and St. Clair West intersection.

Moving locations is always a challenge, even if it is just down the street, but for Dutch Dreams the move has had some significant challenges from some of its new neighbors embracing their arrival.

According to co-owner of Dutch Dreams, Dina Aben, frustration and complaints began with its 30th anniversary celebration when almost 10,000 free ice creams were handed out. Everyone likes something for free and this was the case as hundreds of families and individuals lined up outside the store, spilling into neighboring streets as the Dutch Dream staff were handing out complimentary scoops.

While Dina and her staff do everything they can to ensure that garbage created by Dutch Dreams finds its way into garbage receptacles (adding additional bins from her own house recently), she cannot guarantee human behavior. “People do what they want to do”, she says. While they encourage their customers to use the garbage cans, invariably, not everyone listens.

Dutch Dreams opens for business around noon and stays open quite late. Because of its local popularity, you will often see customers spilling out onto the sidewalk and down Ellsworth until very late. Customers have gone so far as to even sit on the property of some houses on Ellsworth, increasing the amount of noise in the areas as they hang out at the ice cream shop until late into the evening (the shop closes at midnight).

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Aben says that her customers come from all walks of life…representative of the tremendous diversity in our city and neighborhood. Accordingly, this cross-section of the city frequents the ice cream shop, regularly. She has sensed from some neighbors a “NIMBY” mentality when it comes to some of the patrons who frequent her store – simply put, some of the neighbors don’t want some of her customers conducting business in their neighborhood. On the other hand, Dina shares a story of how a young orthodox Jewish family and a Muslim family were standing beside one another in the store recently, amazed at how ice cream became their common denominator.

Dutch Dreams has also made an application for an outdoor patio permit from the City, which would operate on the Ellsworth Avenue side of their building.

According to one local resident who has done some homework concerning bylaws, whether it be a boulevard cafe licence or an outdoor patio on their own property, the bylaw setback requirements of 25 and 30 metres, respectively, from the nearest residential lot would not permit these plans to proceed.  According to the Ellsworth resident, these setback requirements are in place for good reason. The resident who resides directly beside Dutch Dreams is regularly bombarded with noise and garbage on their property and cars idling and illegally parking in front of their house and in the adjoining lane way.  Allowing a patio of any size located so close to the residential neighbors, could compromise the peace and quiet the neighbors of Ellsworth are entitled to. Needless to say, the residents are not supportive of the patio addition.

The owners of the store and the residents along Ellsworth have individually made direct contact with our Councillor, Joe Mihevc, re-telling the back story of the tenuous relationship between the neighbors and the owners of Dutch Dreams and their frustration in there being no compromise or common ground on the issue.

The neighbors even presented to Councillor Mihevc a list of requests with respect to adjustments to the way the Abens operate their business (including adding extra trash receptacles and re-directing customer line-ups along Vaughan Road instead of Ellsworth.

Residents are pro-business. They all want local businesses to succeed because the merchants of any community are an essential part of the success of a community. The neighbors also recognize that a business such as Ms. Aben’s must make “hay while the sun shines”, since ice cream is not as popular an offering in the dead of winter. However, their frustrations have to do with a respect for the neighbors directly adjacent to the commercial strip along Vaughan south of St. Clair West. Aben agrees and is doing what she can to control her customers.

Dina is frustrated and feels that because the store is busy that the residents point the finger at her because she is local and is in the store all the time. Dollarama is equally busy and creates its own congestion and increased garbage but, “we are local and in the store – try reaching anyone at Dollarama to complain”, says Aben.

In the meantime, ice cream continues to be scooped and business will no doubt continue to be brisk as we head into what will hopefully be a very hot summer.

We can’t choose neighbors but we can certainly learn to co-exist with them.

3 comments

  1. I live in the low-rise apartment building directly across from Dutch Dreams, and have lived here since well before Dutch Dreams moved to this location. In my opinion, neither Dutch Dreams nor the Ellsworth residents who have complained about them have acted completely reasonably.

    As the article implies but does not quite spell out, the people who live in the houses on Ellsworth are mostly white, while for whatever reason, the patrons of Dutch Dreams appear to be disproportionately Black. I have personally not found the customers of Dutch Dreams to be bothersome. There are occasionally napkins and bowls blowing down the street now, but the level of garbage that they leave behind does not really go beyond the normal level of garbage found in Toronto streets. People will also sometimes eat ice cream on the lawn of my apartment building, but I don’t find their presence to be an annoyance – it’s mostly mild-mannered families, they’re not that loud (the apartment is a low-rise and I do hear everything outside), and as someone who often comes home from work after dark, their presence has actually made the area feel safer. I have always felt that there were disturbing racist undertones to how some Ellsworth residents have chosen to characterize Dutch Dreams’ customers.

    That said, what I do find frustrating about Dutch Dreams is that they will often set up a sound system to blast pop music outside for hours and hours at a time, at a decibel level that you usually only hear at an outdoor fair. This sound system is so loud that I can’t watch TV or listen to music in my own apartment when it’s on, so I can’t imagine what it’s like for the house directly next to them. There’s no reason that they need to do this – they can surely sell ice cream without blowing out everyone’s ear drums with Taylor Swift.

  2. Xavier, your comments are very thoughtful and reasonable. It is truly unfortunate and not at all helpful (or accurate) if there is a perception that the concerns of the residents of Ellsworth are race based. This is certainly not the case from my experiences talking with the neighbours. Rather, it is the behaviour of some of the store’s customers and the attitude of the store owners that have many residents annoyed and up in arms. People hanging out on your front stoop, on the sidewalk or parked illegally on Ellsworth late into the night, talking loudly or blasting their car stereos is the problem, irrespective of ethnicity or socioeconomic background. The measures taken by the store owners in an attempt to appease resident concerns don’t address the main issue, being the encroachment of commercial activity into residential space. As you have commented, there is no need to blast music from an outdoor sound system or to host concerts (both unauthorized activities) in order to conduct business. Dutch Dreams managed to quietly sell ice cream for all its history in the area without doing this, even when there was no risk of disturbing local residents at their previous location. It appears that now that the owners see this open “patio” space, they have decided to break municipal bylaws, purely for their own benefit and profit and at the expense of all their neighbours. I don’t think it is difficult to see why the residents of the street aren’t happy with their presence.

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