Vintage Home Boutique

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Whatever Happened to 710 St. Clair West?

09 September, 2014 0 comments Leave a comment

Does the address of our new store sound familiar? If you live in the area of St. Clair and Humewood/Christie, it might. This address was the flashpoint in a neighbourhood battle over a fast-food drive-through. The story of 710 St. Clair West was so newsworthy that it reached far beyond our neighbourhood and even influenced city policies on drive-throughs.

Let’s take a brief look back. The site at 710 St. Clair West had been a McDonalds’ since the 1970s and had become part of the neighbourhood. The restaurant was not a cause for concern until 2001 when McDonald’s announced plans to rebuild the existing restaurant and add a second storey and drive-through.

For those unfamiliar with the site, it helps to get an idea of the lay of the land. The existing restaurant is a single storey with a parking lot to the east. Attached on the west side of the restaurant is “Unit B,” also owned by McDonald’s, which would have been torn down and turned into a drive-through window accessed through the easterly parking lot and alleyway that currently runs behind McDonald’s. Given the congestion and heavy pedestrian traffic near the restaurant, residents became concerned about bringing a higher volume of cars to the intersection. They were also very worried about noise levels, air pollution, and the visual impact of the additional signage and illumination from the drive-through.

They formed the Humewood Neighbourhood Committee and enlisted the help of local city councillor Joe Mihevc. Their demonstrations, petitions, and public appeals led the city to pass an interim bylaw that banned drive-throughs in the area for one year. Eventually the city would revise its existing bylaws to make the ban on drive-throughs permanent.

The Humewood residents succeeded in keeping the drive-through out of Unit B but the space stood vacant for a long time. McDonald’s was looking for an ideal tenant: someone who would not compete with them, i.e. no food service or restaurant, and someone who would not demand extreme changes to the building. It turns out that we were just such a tenant.

We had been operating our vintage furniture and refinishing business out of our garage but decided it was time to take the plunge and open an actual store. Given our focus on local sourcing, it was obvious that we had to look for a location in our own neighbourhood.

We scouted several sites but kept coming back to 710 St. Clair West. It had everything we wanted: tons of natural light, close to transit, and lots of parking. Other businesses were interested in the site but we were persistent and signed on as tenants in the summer of this year.

We have to say that, although McDonald’s was once the neighbourhood “bad guy,” they have been a wonderful business partner. As landlords, they have done a lot of structural work behind the scenes, making it much easier for us to transform the space into what we envisioned: a store that evokes the elegance of a reclaimed estate, features local manufacturers, and showcases the work of neighbourhood artists.

We are excited to be part of the happy ending in the story of 710 St. Clair West, working with our landlord to create a site that caters to slower times rather than fast food.

Why we started a vintage furniture store

24 November, 2013 0 comments Leave a comment

Her Side:

Working with your spouse can be a challenging and very rewarding experience all at the same time. But with the ever-growing dis-interest in the corporate world and realizing how far I’d come from that small rural farming community that I loved, and how my creative side had become completely stifled, it became blatantly evident, that my career had to change and it was worth the risks that might come my way. And what better way to embark on a new adventure, than to pair my skills with that of my husband. Despite the risks of opening your own vintage furniture store and all of the what-if’s, despite the fact that we’re both still juggling a full-time career while trying to get our business off the ground, despite being parents of an energetic 4 year old and being pregnant with our second child, it has been an exciting and energizing time to say the least. When trying to figure out how we’d be unique from all of the vintage furniture stores that dominate Queen Street, we started with what we were passionate about: Quality, Eco friendly Refinishing and Locally Sourced Products.

Local Sourcing: We love how our neighbourhood has grown. We love our friendly community. We knew that supporting our local economy and our local artists would be key to keeping the passion for our business alive. So, we decided that St. Clair West is the place for our business. And we fit a niche that is not currently available in our area. We hope our business continues to revitalize our community.

Eco Friendly Refinishing: Growing up on a farm, environmental sustainability is never far from my mind and an essential part of who I am. By finding pieces that may very well end up in landfills, repurposing and finding a new home for unique furniture that just doesn’t exist anymore is one way that I feel I can contribute in a positive way in a world where waste is unfortunately only growing. Being pregnant and wanting desperately to start refinishing furniture again, spawned Keith’s search for eco-friendly, low VOC refinishing and painting products. Mission accomplished.

Quality: Both in the products and services we want to offer. The current vintage stores that currently exist all have their benefits. We want to bring it all together and offer a wider variety of products and services to meet every client’s unique needs. We hope very much to be able to meet and exceed your expectations.

His Side:

I’ve always had this not so secret desire to own my own vintage furniture store. Maybe I’m crazy, maybe it’s genetic. My grandparents owned several businesses simultaneously before immigrating to Canada: bakeries, general stores, mines. Even when I graduated from university and started working as a Product Manager at Club Monaco, I loved the store. Helping people (customers) solve problems was something I loved to do. I would re-merchandise the store on breaks or come in early for a shift so I could walk the building, take notes and make things better for our customers. I loved showing people different looks and helping them find the perfect item. Quickly my career took off: Guess, Hbc & Lowe’s. All incredible companies where I learned a lot. But there was just something missing. As my career saw incredible success and progressed, I became aware that I was missing the energy, the passion and excitement of the store. I ran Stores & Districts; bought products; did visual nationwide; even human resources. But in these big companies it was all done separately. It was all about staying in your own “box” and not stepping on someone else’s toes. Working in a big company had me so focused on specific “accountability” that I stopped doing what I loved: Doing many different things to help customers solve problems. We are probably crazy embarking on this journey right now, when we both have great stable jobs, a “high energy” 4 year old and a new baby due in January. But we see a big gap in the market. Why should people in mid town Toronto have to go to the burbs or downtown to get quality furniture and accessories for their homes? Why can’t they go some place local, where they can find quality items at good prices? A place that also does refinishing in a eco-friendly way for their beloved treasures. A place that is warm and friendly; that you can bring your kids in and let them run around. A place that tries to get to know you and will stay in touch. A place that values the local community by showcasing Toronto based artists and manufacturers. We also feel strongly that furniture should last and not cost a fortune. So why?

Reason #1: My amazing wife. She is a passionate decorator who has an incredible eye for design. She can see beyond what something is into what something can truly be. She has a artistic talent with refinishing wood that is beyond description. She is creative, yet detailed and a perfectionist. She is a realist. She is methodical. She is the perfect balance for me.

Reason #2: I’m a bit of a dreamer who loves ideas and decor. I’m creative but definitely not detailed. I love to talk with customers and learn about them. I enjoy selling, as I see it as trying to help a customer find something they will love forever. I love marketing and design.

Reason #3: "disposable" furniture contributes a staggering amount of the total volume going into landfills every year. There is a place for this stuff. We even have some in our home. But imagine if you could get a quality, stylish product for a fraction of the price! I'll admit our stuff is not "cheap". But for the quality, it's incredible value! Long term disposable furniture is costing you about the same. The best part of vintage furniture, is it's generally the same price as a new "disposable" item and you will have it for a lifetime.

Reason #4: We see a gap in the market. You either have really great quality items, that you can’t let your kids and pets near - we aren’t big fans of the plastic covered living room. Or you have lower end items that you begrudgingly buy knowing that within a couple of  years you will be throwing it out. The environmental impacts of everyone doing this is staggering. So we thought what if: Furniture was able to last: update it with paint or upholstery over time. But it lasts. The style should be timeless. It should be such good quality that you can let your kids and pets on it. It shouldn’t cost a fortune. From these reasons, Vintage Home Boutique was born.

Our focus is Quality Furniture and Accessories, Eco –Friendly Refinishing Services, Local Sourcing.