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.
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.
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.
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.
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.