The Toronto Weston Flea Market, for years a bustling community hub, will close for good today as the owner continues to reel from a shooting there last year that took his brother’s life.
Tony Scavetta, 65, who was diagnosed with cancer four years ago, said his ailing health coupled with the Sept. 2018 slaying of his brother, Rocco, inside the Old Weston Road bazaar forced him to shut the market’s doors much sooner than he had planned.
“When I lost my brother, I lost interest in it,” Tony Scavetta said Saturday.
Scavetta said the existing lease would’ve expired in May 2020, with an option to extend for another few years, which the brothers planned on doing.
That plan was wiped away when Rocco was shot and killed after he confronted a 16-year-old suspect, who was alledgedly attempting to rob a jewellery stall with a shotgun. Rocco’s grieving brother has been struggling to keep the place going since then.
“I’m 65, It’s time to move on,” he said. “I notified the landlord that I was closing things down. We were lucky that he let us off the lease.”
Scavetta said that he and his brother — whom he called a “master entrepreneur” — opened on Old Weston Road in 1999. At it’s busiest, the baazaar hosted about 270 vendors.
Scavetta does not know what’s next for the sprawling site, which previously housed a grocery store and another flea market before the Scavettas took over.
“I hear through the grapevine they’re going to make here into a storage place, but I can’t say for sure,” he said. The current owner of the site declined to comment.
Empty stalls littered the building Saturday, with some vendors packing up cellphone accessories and clothing. Vendors were notified about two months ago that Oct. 27 was the last day.
Shopper Suzette Reid, 49, said she has grown to depend on the unique offerings, such as specialty oils, soaps and the custom picture frames at the Emperor Designs stall, as well as clothing and fresh produce.
“It’s really horrible, because we want to keep things in the community,” said Reid, who has shopped at the market for more than a decade. “Now we will have to go farther away to find bargains.”
She said the community is losing a cultural hub. “It has food, clothing and souvenirs for every culture,” she said. “It’s a huge loss.”
Ray Jamaat, owner of Emperor Designs, which he built from a two-booth store to eight booths over 15 years, said he will be relocating to a flea market in Mississauga, where he will face higher rent for less space.
“I’m just hoping that it goes well at the new place,” he said.
He’s not the only one grappling with the disruption of the relocation.
Get more of today’s top stories in your inbox
Sign up for the Star’s Morning Headlines newsletter for a briefing of the day’s big news.
“It’s very disheartening, because I made money here,” said Mohammad Ashraful, who operated his clothing store, Up2Date Styles, out of the Old Weston Road location for about four years.
Business at the flea market has been so good for Ashraful that he was able to use the profits to open a store at Jane Finch Mall, where he will continue to sell his clothing.
Ashraful said the atmosphere at the market changed after Rocco was killed.
“We realized from then that maybe we would be closing,” he said. “We didn’t think that it would be this soon.”
JOIN THE CONVERSATION
What are your memories of the market? Share your thoughts