Meet Margaret, Danforth fishmonger, 1910

In honour of International Women's Day, The Toronto Public Library today posted online a terrific set of photos of Mrs. Margaret Chambers, a fishmonger at Danforth and Bowden in 1910. For those of us with more compressed memories, the current home of 7Numbers has been many things over the years, such as a brunch place, coffee roaster and fine foods shop (that covers about 20 years). The amazing photos of Chambers and her shop illustrate just how thick the history of The Danforth is, and how many cycles of life and death this location has seen. According to one report online, Chambers shop became a long established business in the area, after Chambers emigrated to Canada from Scotland. 

Today 7Numbers continues the cycle with gustoHappy International Women's Day!

Mrs. Margaret Chambers, Danforth and Bowden 1910

Mrs. Margaret Chambers, Danforth and Bowden 1910

The interior of the shop

The interior of the shop

The location today, home to 7 Numbers. Image courtesy of Google Maps. 

The location today, home to 7 Numbers. Image courtesy of Google Maps. 

The rapid change of a lonely stretch of Chinatown East

While "Little Chinatown" at Broadview and Gerrard has had a long and interesting history in the development of Riverdale, the stretch closer to Logan has for some time been a rather desolate and bland row of apparent disrepair. Until recently, the only bright light has been the rather continuous possibility of beer at the Beer Store. ;) 

Well even that's about to change. 

(Virgin Radio's personality "Tucker" snapped a pic recently that typifies the current ghost town feeling of this stretch, as you're looking back towards the city.)

Gerrard East at Logan looking downtown. Photo by @virgin_tucker

The first signalling was  when Mad Dog Coffee moved into the void a few years ago, and life started to stir somewhat. Then amazing brunch spot  Saturday Dinette arrived (after some notable other failures in the same location), and now owner Suzanne Barr is a regular, beaming presence on the block, bringing hoardes of empty stomachs to the 'hood to be satiated. 

After came the superb Hailed Coffee just a few buildings west of Saturday Dinette, offering Arabic coffee and Middle Eastern delicacies in various forms. This co-funnel of foot traffic that the two shops now command is no doubt convincing others to wade into the block of no return. Certainly developers have taken notice. 

The iconic Beer Store kitty corner to Saturday Dinette at Gerrard and Logan is being demolished in favour of LoftHouse, a six story condo development (see photo below), with units being decorated by TV interior designer Andrew Pike. As well,  word on the street is that the Cash N Carry just south of the intersection is slated for demolition for what else...condos.

So whatever quiet spots that now separate Leslieville and Riverdale are about to disappear. The near continuous density creep that engulfs Lesliville and Riverdale has closed a loop somehow. :)

Beer store at Gerrard and Logan redevelopment notice. A six story condo with retail is being planned. 

Beer store at Gerrard and Logan redevelopment notice. A six story condo with retail is being planned. 

The proposed condo replacing The Beer Store at Gerrard and Logan

The proposed condo replacing The Beer Store at Gerrard and Logan


Anatomy of a Reno

The front of Howland Rd.

The front of Howland Rd.

The view looking towards the Metropolitan Church

The view looking towards the Metropolitan Church

Suzanne Lewis frowns into her phone. In just a few short years, Lewis has gone from door knocking for clients to being one of the most successful agents in Canada, operating (mostly) in the few blocks of ultra-hot Riverdale/Danforth. Today, though, she seems stalled, as she listens to her construction foreman tell her there will be a delay on finishing the renovation of a property she's purchased in the neighbourhood. The news isn't altogether bad, as construction delays are part of the process, but Lewis, who spits ideas and enthusiasms like a raging furnace, finds herself chafing at the delays. 

Moments later, she admits she simply wants some reassurance from her construction guy, and her frown dissolves and trademark energy returns..

Such is the knife point of Toronto's ultra hot real estate market.

When Lewis discovered the property at Howland and Simpson Avenue in mid 2016 it felt lifted from another era. In fact, it was a variety store in the early part of the 20th century, and the most recent owners, Sarah and David, kept the property faithfully Victorian and slightly monastic. Sarah, a psychotherapist, welcomed her patients at the front door at street level, and David could often be seen shovelling snow and greeting neighbours in his trademark baritone. They were quintessentially Riverdale.

The property as it looked in 1913

The property as it looked in 1913

Then, sadly, David passed away in 2015, and Sarah felt it was time to move on, so up the property went up for sale. 

Meanwhile Lewis found out about the house through another agent, who asked her if she wanted to preview it. "When I went to the property," Lewis says,  "and walked through it, because I have seen so many houses, I thought 'I've never seen anything like it before.' The high ceilings, the unconventional layout, just totally unique in every way."  

The house sits opposite the famous Metropolitan Community Church (see photo above). Aside from a superb Prime Riverdale location, it boasts four bedrooms, three bathrooms over 4700 square feet, as well as a "studio barn," and an unheard-of-in-Riverdale four car parking pad.  It blends so perfectly with its surroundings that it never betrays its enormity. The Gerrard streetcar rattles by just 100 feet away, and French fave Batifole is equally close for a glass of wine, but the house itself is dead quiet and recessive, such is its charm.  

"Sometimes I tell people I'm renovating this house," Lewis says, "and there is this immediate recognition of both the house and the previous owners. They say 'Oh I was never in the house, but I've always admired the house.' That sort of thing."

I ask Lewis if she had a vision for the property initially. "No, I just knew there was an opportunity. It screamed for me to buy it. There's a bunch of of those sorts of convenience store properties in the area, and they are definitely bigger than your average semi or detached home, except there are very few that are not on main streets. This one is so very rare."

After purchasing the property, Lewis brought in a construction company to do the six months of renovation. Rather more interestingly, she decided she would hire East Room owner and designer Derreck Martin to design the finished property. Lewis has a deep love of design, and her website and Instagram betray her sleek eye and polished aesthetic. "I went through The East Room (a superbly designed co-working space that straddles the Don Valley) and was just wowed at the design, and I sought out Derreck to see if he would help me design it."

As this piece is written, at the end of February 2017, the property is structurally done, but waiting for Martin's finishing touches. While Lewis is anxious about mounting costs and delays, she seems peaked to see what's beyond the curtain. Stay tuned and we'll update with Part 2 soon to show the results. 

A preview of what's to come: