Perola’s Supermarket

Perola’s Supermarket first opened its doors on Augusta Avenue in Kensington Market on September 15th, 1964. At the time it was the first Latin American grocery shop not only in Toronto, but in all of Canada. According to the Canadian census, Toronto has the highest population of Latin American Canadians so it is not surprising that a place like Perola’s first appeared in the city.

Shelves stocked with an array of Mexican and Latin American products.

Kensington Market was an ideal spot for Perola’s Supermarket because the neighbourhood was even busier than it is now. It was an attractive place for those in search of goods from their homelands. In the 1960’s the market was predominantly Portuguese, Brazilian and Central & Eastern European. The arrival of new waves of immigrants over the years including a thriving Spanish speaking community has added to the diverse landscape.

Mexican foods
Fresh tomatillos, peppers and nopales (cactus).

The shop carries an impressive array of ingredients from Mexico, Central America and South America. Their customers come from all ends of the city for hard to find items like Latin American toiletries and Mexican cinnamon sticks. Perola’s large selection of dried chilis is another popular aspect of their shop for people trying to recreate dishes they grew up with as well as homecooks looking to experiment.

Cinnamon sticks known as canela in Mexico.
Barrels with dried chilis.

In the past, the back of Perola’s also sold hot foods like pupusas, corn flour patties with different savoury fillings like beans and cheese. From there, it evolved to a more Mexican menu when tacos became widespread in the city and Mexican eateries started popping up in the market. Perola’s went with the ebb and flow of the neighbourhood and eventually made way with the hot foods and went back to their roots with selling groceries and household necessities.

The colourful aisles of the shop. There is also a refrigerated section where you can find cheeses like fresco and queso as well as plenty of tortillas to make your own tacos.

Today there are establishments serving food from Chile, Venezuela, El Salvador, and many more countries from all over Latin America in the market. Perola’s Supermarket continues to remains an integral part of the community.

Cindy Chan

Cindy grew up in Scarborough and has always been passionate about food. After Cindy left her career in broadcasting she traveled extensively, discovering new cultures and expanding her knowledge on food. Cindy has been with Savour Toronto for over a year and has hosted countless public and private tours. Cindy leads the Kensington Krawl, Best of the West and Le Tour de Cafe. On her free time, she loves adding to her cookbook collection, taking food photos and putting up jars of strawberry jam.

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