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Design Stores

Ransack the Universe

Posted by Laura Adams / Posted on February 21, 2013

Ransack the UniverseRansack the Universe is Bloordale's one-stop shop for vintage goods, records, local crafts, jewelry, and one-of-a-kind decor. Originally located in the basement of 1207 Bloor Street West, the store recently expanded to the main floor when the previous occupant, 69 Vintage Collective, moved out. The eye-catching display of vintage accessories, records, and knickknacks in the window has let people in on the secret of Ransack's treasures, greatly increasing the number of visitors since January.

Ransack the UniverseOwner Jess Paehlke opened the basement store just over three years ago as a means to sell his collected goods while avoiding the occupational hazard of getting rained on at outdoor markets. The store is a way to indulge his love of collecting things, "but then I don't have to keep it," he explains. The goal is simple: to counteract mass-produced, big-box store culture by selling unique goods, be it vintage or handmade, with a sense of humour. "We look for quality things, but we also look for ridiculous things. Absurd things."

Ransack the UniverseI could definitely sense the influence of Paehlke's dry wit throughout the store, making for a particularly amusing treasure-hunting experience. Vintage romance novels are priced variably depending on whether you refer to them as "smutty books" ($10) or "erotic literature" ($20). Handmade soaps by McCabe's Essentials are affectionately labeled "Smelly stuff: $5 or 3 for $12."

Ransack the UniverseMost notably, scattered throughout the store are "crass cross stitches:" framed cross stitches of your favourite expletives and colourful synonyms for body parts (priced variably, around $10-$40). I was taken aback a few times when an intricately stitched swear word or insult jumped out at me, slyly, from among the merchandise.

Ransack the UniverseOther handmade goods for sale are striking for their creativity and charm. Some of my favourites included scrabble letter cufflinks ($15) and rings ($8), tweek trouser cuffs for stylish cyclists ($28), button earrings by Jesse plus Josh ($10), and printed canvas totes by Avril Loreti ($15). Handmade goods are "local-ish," says Paehlke, from around 30 artists either working at the store, in the neighbourhood, across the GTA, or in nearby locales like Cobourg, Peterborough and Guelph.

Ransack the UniverseDespite the departure of 69 Vintage Collective, there are still plenty of vintage goods to be found at 1207 Bloor Street West, including men's and women's clothes, outerwear, accessories, housewares, art, books, furniture and knickknacks. I had to peel myself out of an antique wooden rocker ($125) sitting amidst the furniture and kitchenware in the basement.

Ransack the UniverseAmong the wide range of clothes and accessories upstairs, I spent far too long digging through vintage buttons ($2) and scarves ($4), and admiring retro Samsonite and Collacutt shoulder bags in sky blue, tan, and orange ($35-$45). The collection of obscure vintage board games (most around $20) made me want to host my own game night just to learn what a round of Chicken Out entailed.

Ransack the UniversePaehlke is keen to mention that the record collection is also big draw to the store, particularly as vinyl grows in popularity across Toronto. Their collection includes bins of "cheap-o-records" for thrifty collectors ($4 each or 3 for $10).

Ransack the UniverseSince moving above ground, Ransack has seen more and more visitors like me--curious passersby who may not have the need (or space) for anything they see, but who stay for longer than intended and enjoy a laugh. Paehlke has also noticed that Bloordale is becoming somewhat of a vintage shopping destination, where groups of friends come for brunch and "do the strip" of vintage and thrift stores from Value Village eastward. Ransack is open to one-time visitors, loyal regulars, vinyl enthusiasts, and vintage aficionados seven days a week, 12- 7 pm (6pm-ish on Sundays).

Ransack the UniverseNow that they've taken over the main floor, Paehlke will "keep on ransacking!" He is considering outdoor bargain yard sales in the summer, and exploring what new ideas work with the expanded space. Out of Toronto's many vintage and handicraft stores, why is Ransack worth checking out? Paehlke offers a simple argument: "We have cool stuff but we're cheaper than Queen Street. Come to Bloordale first!"

Ransack the UniverseRansack the UniversePhotos by Jesse Milns

Discussion

11 Comments

junk / February 21, 2013 at 12:25 pm
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Looks like another overpriced junk store
AmH / February 21, 2013 at 12:37 pm
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Unfortunately quality vintage clothing today is no where near as abundant as it was in the glory days of the early to mid nineties. The well has run dry...the internet has sprung. Most clothing sold as vintage today would've been stuff you saw in the cast off bins back in the day. Plus...bed bugs.
Miss C / February 21, 2013 at 01:50 pm
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This is the best shop in the world!
Ol Mista Buzzard / February 21, 2013 at 01:52 pm
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I don't like much, but I like this store. Very much.
moonshake / February 21, 2013 at 03:51 pm
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The best vintage clothing was actually back in the early to mid 1980s. Great '40s, '50s and '60s finds including 60s clothes that had never been worn. Luckily I still have some of the vintage dresses I bought back then because you'd never find them today unless they were priced well over $100 a pop.
Miss Kriss / February 21, 2013 at 03:51 pm
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This is great shop with a lot of wonderfully chosen items (less on clothing, more on decor). Glad to hear they have the entire to spread out around.
Matt replying to a comment from junk / February 21, 2013 at 08:37 pm
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It's actually pretty reasonable compared to a lot of vintage stores.
secretshopper / February 21, 2013 at 11:33 pm
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meh. service was bad -- can i get a hello?!?
1secondOneshot / February 22, 2013 at 03:52 am
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I LOVE this store!!! It's quality vintage pieces for great prices. The Atmosphere is quirky and fun, makes for a great day out with friends. the shop minders were helpful and very Accommodating. Def one of my favorite shops in TO!!!!
Moi / February 22, 2013 at 11:18 am
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Prices look good. Lots to choose from. Vinyl better priced than other stores. Finally. :)
Brian / February 23, 2013 at 08:06 pm
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The best vintage clothes were actually during the 30's cause all the super high quality suits from the roaring 20's were on sale. And zero bed bugs,,you know what I'm saying AmH?

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