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Ever heard of this kind of bike shop?

Here in Leaside we have plenty of bike repair options. There’s Flying Wheels on Fleming Ave. just steps east of Bayview. It was recently named one of the top 10 bike repair shops in Toronto by BlogTO. Others include Sport Swap on Bayview and Endurosport over on Laird. But I certainly don’t know of any other business combining bike sales, repairs and bookselling. This is the story of Sandy’s.

First it was Sandy’s Cycles and now it’s Sandy’s Bikes & Books. How did that happen? The original Sandy, Thayron Sandquist, a Medieval History prof at the University of Toronto, decided to set up a bike shop. He located at 900 Millwood for a year in 1971, and then moved to 864 Millwood, between Airdrie and Rumsey for the next 15 years. The shop was small, described by his son, David, as “the size of a two-seater barber shop”.

When David graduated from university with a degree in history and philosophy, he went to California for several years, and found work in bicycle shops there. When he returned home, his only work experience was with bicycles, so he spent a few years more working in various bicycle shops around Toronto.

When the Millwood building was sold, and the rent increase was going to be sizable, David’s father decided the time was right for him to leave the business. He sold it to David, who then moved it around for a few years until he landed on Laird Dr., just opposite Olde Yorke Fish & Chips, where he stayed for 20 years, until the redevelopment of that property made this last move to Research Rd. in the Leaside Business Park a necessity.

It was while the business was on Laird Dr. that the book portion of the business came into being. The set-up of the space was such that there were two small rooms that didn’t work well for selling or repairing bikes and equipment, so he decided to put in shelves, and move some of his book collection from home and see what happened.

Well, he now has over 14,000 books on shelves, in boxes or in piles on tables. In one pile, there was a book prize awarded to Emelius Irving from Upper Canada College in the 1800s and another book that had been owned by Edith Wharton. The Irving name from that family isn’t known now, but he was a major figure in Canadian and Ontario history, a lawyer, and a relative of the influential Jarvis family. Serendipitously, a man recently came into the store interested in bikes, and mentioned that he had a number of old books originally owned by Irving and Jarvis that he was storing in his cottage near Peterborough, and would David be interested in them. Well, yes, and they are now at York University as part of a collection in the law library at Osgoode Hall. As David says, “Books are infinitely interesting.”

And maybe after all these years, books may be more interesting than bikes, but still the two intermingle at Sandy’s. And David answers to Sandy, if someone calls and asks to speak to Sandy, because as well as being his father’s nickname, it was also his nickname in high school. But it still can be confusing, especially if someone comes in looking for a woman by the name of Sandy to be the owner.