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Get to know a street: Geary Avenue

Posted by Derek Flack / February 19, 2013

Geary Avenue TorontoGeary Avenue has a little bit of everything. From auto body shops to hydroponic outfits to restaurants to recording studios, as far as Toronto streets go, this is as diverse as it gets. Although it stretches just a short kilometre and a half west from Ossington Avenue before dead-ending somewhere between Dufferin Street and Lansdowne Avenue, in that span over 50 some odd business dot the street.

In the past I've characterized the strange makeup of Geary as representative of an identity crisis, but this is anything but a bad thing. It's a street in transition — and despite recent additions, it's far too early to consider gentrification as a fait accompli. Perhaps the first signs of such a process are visible, but things move slowly here. Don't hold your breath for the collective exodus of the autoshops, but in the meantime, there's plenty to explore.

Geary AvenueGeary can be broken into three parts: 1) the stretch between Ossington and Dovercourt, which features a mix of residential and commercial properties, 2) the main retail / commercial drag between Dovercourt and Dufferin, and 3) a semi-industrial section to the west of Dufferin. As such, the majority of the businesses highlighted below can be found between Dovercourt and Dufferin.

Riders Cycle and BoardRiders Cycle and Board (80 Geary)
I'm completely biased given that I live around the corner, but this might just be the friendliest bike store in Toronto. Geared to commuter cyclists first and foremost, don't let that fool you into thinking they can't do just about anything here. I won't take my bike to be serviced anywhere else. From a sales standpoint, look for a variety of used bikes but no beater death-traps. Also worthy of note is the espresso bar. Valentine pulls a pretty good shot.

Album Studio Rentals (92 Geary)
Photographers looking for high-end studio space might consider this sprawling 4800 square foot space tucked behind a nondescript facade just west of Dovercourt. Divided into two studio spaces (the smaller one starts at $350 per day while the larger space is $650), it probably won't attract too many starving OCAD students, but if you've got the coin, the light is fantastic.

Auxiliary CrossFit (346 Westmoreland)
Auxiliary CrossFit is located in a 5,000 sq. ft., second-floor space just north of Geary. The gym is on the bare bones side, as you'd expect from a CrossFit gym, but it can easily accommodate up to 15 people per class. Membership rates start at $90/month for two classes per week.

Airsoft TorontoToronto Airsoft (136 Geary, unit 109)
Virtually hidden within the warehouse-like building at 136 Geary is a hub for Toronto's airsoft community. What's that? Airsoft guns are kind of like BB guns, but use small plastic pellets instead. As the only retail store of its kind in the province, it's become a gathering place for enthusiasts, who liken airsoft to paintball (though obviously without the tell-tale sign that one's been hit).

Theatrix CostumesTheatrix Costume House(165 Geary, 2nd floor)
This ain't your average costume shop. Over and above the sheer variety of items on offer (the space is huge), Theatrix also does custom work, make-up service, and prides itself on going beyond Halloween cliches. A go-to for Toronto theatre productions, this place takes its costumes very seriously.

Grow It All Hydroponics (165 Geary)
Insert stoner joke here — but really you shouldn't as that's just way to predictable. What's not predictable, on the other hand, is the variety of environments in which you can get plants to grow provided that they're give the right nutrients and light. It's with the latter two that Grow It All specializes. It goes without saying that the staff are extremely knowledgeable.

Newport Fish Importers (181 Geary)
Newport Fish Importers sounds very much like a wholesale operation, but this Portugese fishmonger and grocery store is also oriented toward walk-in traffic. A relatively recent addition to the neighbourhood, it provides a welcome alternative to the seafood department at nearby Sobey's, which always sends me into a sort of depression when I pass by.

Paris BakeryParis Bakery (191 Geary)
Don't let the name or the Eiffel Tower on the sign fool you, Paris Bakery does Portuguese-style bread and treats the best. As much as I'm faithful to Nova Era, which is basically across the street, every time I try a loaf from Paris I tell myself I should stop in more often than I do. Try the pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tarts) — so good.

Nova Era (192 Geary)
One of a number of Nova Era's scattered about the city, this location acts as a hub of activity on Geary as locals stop in for baked goods and coffee. Perhaps the best part about Nova Era is the lunch counter where you can grab excellent toasta mista and other sandwiches. The sugar-coated doughnuts are to die for.

The Monkey Vault (213 Geary)
The Monkey Vault is precisely the type of place that makes Geary Avenue a unique street. After all, where else are you going to go for parkour and street acrobatics training? One of the coolest "gyms" you'll find, the vault has some conventional strength and conditioning machines, but the fun part is the DIY foam pit and rock climbing wall. A variety of classes (for a variety of levels) are offered.

Issie Cycling (225 Geary)
Issie Cycling, named after its owner Issie Chackowicz, is a hole in the wall bike shop that's open irregular hours, but worth the visit if you're looking for qualified repair work and decently priced new bikes and accessories.

Kitch TorontoKitch (229 Geary)
Ah Kitch, if there's one place on here that would lead one to mutter the word gentrification this is it. With a room that'd be just as home on West Queen West, this hip restaurant-bar is exactly the type of establishment that gets buzz words like that rolling off people's tongues. And, to be fair, owner Bryan Jackson has put a lot of faith in the idea that this is a neighbourhood on the rise, so maybe there's something to such talk anyway. For now, this is by far the coolest bar/restaurant in the vicinity.

Rehearsal FactoryRehearsal Factory (330 Geary)
Tucked away on the quieter side of the street beyond Dufferin, the Geary location of the Rehearsal Factory is a favourite jamming space for up and coming Toronto musicians. Rehearsal areas include the requisite amps and drum sets, while on-site equipment rentals are an option as well. Production facilities are also on offer. Sometimes it's cool to stand outside the place and listen to the bands work on their stuff.

Get to know more Toronto streets via our Toronto Streets Pinterest board.

Discussion

16 Comments

EricM / February 19, 2013 at 08:48 am
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Kitch and Nova Era are both great! The Spicy Mac and Cheese and Kitch and pretty much anything from Nova Era are worth a try. The Paris Bakery seems as though it is perhaps still on the way to fully 'gentrifying'... Pretty interesting pocket to keep an eye on as things move forward. Good piece!
Mike Brooker / February 19, 2013 at 08:49 am
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I have a photo album from 2008 of Dupont St., containing some Geary Ave. scenes, between Ossington and Dovercourt.
https://picasaweb.google.com/110651300809173192594/Dupont
b.craftie / February 19, 2013 at 08:49 am
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Located at 225 Geary, Unit #3, just north of Dupont, east of Dufferin, ChocoSol is open to the public. In their own words, they made "pedal powered, stone ground, socially just, whole food chocolate". Their chocolate is available at many local food markets throughout the city, but here you can watch the chocolate being made and buy some to take home. $20 minimum, please bring your own containers.
http://chocosol.posterous.com/

acb87 / February 19, 2013 at 08:53 am
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the old stomping grounds of my childhood. Im surprised I never got hit by a train after all that playing on the train tracks. Kitch is a nice place but its,so dead during the night on most nights.
EricM replying to a comment from Mike Brooker / February 19, 2013 at 08:53 am
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Cool pics! Amazing to see how much has changed in what is a relatively short time.
Rob / February 19, 2013 at 10:33 am
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In b4 someone mentions how dangerous this area is because the retailers don't fart rainbows.
Jenny T replying to a comment from Rob / February 19, 2013 at 11:28 am
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lol what does that even mean? Honestly, not even close to a dangerous neighbourhood anymore.
Rob replying to a comment from Jenny T / February 19, 2013 at 11:37 am
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I'm joking. It's an ongoing thing on this blog. Area looks slightly run down, attracts small town hipsters/overeducated dorks with no street sense, then they comment here on how terrifying living there is. See the recent posts on some of the downtown condos.
Jenny T replying to a comment from Rob / February 19, 2013 at 12:01 pm
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Fair enough. lol I guess I was the small town hipster, although that was some time ago... I hope I'm not the overeducated dork though! I'd take this area over the Spadina and Bloor student Ghetto any day. And I'm not after a condo for a number of reasons anytime soon. Still, I know why folks love the place. :)
Corinne / February 19, 2013 at 01:10 pm
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I grew up on one of the side streets which run perpendicular to Geary, and am still there on at least a weekly basis. It's one weird little street, and always has been. The strip between Bartlett and Dufferin in which most of the shops mentioned in the article are located used to be Lumber King Lumber Yard, until a couple of kids decided they should find out what happens when you throw a lighted match onto a stack of wood in the middle of a lumber yard. The train which derailed in Mississauga about 1979 causing the thousands of people to be evacuated would have come across the rail line located just south of Geary. I still remember my cousin from Oakville literally bracing herself when we would go to the "Gal", ie: The Galleria Mall at Dufferin and Dupont, which required us to walk Geary. There was the occasional movie/TV shoot on the street - evidently its sketchiness, coupled with the train tracks made it a perfect locale for "some dangerous part of any town". Good to see it evolving - it's been a long time coming - and interesting how it's retained its edginess. Now it's a question of how to manage the traffic which the businesses should/are/will generate.
Ian / February 19, 2013 at 01:23 pm
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One thing that I would add to this list is Superframe, at 100 Geary. They did an awesome job on a holiday present, can do custom framing, art framing, anything you need. Quick work, and further ensuring my needs were met/I got what I want, I would highly recommend.
Uhhuh / February 20, 2013 at 09:20 pm
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EastWest Hapkido at 183 Geary (right beside Newport fish) does some interesting classes and also provides space for Capoeira Males, a capoeira school for adults and children. A unique place to check out.
moving company Orlando / April 11, 2013 at 05:27 am
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Ginny / May 24, 2013 at 02:22 pm
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Just found your blog today, when looking for Vanipha on google. Has anyone ever ordered anything from her? The spring rolls and shrimps are TDF. Have to find out why her fantastic restaurants closed and now apparently only catering - maybe wholesaling. I'm in Washington DC at the mo where have not found any thai/lao restaurant that is anyway near hercaliber.

Oh yes, found Vanipha at 221 Geary. Enjoying learning about Geary St.

Chgeers Ginny
Homer / December 29, 2013 at 10:55 am
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Geary Plaza is as good as it gets, and what some of you see as positive change, I see as a layer of scum settling on small businesses and good people. If you think that a coffee shop is better than an auto shop, you can take kitch, insert it in your body,and get out of my neighbourhood.

Adam / April 10, 2014 at 07:31 pm
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300 Geary is home to Sterling Button, Canada's largest wholesale Button store.
We're open to the public, and we have tens of thousands of styles of buttons available.

300 Geary is also home to Sterling Screen Printing. We make custom tshirts, buttons, magnets, stickers and more. We do screen printing, embroidery, direct-to-garment printing, and we're open to the public as well.



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