Last year was for Toronto store owners what recent seasons have been like for the Blue Jays: difficult to endure and full of loss. Thanks to the most severe economic downturn in decades, the city said goodbye to many long-standing businesses, notably Dack’s, Syd Silver and Rotman’s Hat Shop and Haberdashery. There was a high turnover of businesses on Queen Street West and at Yonge and Eglinton, and the independent bookstore sector was hit hard. Here, a look back at 34 shops we lost in 2009.
The independent bookstores
One of the biggest shocks was the closure of 30-year-old literary icon Pages. The shop had thrived despite the opening of nearby Chapters and Indigo mega-stores, and it was one of the few businesses with personality on a strip of Queen West that looks ever more like an outdoor mall. But proprietor Marc Glassman couldn’t afford a whopping rent increase and closed his doors in August. After 35 years on Markham Street, David Mirvish Books, known for its rare tomes and 50-foot-long Frank Stella painting, closed, selling its remaining volumes on-line. Proving “substantially unprofitable,” Winnipeg’s McNally Robinson filed for bankruptcy protection in December and closed its first and only Toronto location (it blames e-books for disappointing sales) only months after opening at the Shops at Don Mills. Type Books’ Danforth location couldn’t draw in enough traffic to make a go, though the locations on Queen West and Spadina are still kicking. Heading into 2010 barely afloat, the Toronto Women’s Bookstore, which opened in 1973, hopes to avoid a similar fate by pleading for donations from its customers.
The fashion industry
In fashion, 175-year-old Dack’s Shoes went bankrupt and closed all four Toronto locations, going toe-up in a market that favours cheap and cheerful over quality, handcrafted footwear. And though classic bowlers and fedoras might be back in style, Rotman’s Hat Shop and Haberdashery, a relic from when Chinatown was Toronto’s Jewish quarter, hung up its hat after 75 years on Spadina.
In an area that saw much turnover in 2009, Nike and Puma closed their Yonge and Eglinton stores (though Puma has relocated to Bloor Street). For 82 years, tuxedo experts Syd Silver suited pimply prom-goers and nervous grooms but announced just before Christmas the closure of all 17 Canadian locations in early 2010.
The luxury sector
A number of high-end women’s stores have folded, notably the last location of Zola Shoes, which lost its Yorkville location in 2008, and 34-year-old Finishing Touches, the luxe Yonge and Lawrence boutique. The Yorkville outpost of Aquascutum sold off its remaining stock of signature raincoats after the company went bankrupt, joining other area stores, like Marc Laurent and Furla, in closing.
The mani-pedi hub at Queen and Tecumseth suffered the closure of such spas as Flow Nail and Aliviar, though the latter has been replaced by Spa Toi. The relatively new Toronto chain HIT Fitness, which offered “revolutionary” short workout sessions to busy patrons, also closed.
The decor icons
Asian-focused home outfitter Rumah closed after 30 years, and kitsch lovers bemoaned the loss of Red Indian Art Deco, Queen and Bathurst’s 27-year-old purveyor of jukeboxes and vintage furniture. Red Indian owner Brad Hill hasn’t entirely abandoned the concept of an art deco–themed store, though; he’s simply moving it out of the city to Sauble Beach. Modern furniture specialist Casalife shut down its Vaughan location to focus on the Liberty Village storefront, and Koma left its location at 1239 Queen Street West in September in search of a better space and presumably cheaper rent, though customers looking for a spring-loaded rocker or a metal beanbag chair can still shop on-line.
Other 2009 closures
• Cartel, 498 Queen St. W. (clothing)
• Urban Planet, 262 Queen St. W. (clothing)
• Heart on Your Sleeve, 61A Bellevue Ave. (eco-clothing, now on-line only)
• Da Zone, 498 Queen St. W. (sneakers)
• Token, 888 Queen St. W. (gifts)
• Studio Labiri, 548 Danforth Ave. (clothing)
• Left Feet, 88 Nassau St. (vegan shoe store)
• Mr. Movie, 108 Mutual St. (video rental)
• Barking Room, 744 King St. W. (pet grooming)
• Christmas Rose, 1798 Avenue Rd. (Christmas supplies)