With the day looking like a complete washout, literally, I abandon my earlier plan of a yard sale rummage and instead grab my brolly, don my Wellie-boots and take a walk on the east side, along Riverside.
As soon as you cross the Don River, over the bridge decorated with the words ‘This River I Step In Is Not The River I Stand In’ (mmm… a little confusing), there is a distinct change in atmosphere. Gone is the hustle bustle of downtown and instead you’re greeted by a laidback community vibe. As one of the city’s oldest neighbourhoods, Riverside is almost void of chain stores and is instead blessed with delightful, independent galleries, cafés, restaurants and shops.
If you’re on the hunt for something to brighten up the home, this street will be right up your alley. There is a plethora of home furnishing stores to while away a rainy afternoon, or two. Indeed, I first stumbled across Riverside just days after moving to Toronto from the UK, in search of a vintage piece of furniture to balance out my Ikea-filled apartment. I’m pleased to say I managed to snap-up a lovely vintage dresser.
It is fitting then, that my first respite from the unrelenting showers of the day, is furniture store Kimberley Jackson. This big, bright space is filled with unique handmade items created from salvaged barn doors and old buildings condemned to demolition. Kimberley Jackson is the brainchild of Jack Fice, who began making furniture as a hobby in his garage back in 2004. Turning his pastime into a business, Jack then opened a studio and store in Huntsville and, in 2010, an additional location here in Riverside.
While in the store, Jack told me “everyone was saying that Riverside was the perfect place for the business. They were right. It’s great. It’s given me the opportunity to reach an entirely new audience and develop a loyal customer base.” Still working from Huntsville, Jack makes regular visits to the Mennonite communities close to the town of Walkerton, to purchase reclaimed wood and, more recently, commission Mennonite craftsmen to make 80% of the furniture. The remaining furniture continues to be made in his Huntsville studio by his team of six, along with all the finishing. As well as the larger items, also available are stained glass window panels, created by a Riverside resident, and beautiful birdhouses (I want one – so what if I don’t have a garden?)
For a completely different furniture store, check out Studio Pazo across the road. Specializing in twentieth century modern furniture, Pazo sells Danish teak furniture – the must-have for every über trendy Torontonian – as well as chrome sputnik lighting and vintage clocks to please any Austin Powers wannabe.
Next door is the tiny (and I mean tiny) Rogue Gallery but what it lacks in size, it certainly makes up for in content. Overflowing with brightly coloured treasures from the 1950s and 1960s, you’ll find a great selection of glassware, lampshades, West German pottery and retro dinner sets that will conjure up childhood memories of Sunday lunch with the parents (at least it did for me).
Continuing further east along Riverside, you’ll find more furniture havens including Hardware, Philz and Elbers. Right now however, it is time to eat and I hone in on the Canadian Pie Company. With its cozy wooden interior and mouth-watering selection of savoury and fruit pies, this is the ideal place to banish the rainy day blues (the Portuguese custard pie is scrummy).
If this doesn’t quite fit the bill, fear not as Riverside serves up a great variety of restaurants to suit all taste buds, wallets and occasions. Of note are celebrity chef Lynn Crawford’s Ruby Watcho, crowd-pleaser Bonjour Brioche, classy yet homely Table 17, intimate bistro Le Rossignoi, lively Caribbean Real Jerk, cheap eats at The Wokker and meat-loving Dangerous Dans. Phewy, that’s quite a mouth full, and with plenty more shops to nip into – such as vintage clothing store Common Sort, Little Peeps for baby gifts and florists Quince Flowers and Stemz – Riverside is certainly worth exploring, day or night, rain or shine.
Riverside is located alomg Queen Street East on the east side of the Don River, mere minutes away from the downtown Toronto.
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