What the Vintage
What The Vintage is Scarborough's go-to spot for vintage and mid-century modern furniture. The Coronation Dr. showroom is a vintage lover's dream - a stockroom overflowing with Danish teak pieces and some retro odds and ends, all hand-picked and hand-refinished by owner John Baltazar.
The store is hidden away in a sleepy office park in a residential neighbourhood, with a small sign posted at the driveway the only clue to the shop's location. Inside, credenzas, Danish sofas and '70s chairs are stacked three-high, with just enough space left between the piles to get around.
It's an awe-inspiring sight, and little overwhelming, but Baltazar makes for a knowledgeable, friendly guide. There's no walk-up traffic to speak of, but most visitors, drawn in either by the store's strong online presence or by simple word of mouth, already know what they're there to see.
What's the story behind the unusual location? "I outgrew my garage," laughs Baltazar, whose passion for hunting down vintage toys (he estimates he owns almost every G.I. Joe action figures from the '80s) eventually expanded into furniture.
Two years after launching, the business remains in Scarborough, far removed from the city's biggest vintage-furniture shopping areas. Baltazar says that's partially because he wanted to work close to home and partially because the location sets him apart from the rest: "I'm doing something that's different. I'm not down on Queen East, right?
"If it's a good product, people will come to you," he adds.
That strategy has paid off; vintage-seekers from all over town are paying Baltazar's studio a visit, or ordering wares from his website (as a bonus, Baltazar offers free delivery to anywhere in the Toronto area).
While he used to pick items from estate sales and garage sales (which the Scarborough location also makes a little easier), more often than not, people actually come to him with items they're looking to unload due to a move, or even a death in the family.
"It's a weird concept, but it means a lot to people to see that it's not going to be tossed away, and that it's going to be repurposed and someone else is going to love it for another 30 years," Baltazar says.
Some items require a little extra TLC; Baltazar spruces them up in the back of the showroom, oiling dried-out teak, replacing cigarette-burned tabletops, replacing chair webbing and sometimes fashioning entirely new cushions. Baltazar taught himself to do most of the repairs, picking up tips from local upholsterers and cabinet makers, but he's never content to let amateurish work out the door; he says he's ripped apart upholstery he wasn't happy with and started over from scratch. "I'm not knowledgeable about everything, but it's really just a passion to get those pieces ready for people's spaces."
Mid-century buffets remain Baltazar's top seller ("they grow wings, man"). Though most of the shop is occupied by big-ticket items, like a set of wicker tub chairs ($1100) or a teak sofa ($1000), he also does a brisk trade in lamps, tablewear and other knick-knacks, priced as low as $15 (for a pair of salt and pepper shakers).
Most things, however, "take time for the right person to come along."
Big changes are in the works: the business is moving in March to a location located just five minutes away in Guildwood. In fact, Baltazar will be setting up shop in a detached garage behind a house he and his wife just purchased - so he'll be working even closer to home.
Photos by Javin Lau.