Tom’s Place: The Story of an Immigrant Entrepreneur in Kensington Market

At first glance, Tom’s Place, a suit store seems like an unlikely shop that would exist in Kensington Market, which is known for its eclectic bohemian vibe. However, an iteration of Tom’s Place first opened in 1958 and it is one of the oldest businesses in the neighbourhood. Owner, Tom Mihalik remembers when his dad first opened the store it was very small and sold used clothing and furniture. His father came to Canada from Budapest in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution and Tom came over later as a refugee in 1968 with his mother.

Tom has always lived within walking distance to Kensington Market and started helping his dad at the store since he was 12 years old. Much of the store was set up outdoors and it was his job to stay outside and help customers. Shirts only cost $0.25-$1 back then. The market itself was much more food oriented with the best bakeries, more butchers and it was less expensive to buy fresh produce than frozen. As years passed, the market evolved and Tom’s Place grew bigger and bigger. It took 60 years for Tom to expand to the current size of his store.

To adapt to the changing landscape Tom’s Place started carrying different products and put their focus on clothing. In 1980 the store expanded to suits, ladies wear and new clothing instead of used. In the last few years, younger clothing lines and designer suits have been brought in to match their clientele. However, what hasn’t changed is how Tom’s Place still remains a family business. In 1987, Tom bought the store from his father and took it over. Tom’s mother actually worked at the store every day until she passed away. Tom’s younger sister has worked at the store for 40 years and his son, Tommy Junior now runs their second location in the Financial District.

Tom still lives in walking distance to Tom’s Place and loves being a part of Kensington Market. As a family who came to Toronto with nothing, they truly appreciated all the support they received from their neighbours through the years. Tom has always been keen to give back to the community as much as he can and he has won several awards and accolades for his contributions to the neighbourhood, local charities and hospitals. Tom thinks the changes in the market are very interesting to see and believes Kensington Market will always be a special place in Toronto. “Kensington Market can belong in any city and people would be proud to call it their own.”

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