Dear styleNorth . . . T.O. Shopping Trip?



StyleNorth reader Kim wrote to ask for help planning a trip to T.O. “I’m a Montrealer coming to Toronto for one short day – my dream is to hit as many unique home decor stores as possible. Do you happen to have an address book of your favorite shops? I’m eager for the one-of-a-kind boutiques. Thanks and cheers for your wonderful blog!”

When I wrote back to ask a few more questions Kim elaborated saying, “For my first visit I think I’d most like to see accessories and furniture – you posted about a store named Ethel – I will, without a doubt, drop in there.”

For out-of-town visitors, there are three Toronto shopping strolls I’d recommend, well, four really: Queen Street East and Queen West if you have time, Dundas West in the Junction and the Rosedale strip for some high-end oogling.

Since Kim wants to see Ethel, I’ll point her to Queen Street East (Leslieville and Riverside), which would probably be my first choice anyway. This stretch used to be more concentrated but a number of retailers have pulled up stakes, mostly owing to the rising rents. Nevertheless, there’s lots to see and buy.

My advice is to park your wheels and use the streetcar; you’ll need a transit day pass ($10.50) or come armed with loonies and toonies (cash fare is $3). Begin your trip at Queen & Jones and proceed west towards downtown.

First stop is GUFF (1142 Queen Street East) where the selection is always interesting, sometimes a little junky and nothing stays on the floor for long because it’s priced to move and it does. That’s a photo of their “sold” section above. Always start early, ideally as soon as the shops open, which in this neck of woods means 11 am.

On the next block are a few thrifty junk shops, Neat Things (1126 Queen East) and Second Debut, beneath it. Bronze (1120 Queen East) might also be worth a look although beware the made-yesterday stuff that only looks vintage. I’d also recommend a peak into Telegramme Prints & Custom Framing (1103 Queen East) to see their selection of prints and poster art and Holy Cow‘s (1100 Queen East) dizzying selection of Indian folk art is fun if you like that sort of thing (my post here).

Zig Zag (985 Queen East) is one of my favorite shops but it doesn’t open until noon so plan accordingly. Owner Joe Graafman really knows his mid-century modern furniture and lighting and consistently has some of the finest pieces in the city. His prices are fair for the quality, not obscene but not bargain either. Last week, Joe had an outstanding set of four Hovmand Olsen dining chairs, above, priced at $1,695.

Kim’s next best stop should be Machine Age Modern (1000 Queen East), a finely curated and not inexpensive bastion of mid-century classics and quirky one-offs. The lead pic is of Machine Age’s current window featuring four red 1970s Suzanne lounge chairs from Knoll ($800 each) and an Eames CTM table (Herman Miller, natch) for $1,150; the smashing wall panel is from Marimekko priced at $325.

Next door to Machine Age is Zenporium (998 Queen East), which specializes in furniture crafted from reclaimed wood, much of it stripped from decommissioned boats in Southeast Asia (post here).

At this point the strip changes gears to food and drink; depending on Kim’s taste she could grab a cuppa at the super-hip Mercury Espresso Bar, or a bite at Reliable Fish & Chips or Paulette’s Doughnuts and Chicken. The Leslieville Cheese Market offers pretty terrific grilled cheese sandwiches and the ice cream and gelato at Ed’s Real Scoop is among the city’s best. Value Village (924 Queen East) is also worth a quick pick if you’re up for a bit of slumming.

Walk a few more blocks and you’ll hit another vein of vintage stores including Common Sort (804 Queen East) where yours truly consistently finds great used shoes and clothing.

Toronto has a love/hate relationship with Philz (792 Queen East), below, where selection frequently trumps service — owner Cynthia can be prickly so wear a smile and be polite. And not all of the inventory is vintage so be aware.

Across the street is Elbers Antiques (777 Queen East) where I’ve had some luck and at 760 Queen East you’ll find Hardware Interiors, a specialist in trendy, industrial pieces made from reclaimed woods and metals with a few vintage items for good measure (my post here).

A little further along is MacFAB Home (734 Queen East) for reimagined, reupholstered vintage pieces, and Studio Pazo (729 Queen East) another purveyor of vintage furniture and lighting. If art is an interest drop in and see what Nancy’s showing at Rouge Concept (732 Queen East), a terrific local gallery. Just across Broadview Avenue is Kimberly Jackson (700 Queen East) a retailer of rustic, hand-crafted   furnishings.

Now it’s time to jump on the westbound streetcar for a short ride to Parliament Street. This is where you’ll find Ethel’s new home at 327 Queen East and definitely pop over for a browse through A.M.A. (328 Queen East, tell Sam that Chris from styleNorth sent you). Not far from Ethel is Kiondo African Imports (323 Queen East) where you can browse some really fine imported furnishings, crafts and accessories (my post here).

Last stop is Upside Dive at 269 Queen Street East (my post here) and if rare art books turn your crank then definitely skip over to Acadia Art & Rare Books (232 Queen East).

At this point you’ll have noticed that the neighbourhood has taken a turn for the worse but fear not, just keep your wits about you as you jump on a streetcar either back to your car, your hotel or on to Queen Street West if you still have some fight left in you.

If you are game for more, ride the Queen car westbound all the way through Coolsville to Roncesvalles where you’ll find a solid block of shops running up and down both sides of the street. Don’t miss Queen West Antiques Centre (1605 Queen West), Era (1629 Queen West), Hideaway Antiques (1605 Queen West), Black Pug (1712 Queen West) and the Painted Table (1716 Queen West).

If you’ve made it this far you are definitely ready for a cocktail and you could do no better than to hoof it over to the Gladstone Hotel (1214 Queen West) or the Drake Hotel (1150 Queen West) Toronto’s twin bastions of cool.

Commenters, please chime in with your own picks, and Kim, I’ll expect a full report after your visit.

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Friday, August 3, 2012 by Chris
This post was written by - who has written 865 posts on styleNorth.

11 Comments For This Post

  1. Kim Says:

    Well Hello Chris,
    You went all out on this! I’m not quite sure how to thank you :)
    The list is printed. I will be in Toronto within the next month (date yet to be confirmed). I will definitely give you a full report. You’re a dear to take the time to do this. I’m sure it will be handy for so many!

  2. Mary Says:

    A good roundup, nicely done. Dark Horse Coffee (682 Queen St. E.) is another good spot to regroup when you get to the Broadview end of this strip.

  3. Shauntelle LeBlanc Says:

    Hi Kim,
    So glad you liked Chris’s post on my little shop, Ethel – 20th Century Living.
    Please drop by when you’re in town and say “hi”.
    Shauntelle LeBlanc

  4. judi Says:

    Wow I have found Studio Pazo to be the best for price and very friendly I was just in looking for a coffee table I saw on their web site $300 Teak made in Denmark. I think it depends on what you are looking at but I go to Studio Pazo because their pieces are always ready to use without damage. Judi

  5. Dennis Battler Says:

    Hi Kim et al.

    For a reasonable fee a further reaching tour is available. Chris covered my space here (Two Small Rooms) and a “mercy” staging project I directed, also covered here (Begged Borrowed & Staged) … have participated in various forms in Toronto Visual Life for the past 30yr including designing window display for Harry Rosen, managing a 144 chain store visual dept., responsible for the visual presentation for a high end furniture showroom (Brian Gluckstein used the showroom to reference proper picture hanging – c’est moi) have supplied to L’Atelier; Absolutely; Patina; Hardware; Decorum; Angus & Co.; Flik & Co.; Abstractus; Rec and Sarah Richardson.

    If you’re interested you can contact me through this site – right Chris?
    Dennis Battler
    (owner of Spruce / Yonge & Summerhill Stores 2005-2006)

  6. Leo Says:

    I hope to see you at our store Studio Pazo. 729 Queen St East 1-5pm Mon to Sat. You can actually shop with us on line or follow us both are kept current.

    We are very well priced.


  7. margo Says:

    Hi Chris,

    Love this post, have my list ready when I come to Toronto next spring.


    margo on Vancouver Island

  8. Clare Says:

    A helpful post for tourists and residents alike!

  9. Lois Says:

    Good evening, terrific post CHRIS, you know I just have to add, because I’m a HUGE fan of Habitat for Humanity on Logan, small re store but great things you just NEVER know what you’ll find…Lois of enjoy our fair city KIM if you want a tag along let me know. CHRIS, all ready for the long weekend remodel of your bedroom? Cannot wait to see the results

  10. Tim@DesignMaze Says:

    wow great post!! I now surely have to go check out Queen East more often! I often only poke my head into Guff and then shoot back to the West end. Now I have to schedule a day in the area.

    Thanks for a great pointer and have enjoy a fantastic long weekend Mr!

  11. Cindy Says:

    And if you’re driving and want to stop in Prince Edward County you can stop by MacCool’s Re-Use (see previous Chris post) our barn store full off mid century modern and antiques. (Hi Chris!)

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