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Where to shop, stock up and get done up, according to NOW readers
It’s been another tough year for small business owners in Toronto, with many stores still operating under pandemic restrictions. There are many reasons to be optimistic, but as we head into an uncertain winter season shopping local is still the slogan. As usual, our readers’ have chosen mostly indie businesses their go-to places to stock up and get done up.
Come as You Are had been online-only since 2016, but reopened as a brick-and-mortar in Kensington Market late last year. Around since 1997 in various incarnations, the long-running co-op is one of the most inclusive sex shops in the city with products for all genders and orientations. It’s also one of the most accessible and welcoming, with a focus on education rather than titillation – a rarity among stores of its kind.
254 Augusta, comeasyouare.com
239 Yonge, 532 Church, 271 Queen West, stagshop.com
Rose Femia has more than 20 years in the accounting game under her belt. She’s the only female partner at Vaughan-based Fazzari + Partners LLP, the office she’s worked at since she entered the business as a co-op student in 1996. They provide tax assistance, accounting, business advisory, valuations and more with expertise across a variety of industries including manufacturing, distribution, construction and real estate development.
3300 Highway 7, suite 901 (Vaughan), fazzaripartners.com
Susan Feldman – Tax Ma’am
Earlier this year, the vets at Roncy Village examined a kitten named Dora who was having constipation issues and discovered that she actually had an incredibly rare condition: she was born without an anus. It was the first step in a saga that brought together specialist veterinary surgeons and the staff at Annex Cat Rescue to raise funds for Dora’s lifesaving surgery and treatment.
That story made headlines across the country, but on a regular day, the Roncy Village Veterinary Clinic is actually known for an incredibly courteous and transparent staff, making animal treatment hospitable even with the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic.
215 Roncesvalles, roncyvillagevetclinic.com
Bloorcourt Veterinary Clinic
1074 Bloor West, bloorcourtvetclinic.com
With three outposts in Toronto – including the original shop near OCAD University – Above Ground has been serving the city’s artists and art students for nearly four decades. The name comes from the store’s original location on a second floor, windowless space, but it now spans thousands of square feet across the city. Above Ground also hosts demos and tutorials on YouTube and has a listing of arts-focused community organizations on its website.
Various locations, abovegroundartsupplies.com
Midoco Art & Office Supplies
Various locations, midoco.ca
TD has the largest presence in Toronto with longer hours and more branches than its Big Five competitors. Canada’s second-largest bank also offers convenience with multiple checking options, in-house insurance and U.S. dollar accounts that are affordable and easy to use.
Various locations, td.com
The tucked-away location on Harbord near Bickford Park is no longer the only Glassbox Barbershop. The brand has expanded with new spots in Roncey, downtown on Bay and out of town in Hamilton and Victoria, BC. Each location lives up to the name. Massive windows give passersby a glimpse into the airy, plant-filled space, where clients range from hip urban folk to men old enough to remember the days of old-school barbers.
A repeat winner, Glassbox prides itself on mixing traditional barbering and modern men’s hairstyling, whether that’s reverse fades, creative line work or 50s-inspired quiffs.
338 Harbord, 43 Roncesvalles, 130-200 Bay, glassboxbarbershop.com
1270 Queen East, 402 King East, 1847 Danforth, 251 Gerrard East, hastingsbarbershop.com
The Annex landmark doesn’t just sell bikes. It’s been a hub for cycling activism for more than a decade. From bike swaps for kids and repair clinics for women, if there’s a bike for you, Sweet Pete’s will find it.
517 Bloor West, 1204 Bloor West, sweetpetes.com
2170 Dundas West, mojocycles.ca
With more than 4,000 products ranging from common to specialty foods, Bulk Barn has been a go-to in Toronto for nearly four decades. The retailer recently brought back its Reusable Container Program, which allows you to bring BYO containers to the cash before shopping to subtract the weight of the empty container from your purchase.
Various locations, bulkbarn.ca
1480 Danforth, baremarket.ca
CAFE continues to occupy the grey zone in the legal marijuana market – not officially licensed but a counterculture choice for its medpot cred, independence and know-how.
66 Fort York, 1321 St. Clair West, 104 Harbord, 932 Bloor West, iamcafe.com
Multiple locations, tokyosmoke.com
Our readers have voted this dog-friendly Howard Park auto shop tops in this category seven years in a row. Beyond offering engine repairs, brake service and oil changes, Josie Candito, Mike Tavares and Rui Silvestre’s service centre is regularly involved in organizing and publicizing High Park community events and fundraisers. If you want to learn more about your ride, Master Mechanic also offers frequent car-care clinics.
2 Howard Park, mastermechanic.ca
Dublin Auto Repairs
717 Runnymede, 416-762-6127
Shaw Communications’ discount mobile brand – with its 17GB data plans for as low as $50 per month with promo discounts – is so appealing our readers don’t even mind the five cents a minute outgoing call fee (who uses phones to talk anyways?) or the lag on 5G service. Freedom means getting away from the big cats like Bell or Rogers. However, with Rogers currently looking to acquire Shaw, Freedom Mobile may only be a kitten for so long.
Cleaning services can be a bit nerve-racking during the pandemic, with customers trying to find comfort in inviting strangers into their home to disinfect surfaces. Mopped Up’s female-led team boast pandemic safety training certificates. And they’ve been cleaning up in terms of rave reviews from clients left ecstatic with their spotless attention to detail and courteous staff. Even if you’re not ready to invite cleaners into your home, the Mopped Up team have been leaving helpful tips like how to drip-dry your toilet bowl brush on their Facebook page.
The Cleaning Spirit
With three locations across the city, at these stylish shops you’re just as likely to find high-end finds from designers like Rebecca Minkoff, Marc Jacobs and Junya Watanabe as graphic tees and 90s baby doll dresses. In addition to carrying a wide selection of outerwear, clothing and shoes for both men and women, Common Sort also stocks plenty of second-hand wares from chains like Zara and Aritzia, ideal for those who have sworn off fast fashion but can’t resist the trend du jour.
Various locations, commonsort.com
1410 Dundas West, vspconsignment.com
The website for the Residences at 8 Park Road looks like it hasn’t been updated in a decade, perhaps because everyone in the building is too busy lounging on their leather couches, taking in the scenic views from their elevated and well-appointed verandas. The residences also have indoor access to the Yonge TTC station. They probably would rather take the Rolls out of the garage, though, so they can visit their friends in the nearby posh digs at 89 Avenue, which NOW readers voted runner-up.
8 Park, 8parkroad.com
89 Avenue Rd, 89avenueyorkville.com
The female contractor, who has been in the game for over 30 years, is used to surprises. Ruth and her crew have grown the company into a thriving renovations business, bringing her expertise to the kitchens, bathrooms and living rooms of Olympians, authors, journalists and musicians.
236 Robina, renovationsruth.com
46 Noble, oddjob.ca
Dr. Judy Sturm has more than 30 years of dentistry experience, and it shows: she’s a repeat winner for best dentist. Services provided by Sturm and her associates include dental implants, porcelain veneers and TMJ and headache support. The practice makes a point of supporting patients who experience anxiety around dentist appointments, offering options for patients before they come in for their appointments.
77 Bloor West, yorkvillesmiles.com
Dr. Rob Eisen
5 Park Home #130, smile-by-design.ca
For the past nine years, this antique shop has been home to sustainable furniture, lighting and storage solutions. The wares on offer are pieces owner and self-taught carpenter AJ Geensen finds at auctions, estate sales and weekend yard sales. Geensen also makes custom dining tables, shelves, bars and storage solutions out of live-edge wood slabs.
790 Queen East, ajantiquerevival.com
Melissa Peretti Imagination + Design
The real estate giant has been making their mark across the city with luxury suites built downtown, along the new Eglinton line and west near Islington. Their Aqualina residences at Bayside won the LEED Platinum Certification for environmental responsibility and sustainable building for its use of solar panels. And their upcoming MRKT development at Alexandra Park won Best High-Rise Building Design at the BILD awards, where they also won the prize for green builder of the year.
The developer has recently been selected by Toronto Community Housing Corporation to develop the final phases of the Regent Park revitalization, taking over from Daniels Corporation.
4800 Dufferin, tridel.com
130 Queens Quay East, danielshomes.ca
The tradition of breaking new ground in cycling continues for Sweet Pete’s (see Best Bike Shop category), this time with batteries included.
517 Bloor West, 1204 Bloor West, sweetpetes.com
Various dealers, 416-792-3227, emmo.ca
Leslie isn’t here to demolish you with knee-drives and wide-grip push-ups, nor does she offer HIIT workouts on IG or YouTube. The former ballet dancer and her staff at the Mindful Movement Centre in Yorkville teach pilates, yoga and budokon to help you be fit and flexible and find healing. They won both the best instructor and studio categories with their centre offering private sessions and group lessons that are limited to five people during COVID times, to ensure the mindful breathing is also safe. And for those who want to share the wealth, Leslie and Mindful Movement offer extensive teacher training.
68 Scollard, suite 301, mindfulmovementcentre.com
Julie Sawchuk – Bomb Fitness
1502 Danforth and 862 Kingston, bombfitness.ca
Every weekend from May until Halloween, this local market-within-a-market set up shop behind El Gordo’s food market and fill it with some of the best independent local retailers in the city – everything from jewellery to clothes to kombucha. And this being Kensington Market, there’s also plenty of food to choose from, most from within the neighbourhood itself.
The Leslieville Flea
November 14 and December 5 at 735 Queen East, leslievilleflea.com
This mother-daughter duo has a Happy Hour feature where one type of flower is sold at a discounted price. The owners, Anji and Jazz Shukla, offer the special to make their bouquets more accessible for people who can’t afford fresh flowers, and they announce the discounted bouquet daily on Instagram. Pre-made bouquets and custom made bouquets are also available in-store and online, as well as an array of houseplants, ceramics and glassware.
194a Carlton, bloomingflowerbar.com
294 Roncesvalles, sweetpeas.ca
Where else can you walk into a store and walk out three hours later with a whole apartment’s worth of furniture (with a break for meatballs in between)? Ikea is Toronto’s (and planet earth’s) favourite destination for inexpensive-yet-stylish furniture and home goods, from omnipresent Lack tables and Billy bookshelves to entire kitchens and bathrooms. Just try to walk out with just one thing. We dare you.
Various locations, ikea.com
Various locations, eq3.com
Nestled comfortably between the Annex and Wychwood, this neighbourhood supermarket is distinguished by its eclectic product selection and customer outreach – like keeping everyone apprised of new developments on its blog, providing disposable masks to shoppers in the early days of the coronavirus outbreak and prioritizing delivery to vulnerable customers like people over 70, immunocompromised folks and expectant mothers.
200 Christie, fiestafarms.ca
Lady York Foods
2939 Dufferin, ladyyorkfoods.com
Come for the looks, leave with your own. The Cabinet Salon is a vibe, decorated with antique and modern interiors inside a historic 19th-century building at Queen and Portland since 2009. It boasts a gender- and gratuity-free fee structure – prices are based strictly on an hourly rate. They also sell beauty products from which five per cent goes to the Rainbow Railroad, a charity that helps LGBTQ+ people facing persecution find safety.
577 Queen West, thecabinetsalon.com
Daughter of Oz Salon
243 Greenwood, daughterofozsalon.com
This perennial Readers’ Choice winner is the local go-to denim destination, drawing in a loyal customer base who appreciate quality clothes and exceptional service. They appreciate it so much that Body Blue won in both the Jeans and Indie Men’s Clothing Store category despite the unisex inventory. The fresh looks are updated regularly from brands like Citizens of Humanity, Paige, 7 For All Mankind and more.
199 Danforth, bodyblue.ca
1010 Queen West, gravitypope.com
Over the Rainbow
55 Bloor West, suite 123, rainbowjeans.com
Never mind the diamond-encrusted wristwatches, moissanite rings and other wedding bling. Just the storefront is something to look at. The shop has a lovely exposed brick interior with custom cabinetry and vintage signs from its origins as a watch and radio repair shops. Edwards and Davies has been around since 1945, and now that Danforth Village is having a moment – with a rush of new residents and investments – the shop is ready to shine again.
2834 Danforth, edwardsanddavies.com
Made You Look
1338 Queen West, madeyoulook.ca
This repeat winner has locations across the city, and specializes in showcasing local, Canadian clothing and jewellery brands – including designs from one of the store’s co-owners. Operating with a goal of 80 per cent Canadian designers or more at any given time, you’ll find brands such as Melissa Nepton, Sara Duke, Valerie Dumaine and Eve Gravel, plus a few international brands. Think statement pieces, elevated office-friendly attire and unique jewellery.
744 Queen West and others, coalminersdaughter.ca
546 Parliament, poastudio.com
A new player in town supplanted perennial champ TekSavvy with contract-free fibre internet plans offering up to 1 gigabit/second upload and download speeds at $50 – about half the price of the competition. Beanfield is an independent service that doesn’t use Bell, Rogers or Telus lines, relying entirely on its own fibre-optic networks in Toronto and Montreal. But that means their service is currently limited to condos and commercial buildings. Service to the rest of us is still buffering.
67 Mowat, suite 418, beanfield.com
If you’ve been meaning to brush up on your language skills, for personal or professional reasons, the multi-campus GTA college has a range of continuing ed courses that are offered after work hours and online. From workplace communication skills for people who are learning English to interpreter training and American Sign Language and modern languages like Arabic, Korean and Spanish, Seneca has all angles covered.
Various locations, senecacollege.ca
Various locations, alliance-francaise.ca
This local Etsy shop specializes in handmade accessories made from hypoallergenic polymer clay. Visit to snag a pair of earrings for yourself or a one-of-a-kind gift. From minimalist studs with detailed etching and pale colours to long, black statement earrings made with gold tone stainless steel, SheMuse make statement pieces in a variety of styles, colours and textures. Free delivery is available in Canada and the U.S.
Toronto artist Nadia Lloyd’s face masks have been spotted on Mayor John Tory, Toronto Raptors player Fred VanVleet and so many others flocking to her designs, which incorporate the city skyline and, more urgently, Black Lives Matters. Five dollars from every BLM mask goes to Black Lives Matter-Toronto, and 100 per cent of profits from her Every Child Matters collection goes to Indian Residential Survivors Society.
John Esposito built his brand on social responsibility, whether its through repurposing old jewellery for new buyers or making sure all his wares are ethically sourced. Malleable is one of two jewellers in Toronto that are Fairmined certified (the other is Fair Trade Jewellery). That means the farmers, miners and everyone in between on the supply chain were not exposed to the hazardous or exploitative conditions so often associated with jewellery.
964 St. Clair West, malleablejewellers.ca
Michelle Ross Studio
15 Case Goods, mnross.com
The busy Danforth nail salon is back on top with our readers. With its sleek, modern decor and 15 stations for manis and pedis, Urban Nails has become a perennial go-to for people across the city, whether craving a fresh-but-natural look or elaborate nail art that will make a statement on social media.
179 Danforth, urbannails.ca
Tips Nail Bar
1243 Dundas West, 848 Danforth, tipsnailbar.ca
If you live in a condo or apartment building, you’ve probably seen Hello Fresh’s distinctive boxes all over the place. The ubiquitous meal kit service delivers everything you need to make dinner and the recipes to make it, pre-portioning ingredients so you don’t end up with way more rutabagas than you could ever use.
Getoutside calls itself “the sole of the city” and NOW readers clearly agree. The Queen West shoe store won in both the men’s and women’s categories. They carry a big selection of shoe brands, both casual and specialty, from Converse to Adidas to Toronto’s most ubiquitous footwear: Blundstones.
437 Queen West, getoutsideshoes.com
116 Spadina, 406 Roncesvalles, deadstock.ca
Rose Reisman is a registered nutritional consultant with an MBA to boot. On Instagram, she offers nutritional takes on the latest food trends, like the best oat milk on the market and everything you need to know about plant-based proteins. Reisman also shares recipes for breakfast, lunch and dinner: chicken “fried” quinoa, grilled naan pizza with Israeli vegetables and cheese, and layered tortilla, chickpea, tomato and cheese lasagna. She also does a newsletter and has published cookbooks.
This go-to downtown eyewear shop and optician promises to match each customer with the perfect eyewear and sunglasses. Their stock mixes frames from well-established brands to vintage in all shapes and sizes. A variety of contact lenses are also available, including soft, toric, coloured and bifocal lenses for daily, biweekly, monthly or yearly use. Eye exams are available every Tuesday.
33 Jarvis, opticzone.ca
173 Roncesvalles, owloptometry.com
Last year’s Best Grocery Store winner, neighbourhood supermarket Fiesta Farms is distinguished by its eclectic product selection and customer outreach via a regularly updated blog, providing disposable masks to shoppers in the early days of the pandemic and prioritizing delivery to vulnerable customers, including people over 70, immunocompromised folks and expectant mothers.
200 Christie, fiestafarms.ca
The Big Carrot Community Market
348 Danforth, 125 Southwood, thebigcarrot.ca
No more distressed whines or shrill yelps from your pets. Juju Grooms is all about alleviating stress and anxiety – yours and your cat’s or dog’s. They’ve got a good bedside manner and they can handle any breed-specific or style-specific grooming.
1684 Queen West, jujugrooms.com
Woof! Dog Shop & Daycare
843 Bloor West, woofto.ca
The pet store chain has locations across the country with food and supplies for dogs, cats, birds, fish, reptiles and other small animals. Find a large assortment of pet food and treats, toys, furniture, clothing and accessories like collars and leashes, as well as expert advice on nutrition and care, grooming and behavioural training. Pick up the store-specific monthly flyer for deals to spoil your furry friend.
Various locations, petvalu.com
Global Pet Foods
Various locations, globalpetfoods.com
This Upper Beaches shop does all its custom framing work in-house, and they focus on attention-to-detail. They consult with you based on your personal style and the unique properties of your object. So whether you’re framing your university degree (maybe a new one coming from X University?) or a special piece of art, you know they’ll do it right.
921 Kingston, yellowhousegallery.ca
111 Roncesvalles, sohoframing.com
Tucked into a narrow space on Spadina, Black Widow specializes in black and grey, single-needle and traditional Japanese work. Owner Chino brings 28 years of international tattoo experience, while fellow artists Jesse, Jazz, Vince and Guido round things out with a variety of approaches to black and grey body art.
188A Spadina, widowtattoo.com
104 Ossington, bellwoodstoronto.com
Sometimes that camera on your cellphone isn’t going to cut it. The staff at this family-run business offer a ton of expertise with each camera purchase, so a visit is worth your time. Find lighting, drones, printers, used items and accessories. You can also shop online or participate in events and seminars run by community members and staff that cover everything from the basics of capturing beautiful photos to hands-on technical tricks.
119 Church, henrys.com
89 Queen East, downtowncamera.com
It takes a lot to stand out as a realtor in Toronto but RE/MAX West Realty agent Dias manages to do that with her focus on the environment. The former biology student is a GREEN Real Estate Broker, according to her site, certified by the Canada Green Building Council and an M.Sc in Building Science. With so many new condos boasting of “sustainable building,” Dias can likely help cut through the noise.
1678 Bloor West, remaxwest.com
1820 Bloor West, rinomato.com
In an unaffordable rental market, it’s nice to see a place offering move-in perks like two months’ free rent, a fully stocked wine fridge and gift cards for Netflix and Ritual. The Brixton doesn’t come cheap: one-bedroom apartments range between $2,000-$2,500. And the catch is that the building is still under construction. But it’s hard to beat the newly finished suites located in Little Portugal just at the edge of Parkdale.
400 Dufferin, rentbrixton.ca
30 Kimbercroft, davpart.ca
After 20 months of pandemic anxiety, who doesn’t need to relax, de-stress and get pampered? This handsome, multi-storey retreat in the centre of the city (steps from bustling Yonge-Dundas Square) will rejuvenate you – inside and out. Whether you get one of several types of massages, a facial, body treatment, mani/pedi or other beauty services (or lunch in their Terrace restaurant while wrapped in your spa robe), you’ll remember your treatment for months afterwards. And during the chilly winter, what better way to relax than sliding into a whirlpool or meditating in a steam room?
18 Elm, elmwoodspa.com
Body Blitz Spa
471 Adelaide West, 497 King East, bodyblitzspa.com
Toronto’s premiere sporting goods store has expanded beyond its flagship location near Yonge and Lawrence, but its selection of upmarket sports equipment, athleticwear, footwear, outerwear and accessories remains unmatched. Whether you’re looking for all things cycling, jogging or want to get off the couch and take up a new winter activity, Sporting Life has it. And be sure to check out their clearance section for great deals on last season’s hottest merch.
2665 Yonge, Yorkdale Shopping Mall and others, sportinglife.ca
300 Queen West, 784 Sheppard East, mec.ca
The owner of Bellwoods Tattoo, located on Ossington near Trinity Bellwoods Park, Mulé is known for her black-and-white geometric designs and realistic portrayals of animals and florals. People come back to the studio for her attention to detail and striking imagery.
104 Ossington, bellwoodstoronto.com
Psych Young, PunkAss Piercings Ink
3093 Kingston, punkasspiercingsink.ca
Singleton is a registered psychotherapist who sees both couples and individuals – in-person and virtually – working on relationship conflict, eating disorders and body dysmorphia, sexual and gender identity issues, trauma and more. Like many in the field, Singleton now offers sessions via video and text-based therapy using secure software platforms such as OnCall. She also welcomes free 20-minute phone consultations if you’re looking to see if she’s the right fit.
60 Atlantic, bronwynsingleton.com
489 College, somatictherapytoronto.ca
Now that people are starting to travel again, you’ll want to make your next big trip extra memorable – and unique. That’s what this boutique agency specializes in. No cruises, bus groups or cookie-cutter tours will be on your itinerary. Instead, founder/owner Anna MacKay will listen to your travel wants and dreams and draw on her own experiences travelling the globe to custom-design something for you and your small group. The glowing testimonials speak for themselves.
72 Highfield, yourjourney.com
New Wave Travel, 1075 Bay, newwavetravel.net
For a decade, Arts Market has been a place to find a one-of-a-kind handmade piece, but it’s also a business that fosters entrepreneurship among indie artists. Daniel Cohen rents out space on affordable, short-term leases and has on-site managers that help artisans grow their sales acumen. The business was steadily expanding before the pandemic and has since scaled back to Riverside and Junction locations, which accommodate a total of 150 artists. It’s been a tough year for indie artisans but Arts Market continues to persevere just in time for the 2021 holiday season.
2978 Dundas West, 790 Queen East, artsmarket.ca
577 Queen West, outerlayer.com
If you’re in need of vintage leather boots, Courage My Love should be your go-to. Its racks are brimming with eye-catching apparel, designer silk scarves and some very cool tie-dyed cashmere. Odds and ends like glass swans and intricate hair combs adorn every available smidge of extra space. Walking in can feel like going through a time portal to 1975, when the store first opened. Shop in person or slide into their Instagram DMs to inquire about products. They also have an Etsy shop that sells accessories.
14 Kensington, instagram.com/cececourage
Public Butter Vintage
1290 Queen West, instagram.com/publicbutter
Getoutside are double winners this year, and their big selection of women’s shoe brands shows why they won this category. The Queen West shoe store carries just about any casual footwear you could think of, from Birks to Chucks, slippers to boots – even a whole vegan section.
437 Queen West, getoutsideshoes.com
773 Queen West, heelboy.com