My recent history tour with Gene Domagala through the eastern and northern part of the Beach introduced me to the Kingston Road area and the historic significance that it played in the development of East Toronto. Gene also introduced me to Carolyn Pitre who helps to run the Kingston Road Business Community. Through an interview with Carolyn I discovered that the Kingston Road area between Main Street and Victoria Park Avenue is an interesting and diverse shopping district on its own right, so this sunny Saturday morning I set out to discover some of the merchants and products on offer along Kingston Road.

The first place I visited is housed in a beautifully renovated former movie theatre; gorgeous picture windows light up the tasteful interior of Memories Now and Then, a high-end consignment store owned by Nadine Steinberg. Nadine welcomed me to her store and explained that her store features select pre-owned furniture, rugs, china, lamps as well as vintage jewelry. She added that all the pieces that she carries are upscale and hand-picked.

Nadine has many years of experience in the china, crystal and silver retail business. Her mother and sister have been in the antique business for many years, so Nadine’s love for high-quality items with a history was kindled a long time ago. She likes that the pieces she chooses are in good condition and well taken care of, and her store is an opportunity for her customers to see attractive home décor items that have stood the test of time. Memories Now and Then is very spacious, and tasteful displays are set up on three levels: the basement, the main floor and a second storey gallery that was especially created for Nadine by her landlord when she first bought the store. Nadine adds that her customers come in from areas such as Rosedale, Forest Hill and North York, and many of them have been referred to her by word of mouth.

I continued my stroll along Kingston Road and dropped in at the Pegasus Community Thrift Store, run by volunteers for the Pegasus Community Project for Adults with Special Needs. Marie Perrotta, the founder and executive director of this non-profit organization, was in the store together with a volunteer. I had already had the chance to meet Marie on previous occasions and was deeply impressed by her organization and her dedication to adults with special needs. During the week adults with disabilities run the store, assisted by staff and volunteers. The store’s merchandise includes items produced by the program participants, including hand-made greeting cards, soup and cookie mixes and bookmarks.

On the weekend a variety of volunteers come out from the community to help. Naomi Drayton told me that she regularly volunteers for Pegasus. Every Saturday she comes in for a few hours. She mentioned that she has a young daughter, and her volunteering at Pegasus gives her a great opportunity to get out of the house and socialize with people from the community. In addition, she does it for a good cause since all the sales revenue generated in the thrift store goes towards the Pegasus Community Project.

Naomi used to live in a small town outside of Toronto and just moved to the Beach about a year ago. She loves the area and enjoys all the thrift shops along Kingston Road and does most of her shopping around here. Naomi added that she is going to be living in this area for a long time and she wants her daughter to grow up in the Beach.

Another person in the store piped up and said “I just opened a store a few doors down. Why don’t you come visit me too?” So I decided to pop in at Flip a few steps west of the Pegasus Community Thrift Store. The owner Fiona Bramzell and her five year old daughter Paige greeted me warmly. Fiona, originally from England, opened her store last November. Flip is a consignment store that features used clothing for children from newborns to twelve year olds. In addition, it also carries some clothing items for adults.

For now Fiona’s store is open three days a week while Fiona still holds down another part-time job at Savoury Grounds Coffee Company, a popular coffee shop in the area. But she is planning to open six days a week in the near future. In addition, she is currently applying to become a copy editor for Harlequin Publishing and added that she has written several non-fiction articles for different websites. She also regularly recaps reality TV shows for a website called Fiona definitely has an interesting mix of talents and hopes to be able to soon dedicate more time to her retail store in the near future.

My next visit was to the Farmer’s Daughter in the Pantry, a specialty store that offers farm-fresh hand selected produce, pre-made meals and desserts, as well as freshly baked organic breads loaves and baked goods. Specialty products also include home-made jams, jellies, salsas, chutneys, fresh dips and spreads. Michelle Shabatura literally IS “the farmer’s daughter” – she grew up on a fruit and vegetable farm in Southwestern Ontario, and with the help of her family she still operates a 4-acre pesticide free field on the farm in a small town called Waterford.

Her store has been open for almost two years: the doors opened on May 13, 2005, and since then Farmer’s Daughter has become immensely popular in the neighbourhood. Michelle mentioned that her customers’ needs dictate the product line that she carries. Many local residents, including busy professionals and retirees, come to her store to purchase prepared foods, and she is in the process of developing an entire weekly meal program that will include prepared meals for every day of the week that can be picked up from the store. The weekly meal program will include a selection of fresh fruits as well.

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