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Positive developments as Bayview is changing

In both the March and April issues I discussed what’s wrong with the Bayview strip, providing solutions on how it can pull itself out of its funk. I’ve had comments that suggest I hit a sore spot with some in the community.

Apparently, tearing down 1560 Bayview to make way for an open-air square that would serve as a community gathering place is an impossibility.

I disagree.

The Town Crier reported in 2004 that the City of Toronto already tried to expropriate the property in question, but the owner rebuffed the idea. There’s no reason why a second attempt can’t be made. Because it has had several empty storefronts in recent years, one has to believe the owner would accept a good offer to move along. 

There are, however, positive developments to point to — the changing face of Bayview most noticeably. Once comprised almost exclusively of independently operated stores, it is slowly undergoing a regeneration that includes large corporate entities like Dollarama, as well as successful franchise concepts such as Sports Clips and Hero Burger. They’ve quickly (both opened last summer) become favourites on the street.

Sports Clips has 10 locations in Ontario. It plans to have 22 open across the country by the end of 2014. In the U.S., where it got its start, there are a total of 1,103 locations, putting it in the top 100 of Entrepreneur Magazine’s Franchise 500.

But don’t take my word for it. If you go to Sport Clip’s Leaside website (http://bit.ly/1n0aLfP) you’ll see a large number of testimonials from satisfied customers in the neighbourhood.

Meanwhile, Hero Burger has 55 locations across the GTA, with more on the way. Founded 10 years ago by John Lettieri, it’s become a player in the gourmet hamburger business.

My wife and I frequent the Bayview location and many others around town. In my opinion, the mere presence of these types of businesses on the street can only enhance the family vibe Leasiders care so much about.

Coming soon is The Ten Spot Beauty Bar, moving into the space left vacant by Essence du Papier at 1657 Bayview. Providing manicures, pedicures, facials and waxing services to both men and women, the 13-store chain will open here in June.

Interestingly, both Jesse Eleftheriadis, franchisee for the beauty bar, and business partner Rachel Loizos support the creation of a Bayview BIA, citing the highly successful ones on Danforth, Bloor West, and Beaches. Most importantly, they live in East York, dine at its wide variety of restaurants, and regularly shop at independent boutique stores that Geoff Kettel wrote so fondly about in the March edition of this paper.

Haphazard leasing practices by landlords, as appears to be occurring, hurts everyone because it reduces foot traffic, the key to all successful shopping districts. As I’ve said several times in recent months, a BIA can help alleviate this issue by getting landlords and tenants on the same page, which is half the battle.

Customers today don’t care whether shops are independently operated, run by a franchisee, or part of a corporate behemoth. All they want are good products and/or services offered at reasonable prices in comfortable and clean surroundings. These new businesses do that. It’s not much to ask.

When all 120 of the stores on the strip can make this claim, Bayview becomes a retail success story.

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