If you live in Toronto, chances are you’ve seen Jeffrey Moss’s hearts.
Whether they’ve lit your path on your nightly COVID walk, or they’ve reminded you that your work is valued as you drive home after another long shift at the hospital, Moss’s glowing neon hearts have added pops of colourful hope to the city.
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What started as a way to save his lighting business after the film and entertainment industries shut down has blossomed into a community-building juggernaut.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, our company lost its entire customer base,” said Moss. “All of our employees were facing being laid off.”
Not wanting to decimate the lives of his employees, Moss got creative. With the spare neon he had lying around his shop, he began envisioning a product for the residential market. For further inspiration, Moss looked to his community.
“We were walking around the neighbourhood, seeing people put up thank you signs, and we thought what a great opportunity it would be to also give thanks to frontline workers with a product that we could build that would also be keeping people who are facing unemployment working.”
Moss prototyped his first neon heart in July and put it in his shop window. Immediately, the neighbours wanted one. Gradually, more and more neighbours ordered hearts. Encouraged by the warm response, Moss posted his work in a Leslieville Facebook group. Then, things got crazy.
Moss went from having sold about 50 hearts in five months to selling 1,000 over the course of one week in November. He’s now sold close to 4,000 hearts, as it seems every city block has a house adorned with a glowing beacon of support.
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Moss has relied on a motley crew of workers to manufacture the hearts. In addition to his prior employees, he’s galvanized an unlikely squad of creators that features out of work entertainers, theatre workers and a University of Toronto teaching assistant. Even his brother, a pilot who found himself sidelined by the pandemic, is helping out.
The building process also involves a handful of technical shops in Moss’s area. He uses a local manufacturer to make the steel base plate, and sources the wooden frame from another fabricator that also used to work exclusively with the entertainment industry.
“I’m a strong believer that it takes a community,” Moss said. “The meaning behind [the hearts] is not only supporting frontline workers, it’s also about building community.”
In that vein, Moss donates $5 from each sale to the Michael Garron Hospital Foundation.
“Being that the hearts are a tribute to health-care workers first and foremost, we thought what a great opportunity to give to a local hospital,” Moss said. “It’s a really great thing that we’re able to contribute something back, even if it’s a small percentage.”
His claim to fame may be making neon hearts, but Moss clearly has a glowing heart of his own.