It’s been a rough few years for businesses across the city, but some have been harder hit than others, and areas like Alberta Avenue have been slower to recover. Arts on the Ave’s Deep Freeze Byzantine Festival warmed people’s spirits this winter, and this fall’s Kaleido Festival will no doubt do the same. But regular weekdays still don’t see enough foot traffic, and the non-profit’s headquarters — The Carrot Community Arts Coffee House — can sometimes feel like the only thing growing in a community garden.
“The vibe is good,” says Executive Director Christy Morin. “There’s positivity, and people are coming back slowly, but we actually close Tuesdays early now, because there was nobody coming through the doors. Sometimes, we’re the only place open except Otto and Coliseum Steak and Pizza.”
But nothing seems to get Morin down, and she has reason to celebrate. The weekends are back and livelier than ever, with packed houses and live music of all kinds pouring out the Carrot’s doors and onto the Avenue. And spring workshops like Métis beading and pysanky Easter egg making are filling up fast. But bustling weekends can’t fully make up for leaner weeknights, which is why The Carrot’s annual fundraiser is so important.
Started in 2010, Carrot by Moonlight is the community coffee house’s biggest fundraiser of the year. It has all the Carrot hallmarks the community has come to love — music, food, coffee and music — but in French. “We completely revamp The Carrot into an actual French café, with decorations, tablecloths and candlelight, and it doesn’t feel like the same old Carrot. We always have a world musician, and this year we have a South American musician this year, Max Mendez. And we have live painting by Lewis Lavoie.”
It’s not a night of French culture without wine and cheese, so Morin works with neighbourhood sommeliers to expertly pair the evening’s delectable delights. “And we have a food scientist as well, who volunteers at The Carrot. There are charcuterie boards made from local producers. And Mary Ann [Aquino], our operations manager, is a Red Seal chef, and she puts together a lovely evening.”There’s a silent and live auction, “and at the event itself, you’ll hear stories of how the Carrot’s making a difference in the community and have the opportunity to become a monthly donor or one time donor.”
Few establishments around town are as crucial to their communities as The Carrot is to Alberta Avenue, which makes Carrot by Moonlight more than a fun and tasty time. It’s a chance to support the place that supports the community like no other. “When people needed help early in the pandemic, they came to The Carrot. We help people with food security, or furniture, or whatever people need — we even help with different school performances when we can. “The Carrot is the heart of what Arts on the Ave does.”
Put on your best French accent this weekend at The Carrot.