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Laird is giving Bayview a run for its money

The new Barrel House on Laird. Photo By Robin Dickie.

The new Barrel House on Laird. Photo By Robin Dickie.

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about the businesses operating on or near Laird Dr. I’ve been a little preoccupied with Bayview Ave.’s accident-prone intersection at Parkhurst Ave.

Time to turn the page and do a little catching up.

If Bayview Ave. is the Fifth Ave. of Leaside, Laird Dr. is the Meatpacking District. Once home to one of Toronto’s prime manufacturing hubs, it’s quickly transforming into a place to live, work and play.

I can remember in 2012 when Grilltime Gourmet Meat Shop owner Andy Elder was so concerned about Longo’s moving in right across the street that he went as far as appearing in a Globe and Mail article about small businesses where three experts weighed in on his situation and what he should do.

Elder’s primary concern was how he would compete with Longo’s on price. The experts said forget about price and focus on quality.

Well, at the end of September, Grilltime celebrated nine years in business at 67 Laird. The good news looks to continue once Upper House condo buyers start moving in later this year followed by Shane Baghai’s development adjacent to Leaside Gardens sometime in 2019.

But the good news doesn’t end there.

In the Sept. issue of Leaside Life, Lorna Krawchuk profiled Ian Morton, who operates Summerhill, an energy efficiency consultant that helps energy providers from coast to coast better engage their customers.

Operating its Toronto office from 30 Commercial Rd. in the Leaside Business Park, Morton is spearheading a push to get a BIA that could run from Eglinton Ave. and Sutherland Dr., south on Laird past the arena to Overlea Blvd. and west ending at East York Shopping Centre. It’s a huge stretch.

Laird businesses should be ecstatic about this development because they’ve proven to be successful almost everywhere in the city of Toronto where they’ve been adopted.

With the leadership of Morton and others on the steering committee pushing for a Laird BIA, along with the fact they’ve been very successful, I can’t see the city opposing its creation.

Laird’s transformation continues, and nowhere is that more evident than in the hospitality industry where the Local opened in 2015 with a splashy renovation of the old CIBC branch at 180 Laird, and now Leaside’s very own craft brewery has stepped in to improve Leaside’s nightlife.

The Amsterdam Barrel House opened for business October 2 in the old Against the Grain spot in Leaside Village. Since Amsterdam has operated its brewery in Leaside for four years, it only made sense to take the vacated restaurant space and add an uptown spot to showcase its beers along with the Brew House down on the lake. Urban Dining Group, which got its start with a single Gabby’s location at Yonge St. and Lawrence Ave. in 1989, manages both restaurant locations.

An initial peek at the opening day menu convinced my wife and me to give it a try on the first weekend it was open. With several vegan and vegetarian options available, we both ordered the veggie meatloaf sandwich. Unfortunately, a food mishap made our sandwiches too salty and inedible.

However, Urban Dining Group President Todd Sherman handled the situation like a total pro, offering to have something else cooked for us right away at no cost. Impressed by his accountability, we decided to return the following Saturday to watch the Leafs-Canadiens game with friends. This time the veggie meatloaf sandwich was a home run as were our cocktails. We left thrilled knowing that there now was a good alternative on Laird to the Local.

I hope that the northeast corner of Laird and Wicksteed Ave. soon provides a third upscale option for Leasiders in search of a nice sit-down meal with friends, coworkers, and family that’s not the same-old standard stuff found on Bayview.

I see a very bright future for the businesses operating along the Laird BIA corridor. Time to up your game, Bayview, or risk losing sales to your friends to the east.