By Jessica Finch
Toronto has often been called a city of neighbourhoods. It’s sprawling and ever-growing city limits house many communities, each with its own characteristics and retail landscapes.
Eglinton West, specifically between Bathurst Street and Avenue Road (Oriole Parkway and Chaplin Crescent to be exact), is governed by The Eglinton Way BIA.
Situated within the northern boundaries of Toronto’s affluent Forest Hill neighbourhood, this stretch of Eglinton is diverse in its retail offerings. It encompasses a variety of clothing retail, food and beverage retail, and a wide range of aesthetic and fitness services. Many of these businesses are catered towards the prosperous surrounding community, with primarily independent, owner-operated enterprises supplying high-grade customer service. “Many of the businesses have been operating for many years, some are specialty destination businesses and have loyal customers who come from across the city or out of town,” said Lais Fabricio, Manager at The Eglinton Way BIA.
Landmarked by the beautiful Eglinton Grand — which was once a movie theatre — this nine-block radius actually has a higher than average number of retail stores. “In our BIA, just focused on clothing, we have 10 businesses. Adding to that, there are seven jewellers, and more than six stores focused on home products, food/grocery stores, pharmacies, and pet supplies,” said Fabricio.
With a healthy mix of retail categories, it doesn’t appear as though one trumps another. It also doesn’t appear to have a very high turnover rate, with a number of businesses existing in the neighbourhood for many years. For example, Hotel Gelato, a popular breakfast, lunch, and gelato restaurant just celebrated ten years of success this month.
Eglinton sits at the geographical centre of the city of Toronto. Considered part of the city’s midtown, Eglinton West is currently serviced by bus and this particular stretch rests right between Eglinton West subway station and Eglinton Station, with an LRT soon to come.
With anchor stores such as Shoppers Drug Mart, LCBO, and The Healthy Butcher, this neighbourhood is considered a walker’s paradise judging by its walk score. Most errands can be accomplished by foot, meaning the retail offerings are practical and well rounded, providing locals with a bustling community.
Bars, Restaurants, and Cafes
The food and beverage retail scene on Eglinton West is varied. There are a number of Italian restaurants such as Ferraro’s and 7 Numbers providing traditional, homestyle Italian cuisine, and also a mix of Japanese/Chinese restaurants, Persian restaurants, lunch spots, and steakhouses.
Last year saw the opening of Asian fusion restaurant, Blooming Orchird. An increasingly popular dinner spot for locals, it shares the street with longstanding Chinese restaurant House of Chan and many busy Japanese sushi spots.
7 Numbers, situated at 516 Eglinton Ave West, is a southern Italian restaurant extremely popular with the locals. It sits next to The Abbot, a cozy pub serving comfort food next to an open fire in the winter or on a patio in the summer. A few doors down is Hotel Gelato, a favourite breakfast, lunch, and brunch spot, generally filled with families on the weekends enjoying homemade gelato.
Also offering food and beverage options are Phipps Bakery and The Mad Bean Coffee House. Both long-time residents of Eglinton West, both businesses provide the community with a warm and inviting space to pick up a coffee, or indulge in some baked goods.
As mentioned above, the traditional clothing retail landscape on Eglinton West is significant, with 10 businesses operating within the nine-block radius. Mostly centred on women’s fashion, stores like Honey, Bella, Revival Couture, and a massive TNT location line the street. Victory Menswear and Kingsport Big and Tall Clothiers also joins the line up.
Despite the number of stores, admittedly the clothing retail does not appear to create the same hype as the surrounding restaurants and gyms. This shouldn’t come as a surprise in today’s retail world. As consumerism moves towards experiential retail, Eglinton West is yet another example of the repercussions of this shift.
Online clothing boutique Stimoda recently closed its brick and mortar store on 454 Eglinton Ave West, and seen in the above picture, Revival Couture is in the midst of a “retirement sale.”
Big news coming out of Eglinton West recently is the upcoming addition of Summerhill Market. One of Toronto’s most successful and popular boutique grocery retailers, Summerhill Market has been working on an expansion plan for the past few years with another new location opening on Bathurst Street late last year. Summerhill Market Eglinton will be its biggest location to date, with two storeys connected by an elevator, and an extensive array of first-to-market products and ready-made meals. The price point is higher than your average grocery store but that shouldn’t be a concern for shoppers in this neighbourhood.
Who it might be a concern for, however, are the smaller, independently-run grocery stores along the strip, such as Fresh Harvest and Dave Young. Both have been operating successfully for many years in this neighbourhood, maintaining a virtual monopoly in terms of fresh produce. The introduction of Summerhill Market is sure to mix up grocery shopping in the neighbourhood, however it is clear that a strong sense of loyalty exists within this community, hopefully meaning that long-standing grocery retailers, like the above mentioned, will continue to prosper alongside Summerhill.
Gyms and Fitness
There is definitely no shortage of fitness destinations in the area, with new yoga studios, barre studios, and boutique gyms opening frequently. Interestingly they all appear to do very well despite the competition, clearly servicing an important need within the community. Some of the long-standing gyms like MBody and Body & Soul Fitness have been staples in the neighbourhood for many years. Joining them more recently has been Oxygen Fitness, The Werkout, and Barre Belle, each offering a slightly different and highly specialized form of exercise. Co-existing doesn’t seem to be an issue for these businesses as their doors are always open and brimming with people.
An interesting addition to the wellness/fitness category was Soul Sound Wellness, which opened in 2019. Providing relief from stress, anxiety, depression, and other physical and emotional issues Soul Sound Healing uses a variety of organic instruments to find and adjust frequencies inside the body. “This creates harmonious resonance and deep awareness unifying the Mind, Body, Soul, and Spirit.” Clearly taking experiential retail to an extreme, Soul Sound Wellness is a good example of the type of retail doing well in this part of the city.
Similar to the above category, service retail options along this stretch of Eglinton are plentiful. Dry cleaners, Dental clinics, nail salons, brow bars, and hair salons line the street. Hair hotspots like Le Drew Costello and One 2 One work happily alongside each other, working within a two block radius of one another. Across the street, Kozeta and Hair by Toula also work side-by-side, providing haircare and aesthetic treatments to the surrounding community.
Interspersed amongst this are nail salons and brow bars, one of the most recent being Haley Bogaert Face, a brow bar with its own line of make up and skincare products. A few doors down is B.Beautiful, a salon offering similar services, and further to the west is LTS Nails, a popular nail salon.
Some of the newer additions to the neighbourhood include The Nomad Steakhouse, Isle of Coffee, and Barre Belle. All part of the experiential realm of retail it will be interesting to see how these businesses prosper in 2020.
With the Riocan Yonge Eglinton Centre’s relatively recent transformation, one would wonder how it has impacted the neighbourhood retail landscape on Eglinton West. “The Centre hasn’t impacted that much because most people in our area tend to shop in local independent businesses. There is a correlation between the socio-economic and demographic characteristics within the immediate residential neighbourhood, and the business mix, rate of turnover, and general level of prosperity experienced on main streets. And this is very much seen here on the Eglinton Way as people do support the businesses close to them, and 30% of the people visiting the retailers live within 800 metres.”
The upcoming completion of the Eglinton LRT has brought much excitement to the businesses who call Eglinton home. Despite the construction heavily impacting some stores along Eglinton, the stretch between Bathurst and Avenue Road has, for the most part, come out unscathed. Due to connect Eglinton to the rest of the city in a more direct manner, the LRT is sure to bring new shoppers to the neighbourhood and increase foot traffic in general. “There will be 25 LRT stations, all along Eglinton, and the Eglinton Connects plan will create a complete street with wide sidewalks, maintain parking supply, and extend the network of rear lanes. There are a lot of great things coming and the Eglinton Way BIA is ready.”
Despite the liveliness of the retail landscape on Eglinton West, there are still a few vacant units interspersed amongst the businesses. Fabricio mentions the sometimes uncertain nature of retail vacancies in the area, admitting that the recent LRT construction played a part in a faster turnover. Things seem to be settling now, however, with many big plans in place for the vacant units coming soon.
Fabrico and her colleagues at The Eglinton Way BIA note that the retail environment on Eglinton can be divided between pre and post internet shopping. “Prior to the influence of online shopping, there were more retail stores that included women’s clothing, shoes and accessories and now there are more service and activity related businesses. There are fitness studios, tutoring services, music, art and sewing schools.”
Understanding the need for businesses to have an online presence, the BIA has dedicated a lot of time to the development of their Digital Main Street program. That includes providing information and assistance to local businesses on topics such as digital presence and digital advertising.
The focus of the BIA is to create a vibrant and prosperous business area for residents, visitors, tourists, and entrepreneurs. “Our mandate is to improve, beautify, and promote the area as a business and shopping district through marketing, public programming, and streetscape improvements. As the completion of the LRT is nearing we are looking to re-install our signature gateway at Eglinton and Chaplin Crescent and to further improve our streetscape with new planters, banners, benches, and suitable landscaping.The objective is to bring people in and when they come they find a beautiful and clean neighbourhood with great shops, restaurants, and services that will invite them to spend more time with us.”
As Toronto grows, Eglinton has managed to retain a lot of its small-town charm. The community is tight knit and the surrounding businesses enjoy an intimate relationship with their customers. Loyalty runs deep as many of the residents and business owners originally hail from the Forest Hill neighbourhood. “If you take a stroll in the area you’ll see friends hanging out in a café, mothers and daughters together at a hair appointment, and friends simply walking into each other and spending time together. People here know each other and know their neighbours, they are a community and Eglinton is part of the fabric of their lives.”