ittle Locals Co. in Toronto makes DIY cardboard model kits of beloved, but often overlooked Canadian landmarks. Their first series focuses on famous bars and pubs from major Canadian cities that will be familiar to anyone who's had late-night nachos in Toronto.
“Little Locals was born out of a love of heritage architecture and for the neighbourhood bars that once allowed us to gather and share food and music and mayhem. Buy one, build it, and then you have a tiny little pub!” reads Jeremy Bridge's site.
Bridge answered a few questions from The Hoser about building miniature models of iconic Toronto establishments.
The Hoser: How did you get into making models?
Jeremy Bridge: I was living overseas. I was living in Ireland for a little while and I just know that everyone had such a fierce connection to their local pubs.
I thought, just to kill some time, I would make little miniatures of my friends' local pubs and I gave it to them as Christmas ornaments. And then I got some commissions, and these were painted and pretty detailed and I would weather them up, make them look like proper old buildings just out of cereal box material. And then I got a couple of commissions for peoples’ wedding gifts. I work as a historic building specialist; I'm a construction project manager for a company that specializes in heritage buildings so I went to school for heritage architecture, not an architecture degree, but a diploma doing heritage-specific stuff. So I have ties to old buildings and how they're built and I like anything that encourages people's enthusiasm for them.
TH: When did you start Little Locals Co. and why?
JB: That was about a year ago, when I started doing the custom ready built models [kits] for people. I immediately thought it would be neat to do kits just because that was the thing I liked as a kid, like little model cars and stuff. But having people laser cut them was really difficult, if you don't have your own equipment, it's cost preventative.
My partner runs a lettering business and she does a lot of stuff for the restaurant industry and weddings and things like that. We realized it would be pretty sweet for us to buy a laser cutter. So we've joked that a lot of couples’ first big purchases are like a couch or like a bed or something, and we bought a piece of industrial equipment. But yeah, so once I was able to actually bring the manufacturing home it made it something I could actually sell.
That was January 2020, then I started getting everything ready and was able to put out the first two kits, which is one out of Halifax, the Split Crow which I had a relationship with from university, and Sneaky Dee’s, which is quite a landmark.
TH: Could you speak a bit more about why you choose particular buildings like Sneaky Dee’s or Honest Ed's?
JB: Sneaky Dee’s wasn't the first one that came to mind, but as I started going through the process, it felt like a complete oversight that it hadn't been the first thing on my list. Because I just tried to find something that is niche and everyone feels it's niche to them.
Everyone knows it, but it's such a personal place. Everyone has funny memories, strange things that happened in there, and it’s culty, but everyone knows about it, you know? People have a bit of their identity tied up in that from their formative years. That was sort of the thing with Honest Ed’s, too, especially since it's gone.
It's finding something that still feels personal, but that is going to have a wide enough reach that I'm not spinning my wheels.
TH: Is preserving history an important aspect of it to you?
JB: Absolutely. I have quite an enthusiasm for it and for heritage building, I mean, not that Honest Ed’s was, you know, really high architecture, but it's certainly interesting.
I give a history of the buildings in the instruction manuals. Mirvish Village, of course, was actually really interesting Victorian buildings, and it's unfortunate to see those go all at the same time, but admittedly the history of Honest Ed’s in this one is a bit of an indictment. My activist streak there might have come out a little bit. I think it's nice to sort of have that at home here. It's gone now, but at least I got one on the mantel.
TH: What's your favourite model you've made?
JB: Ed's is really cool. I really liked Split Crow and I was really proud of it. It was the first one I did with the kits in mind, but because it was the first, there [were] flaws with how I produced it, and I ended up discontinuing it, because it just kind of didn't work. It was really difficult to manufacture even though I liked that one quite a bit and thought it was cool.
I don't have a favourite right now. I like them all; they’re hard work. There's always new ones on the go. You have to get a little obsessed, and you get into these really minute details, and you're researching the history of the building at the same time.
TH: What would you say is the most fulfilling part of this work? What is the most challenging?
JB: The most fulfilling part is honestly that people are buying these things. It's kind of wild and I am struck by it fairly often, that I have repeat customers and people that are texting me telling me how excited they are or sending me messages through my website of how excited they are for the next one to come out and people that are coming on for launch day.
It really means a lot because it honestly is a grind and the designing is really really fun. The research is fun, and that's something that doesn't feel like work. I don't mind coming home from my job and digging in and putting the pieces together to figure out how the kits are gonna work. It's very cathartic. But getting into manufacturing hundreds of them because I've been able to outsource some of the work to a local print shop, but they still have to be cut out. So the details are done by a printer, but I have to cut each one on my own laser and then package them and then make sure they get to the post office and then make sure that all my spreadsheets are in order, that I haven't missed some poor soul’s Christmas gift for somebody.
TH: Favourite spot in Toronto, be it pub Cafe, Park, Library. Do you have one?
JB: Good question. I’ve a big relationship to Riverdale Park. Whenever I'm back home I try to spend time with guys there. It's funny how much you can draw a blank when someone asks you a softball.
I dearly miss an old pub called Rockie Raccoons on Yonge Street, which was very formative for me. They closed down probably more than five years ago. I spent a lot of time at the Cameron House. I love it there. It's intimate. It's a bit goofy. I've always had friends’ bands playing there and there's always something going on.
Bridge says he will be adding more pubs soon. Have a good suggestion for a pub? You can suggest on Instagram!
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