Longtime readers of Leaside Life might feel familiar with my philosophy when it comes to the business of Leaside. To say I’ve been ruthlessly critical of the business leadership in the neighbourhood, especially those on Bayview, would be an understatement.
However, changes are coming throughout the M4G postal code and I for one am very excited about a future that includes mixed-use developments, new restaurants, entertainment and shopping facilities and an LRT capable of bringing people to and from Leaside in a much more expedient manner.
Business in Leaside is only getting started. To celebrate the coming renaissance I’ve created a top 10 list of businesses I see carrying the flag well into the future. They’re listed in no particular order of preference.
Humphrey Funeral Home
Since I moved into Leaside six years ago I’ve been to at least four funerals at the Bayview institution. On Bayview for the last 60 years and in North Toronto since 1929, businesses rarely have this kind of staying power.
The Four Bakers
Rather than single out one shop over another — my wife and I buy frequently from two which will remain nameless — I’m giving Epi Breads, Cobs Bread, Rahier and Patisserie la Cigogne equal billing because the truth is they all have loyal followings. We’re spoiled when it comes to this segment of food retail.
Local Public Eatery
While there’s no doubt it’s got a lot of work to do on the food side of the ledger, in my opinion there’s no better place in Leaside to watch a sporting event with friends. It will raise the level of competition in the area, which is a good thing. Hopefully, it encourages others to open here.
Olde Yorke Fish and Chips
Despite the new entries on Laird in recent years the lines remain legendary. Unlike many businesses in Leaside whose hours seem to change from day to day, the Olde Yorke keeps it simple. Open 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday; closed Sundays. Consistent hours, consistent food, what’s not to like?
While the excitement of the family-operated grocery store’s opening is almost three years in the rearview mirror, it certainly can’t be considered the new kid on the block anymore. To me it embodies what an anchor store is meant to be — a drawing card for the other tenants. And it’s nice to look at.
Ron White and West Coast Kids
Bayview is a street in transition and while the BIA is a sign things are changing it still is a leap of faith for these two multi-store brands to sign leases. Successful retail is all about picking well when it comes to location; we’ll know in two-three years whether they were right or not. I can’t help but respect them for filling two spaces on a street that still has many vacant storefronts.
John & Chris Interiors
My mom moved into a retirement home two years ago and needed a couch and two chairs reupholstered. John & Chris did a great job bringing the furniture back to life. They’re total professionals. Should future development plans not include them you can bet they will get business wherever they decide to hang their shingle.
The Sky Zone and Amsterdam Brewery
A stone’s throw from Longo’s at the edge of the Leaside industrial park, these two purveyors of fun have brought some traffic to a street that used to get nothing but trucks and other industrial-related vehicles. The area could use more entertainment-type properties where blood, sweat and tears are replaced by smiles and laughter.
When Longo’s first opened owner Andy Elder was featured in the Globe and Mail’s weekly segment, The Challenge, fretting about a price war with the big boys putting him out of business. Well, more than two years after asking the prophetic question, the store’s gearing up for another busy BBQ season. In this case quality trumps price.
No list of Leaside businesses would be complete without including the area’s staple food come summer. While businesses of a similar description have come and gone in recent years, Hollywood Gelato continues to do one thing well and in doing so has become an institution at the southwest corner of Bayview and Manor. It’s hard to imagine anything else in its place.