TORONTO -- A small variety store in Toronto’s west end is closing after the owners decided to keep the doors open during the height of the pandemic to help out their neighbours.

“I feel happy, but upset too because I will miss all my customers,” said Tina Bottis, who bought St. John’s Variety, located in the Jane Street and Dundas Street West area, 38 years ago with her husband Kostas after they immigrated to Canada from Greece.

The couple, who are in their 70s, are retiring and had every intention of closing the store this year before the COVID-19 outbreak was declared. 

“We’re getting old and want to spend time with family,” Bottis said. 

They could have closed at the peak of the pandemic, but decided to keep the doors open to make sure their neighbours had access to necessities like milk and bread close to home without having to lineup at grocery stores and drug stores. 

Bottis said they realized they were in the high risk category for contracting the virus, but that wasn’t stopping them from helping out their loyal customers who have supported their business over the years.


“We liked to support the community and to help them find groceries because it was a little bit hard for them,” she said.

One customer paid to have a plexiglass shield installed at the cash register to help protect the couple while they served their customers. 

Others sent dozens of cards and hand drawn posters thanking them for their support. 

“They put their own health at risk, that says it all - it’s a testament to their commitment to the community,” said John Beatty, who works at a nearby school and has been a regular at the store for nearly a decade. “I wish them well.”

Even after one of their wholesalers ceased operations, the couple sought out another vendor to help keep the shelves stocked. 

“I really cherished the fact they stayed opened for us. I’ve made sure I come seem them everyday,” said Janice MacNeil. “I hope someone opens a new store, but it’s not going to be the same without them.”

The inventory nearly depleted now with only a few odds and ends left in stock. Bottis says the store will likely close by the end of the week.

The Bottis’ own the building and are hoping to find a new tenant, but they acknowledge it may be a challenge in this economic climate.

“We will list and we will see. I hope something good for the community, for the kids comes here.” 

The family intend on staying in the community and are looking forward to spending more time with their family and grandchildren.