Photo Credit: TN
Ode: The Black-Owned Hostel Bringing A Caribbean Guest House Vibe To Toronto
Ode is the latest Black-owned hostel in Toronto. Opened in 2021 and located in one of the most vibrant neighborhoods in Toronto— Dundas St West, Ode offers something completely different from the typical hospitality experience.
Founded by Erica Hebert, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago and has lived in Canada since 1975, Ode Toronto was inspired by the unique experience of a Caribbean guest house in Toronto and aims to bring that vibe to the city.
“Ode is a place where you can go and feel like family instantly. There are so many anonymous, corporate places to stay, but not many places that are exciting, special, luxurious and also affordable. We also wanted to create a place that supports our local community and showcases all the amazing talents that Toronto has to offer. That’s why each room at Ode features art created by local artists, furniture handmade in Toronto, and special touches from local artisans,” Tiffany Hebert told Travel Noire.
She is the daughter of Erica Herbert, and helps manage the hostel.
Proud of her Black-Caribbean heritage, Erica Herbert grew up among a small group from the Caribbean who supported each other. Since she was a teenager living in Canada, she knew she wanted to get a good education and establish her own business, by achieving financial success, freedom, and security with self-employment.
Although racism was very prevalent, she managed to survive and thrive within Canadian society, ultimately becoming a Black woman entrepreneur.
“There aren’t many opportunities to stay at Black-owned businesses in Canada (and even around the world), but there is such an appetite within the Black community to support each other. We can’t wait to welcome members of our community with open arms.”
For her, opening a Black-owned hostel — inspired by the Caribbean— in Toronto in the midst of a pandemic, has been a major achievement.
“The past two years have been exceptionally hard on almost all entrepreneurs, we are really proud to have made it to the other side.”
Being a Black-owned hostel and family business in Canada still surprises some people, Tiffany said. She pointed out that when people see them walk in, they are not seen as the owners, and have often been mistaken for the cleaners.
“I think and hope that this mindset is changing as there are more and more Black business owners, but it is still there, and it creates challenges of bias, disproportionate scrutiny and an uphill battle to prove your legitimacy as a business.”
She added that the neighborhood, also known as Little Portugal, is also where locals live, not tourists.
“It’s a place for people who want to get to know the real Toronto. And for those who do want to hit up some tourist spots, like the CN Tower, we are still located in the heart of the city so all of that is close by too.”
Tiffany said that Dundas St W.Born can be described as the Solange of Toronto’s neighborhoods. “It is full of soul, authenticity, and magic. It’s a neighborhood where you’ll find family-owned bakeries, independently owned galleries, tree-lined parks, vintage clothing shops and some of the most special restaurants in the city,” she said.
According to her, each room at Ode is like a piece of art. “We even have a room with a jungle mural that took almost a month to complete. All of the details in the rooms have been meticulously chosen by us and our designer to ensure guests have a memorable and comfortable stay,” she mentioned.
In the future, Herbert plans to expand Ode to other areas in the country and even abroad.
“The world is our oyster. We would love to expand to other locations in Canada and hopefully one day in Tobago.”