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Design Stores

CB2 Toronto

Posted by Robyn Urback / Posted on January 21, 2012

CB2 TorontoCB2 opened its first Canadian store this week in the frame of what was once the Big Bop on Queen West.

There are hints here and there of the place that used to host teenage ravers and weekend GO Train riders, but for the most part, the transformation comes off as pretty drastic. Then again, I suppose any upgrade would look drastic when your starting point is of scuffed up stages and a throbbing purple exterior.

CB2 TorontoThe landlord, Daniel Rumack, was actually the one who took on most of the renovations, which included reinforcing the structure and replacing the floors on the second level. The building was first erected in 1876 as the Occidental Hall, later becoming the Holiday Tavern in 1948, and then endured several coats of purple paint in the 1990s in becoming one of Toronto's most-loved live music venues, the Big Bop.

After about two years of renovations amounting to somewhere in the realm of $4 million, the tarp was removed last week to reveal an impressive external restoration. While the first floor brick walls had been replaced with that increasingly omnipresent Queen West glass, the second-floor seemed rescued and returned to its former pre-stucco/purple paint glory, with red and yellow exterior bricks framing gorgeous original arched windows.

CB2 TorontoOnce you step inside, however, the extent of the renovations becomes clear. Far from the dingy, gothic space it was when operated as the Kathedral, the new area is open, clean, and quite brightly lit, albeit, bearing the Bop's original floors. The stairs up to the second floor at the northwest corner of the space reveal the shop to be self-contained; that is, in certain areas you're essentially in a glass box, with a couple of feet of space between the walls of the box and the exterior of the structure. In that way, the shop has a bit of a lofty feel.

The landing between the first and second floor pays homage to the former tenant with the Big Bop's sign mounted above CB2's living room setting. The second level floor has been overhauled and redone, though there are still a couple original sliding doors and other touches that have been preserved through the reno.

CB2 TorontoI spoke with Deidre Flynn, director of merchandising and operations at Crate & Barrel (CB2's parent company), who tells me the CB2 was actually looking at three different spots on the block when searching for a space for the store, including what is now the home of Joe Fresh at Queen and Portland. "It was the bones of this place," she says, referring to what finally had them sold. "It has really great bones, and we wanted to work with the space, work with the history to bring back the building."

CB2 TorontoVicky Lang, director of public relations at Crate & Barrel, pipes in: "What's the point of being in a historical building if you're not going to value the history that's already there?"

As much as the landlord and new tenants tried to salute the building's past, there's only so much aura that can be maintained when an international modern furniture retailer replaces a venue where angsty suburban kids banged their heads for two decades. No matter how much of the frame you maintain, it still feels different.

CB2 TorontoThis is CB2's first Canadian store, with the second opening in about a month in downtown Vancouver. The look is modern — neutrals mixed with bright oranges, neon greens and reds — and the product line is what buyer Ryan Turf calls "affordable."

That's a relative term, of course, but it's clear that CB2 is aimed at younger folk who've yet to pad their savings accounts and stock portfolios. I spot a white oak seats-eight dining table with tapered steel legs for $1099, a sleek olive daybed for $999, and a great arc floor lamp for $229. CB2 also has lots of little accessories and d├ęcor, such as a set of three frosted orange glass vases for $39 and a "dropped numbers" wall clock for $99.95. Almost everything displayed in store is also available online.

CB2 TorontoI find evidence of the target demographic when checking out a set of three wall magazine racks ($49.95). Ostensibly for display, each held a collection of paper file folders, one that was pen-inscribed with the label "Mac Updates," another with "OCD Articles," and the last with "Vegan Recipes." It's clear this isn't a space for metalheads or punk rockers anymore.

CB2 TorontoCB2 TorontoCB2 TorontoCB2 TorontoPhotos by Derek Flack



D-Bag / January 21, 2012 at 12:08 pm
I think I'll head down there and see if they need their windows squeejee'ed
alex / January 21, 2012 at 12:17 pm
that looks amazing, i cant believe the facade restoration ! :D
grub / January 21, 2012 at 12:32 pm
I hated the big bop, but it is kind of sad to see the location of my grimy adolescent memories turned into a bourgeois furniture store... :(
Sydney / January 21, 2012 at 12:44 pm
There's something really great about the neighborhood you live in growing up with you. It will be interesting to buy a desk lamp from the same building I got shit-face in while watching The Queers.
H / January 21, 2012 at 01:22 pm
The builiding looks amazing but makes me super sad considering all the good times I had in the big bop. It feels like a piece of toronto history is missing now. :(
Michael / January 21, 2012 at 01:40 pm
It's a pretty building. But CB2 sells Ikea-quality furniture at Pottery Barn prices, which is the worst of both worlds. At least in Pottery Barn, you get good furniture. And at least in Ikea, you get cheap furniture. CB2 is neither.
Dan / January 21, 2012 at 01:55 pm
Beautiful restoration, very fitting for CB2. Finally, no more ordering online, yeayyy :)
hendrix / January 21, 2012 at 02:35 pm
Looks great. Much better than the crap hole The Big Bop that attracted the worst of Toronto.
McRib replying to a comment from H / January 21, 2012 at 02:58 pm
not at all, the building is still there and the memories are still there, it just doesn't look like a complete fucking eyesore any more.

Now if we could only get rid of the frontier town-like utility poles from major downtown streets.....

lol / January 21, 2012 at 04:06 pm
just what Queen West needs... more overpriced furniture stores!
HOLDDDDD / January 21, 2012 at 05:35 pm
Store looks amazing. Whoever owns all those button stores west of Spadina is just waiting waiting waiting for a big payout.
The sweeping gentri-creep westward of Queen past Spadina is inevitable. Not saying that's good or bad, just saying it's going to happen.

crconrto / January 21, 2012 at 05:37 pm
This is what happens when big cities grow up. Now the "hip" neighbourhoods are moving further out and they too will be gentrified eventually. Stop whining about it, its enevitable. An evolving, growing core is better than a dying core.
Hooman / January 21, 2012 at 06:23 pm
I know it's a franchise, but I think they've done a great job with the street corner. It would have been one thing if they built a giant parking lot or smart center, but here they have preserved the architecture and the building looks nicer than before. I don't mind franchises if they build them to fit within an urban setting - they help revitalize the neighbourhood. Sorry, I'll take a booming Queen West today over a decaying street with dying retail.
Grant / January 21, 2012 at 08:47 pm
I understand the negative sentiment about another location that had cultural meaning to those who participated in the downtown music scene becoming a corporate retail space. It bothers me that the choice seems to be either decay through neglect of investment, or a franchise based revitalization, but I think this restoration is well done. Then again, maybe that's what is wrong, we value this type of preserved vision of our past, and somehow feel that some nicely positioned old bricks and windows make a great city?
Scott / January 21, 2012 at 08:49 pm
I'm not going to get into all the gentrification thread here, but the building looks nice. What is ugly is all the overhead wires Toronto has all over its streets - especially the streetcar streets.
Evan / January 21, 2012 at 10:02 pm
"No matter how much of the frame you maintain, it still feels different"

Gabe / January 21, 2012 at 11:04 pm
What Happened to the Boom Boom Room across the street???
Bob cob / January 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm
Yaaay another over priced superficial furniture store
No one is arguing if a booming queen west is good or bad. Most people are upset with the new clientele occupying the area. I don't really consider expensive American chain furniture stores considered part of the quickly fading art district.
Bob cob / January 22, 2012 at 01:24 am
The big bop was a great venue and hosted some amazing shows in the 90's and early 2000's. I think it's pretty ridiculous to turn it into a furniture store.
rapi / January 22, 2012 at 07:50 am
looks like orange is the new red....
Brendan / January 22, 2012 at 08:59 am

The Boom Boom Room was a little further west. It's now the Hero Burger at the north-east corner of Queen and Tecumseth.
Queen&BathurstResident / January 22, 2012 at 08:04 pm
As beautiful as the new CB2 is, if you're a resident of this area, and have noticed the design of the exterior...It unfortunately and unintentionally has provided optimal seating for the numerous groups of quidgy kids/ panhandlers w/dogs and the likes that this corner is notorious for, when you walk by, you'll see what I mean. I hope Property manager has a plan for "crowd control" this summer.
Justme / January 22, 2012 at 10:39 pm
Was the Big Bop great? Sure. Are we supposed to leave it sitting idle forever because of this reason. That's ridiculous. Things change. Especially cities.
Travis / January 22, 2012 at 11:16 pm
What's the cover?
Ben replying to a comment from lol / January 23, 2012 at 10:27 am
What does Queen West need then?
Ben replying to a comment from lol / January 23, 2012 at 10:27 am
Can I still book Holy Joe's?
Ben / January 23, 2012 at 10:28 am
P.S. Oh NO! A furniture store! QUEEN WEST IS DEAD!!! I'll be in ARDENE.
JT / January 23, 2012 at 10:29 am
CB2 has nice stuff inside. Modern furniture that is better quality than Ikea but also a bit more expensive. At the same time, they don't have ridiculous OMG sticker shock furniture prices like many many other King/Queen St furniture stores (like $5000 for a bed and $3000 for a glass dinning table with each of the 6 chairs costing $500!)
Rodney replying to a comment from JT / January 23, 2012 at 01:00 pm
dont knock it if you cant afford it.
most of the time, and I use that carefully, price does reflect quality so if you are comparing the $3000 table that was made in Italy to that at CB2 which may cost less than $1000 and made in China or Taiwan, I can gaurantee the quality, finish, and longevity will be very clear once compared.
again people, if you cant afford certain things, it doesnt mean its overpriced, which is why there are places like CB2, the product looks nice but may not last a long time, hence the cheap prices.
Anyway store looks great, cant wait to visit in person.
mike in parkdale / January 23, 2012 at 02:54 pm
I have a feeling that the restoration was so extensive in this place, that I'll have a hard time placing all the memories from Samba Squad concerts to back stairwells at Destiny Fridays. I can still picture the layout of Industry inside the shoppers drugmart on King, but I think this reno is much more expensive.
MDG / January 23, 2012 at 08:51 pm
For people working in the area, its a great addition. The Bop was great, but had become a sad, run down place. The store isn't overpriced for what they offer and they did a fantastic job on the renovation. Haters of change will never celebrate an addition like this... welcome CB2.
Deanster / January 24, 2012 at 10:24 am
This depresses me. What was once known as one of the most iconic venues in Toronto is now another hip furniture store. Great.
Erik replying to a comment from Queen&BathurstResident / January 24, 2012 at 03:20 pm
What a rude comment! Life sure must be tough when the rest of the world won't bow to you and scurry away at your every command. Queen St. W. isn't a theme park, it's a street. Try something more constructive: listen to their stories and don't judge human lives based on their misfortunate placement into an increasingly inaccessible urban environment. Please respect the dwindling public property spaces we still have, and recognize your privileges.
Mr. Wendal replying to a comment from Erik / January 27, 2012 at 06:07 am
But Erik, don't you know? This is typical of most WASPY Torontonians like Queen&BathurstResident: they think that they are more special than you or I, so they must be more well-regarded than anybody else, so much so that a chi-chi furniture store means more to them than a music venue where people played and enjoyed music in, and having a series of expensive crappy condos/big-box retail is more important to them than having affordable housing/small independent street retail. That's why they act the way that they do and say the things that they do, and vote against their interests like they do, and why they hate places like the Big Bop they way they do.

These people better hope that their circumstances don't change, because when it does, they will be on the street, burnt, fucked and out of the way. Most likely they'll be considering suicide and committing it, because they don't have the same strength of character and toughness the people they disdain do.
Make / January 28, 2012 at 11:55 am
Be happy that US chains are coming here to Toronto and giving people work. stop being negative and embrace change .
Billy / March 3, 2012 at 01:25 pm
This store is really nice, but I rather support my community (the Junction). Besides a lot of the product can be found at the furniture stores in my area at a lower price. Equilibrium gave me the lower price than cb2 for a dining table, and Martin down the street makes one of a kind reclaimed peices for a little less than cb2.
Carmine / June 27, 2013 at 10:06 am
One of the best stuff I have ever got for my baby's bedrooms is a double bunk bed together with room with a work area under it. The children really like going to bed up high and I like that we are using any and all of the space.
Adrianna / November 14, 2014 at 09:16 pm
There are plenty of wonderful types of kid's bedrooms out there.
It's so hard to get that balance between safe/practical and something that truly looks great!
Selecting fabric and styles that can last from toddlerhood into childhood is really difficult.
Fay / July 9, 2015 at 09:55 pm
Great product does not make up for bad customer service.

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