TORONTO -- As the COVID-19 pandemic stretched on for weeks and months in Toronto, Dan Holowack knew that businesses in the city were struggling. 

“It was devastating to see the impact that this could have on small businesses,” he tells CTV News Toronto. “Our local grocers, butchers, florists, coffee roasters. There was this huge need that I felt, and I knew that we could do something about it.” 

At the height of the lockdown, Holowack noticed on social media sites that people were looking for places near them to buy things like bread and flour. 

“And I realized that nothing was set up for that,” he explains. “I want to see our community remain strong and locals wanted to get involved, so ‘Localhood’ came together for us all to contribute.” is a website filled with visual stories about the experiences people can have in Toronto, created by the locals themselves. 

“So if you’re looking for maybe a new coffee roaster, or you are looking to collect some things from a local grocer for a picnic in the park, is an amazing place to go to know that you’re supporting that local business,” Holowack says. “We’ve got some great categories like summer drinks, desserts, restaurants, even retail. When you find something you like, you just swipe up.” 

The ‘stories’ play like Instagram videos, and are created by people who frequent the businesses. 

Tejaswini Parker is a Localhood story creator who got involved because of an interest in supporting local businesses who normally do not get a lot of publicity or who are ‘under the radar.’ 

“I do focus on promoting immigrant businesses, since I’m an immigrant too,” Parker tells CTV News Toronto. “My parents back home in India, they run local businesses, so I do know the struggle that goes on every day, every month. So I think that was my biggest reason, to support local businesses here.” 

Parker and Holowack say sharing a quick photo or video when they visit a local shop or restaurant can inspire others to want to support the business too. 

Toronto together

“Local businesses to me speak for vibrancy, resilience, diversity,” Holowack says. “And it’s all those little stories that remind us the real impact that we’re having on real people here in our community that are really the heartbeat of what makes our communities in Toronto so special.” 

Holowack says a decision was also made early in the development of Localhood not to monetize it. 

“Every cent of whatever you spend goes directly to that local business,” he says. “They need our help the most, and it was important from the beginning and an easy decision that every cent go to local businesses.”