Lea-Ann Belter Bridal
Lea-Ann Belter Bridal has moved its flagship store to the curious corner of Dundas and Broadview. I say "curious" because this the intersection is largely neglected - hardly abuzz with blushing brides or fervent shoppers. Indeed, the area is somewhat unremarkable; a bit too south to really be part of East Chinatown, slightly north of some of the Riverside charm, and too far west to be considered part of Leslieville. But hey, it's where the streetcars turn. That's something, at least.
Lea-Ann Belter Bridal made the move here nonetheless, leaving its former Queen East home after seven years. The bridal shop's gowns can be found in more than 50 stores worldwide, but its flagship store is and always has been in Toronto. And as of about three weeks ago, it can now be found on Dundas East.
Area locals might recognize the site as that of a longstanding Coffee Time location. And, yes, it had a lot of the cracks and creaks that are somewhat typical of Toronto's untouched chain coffee outlets. So, needless to say, Belter wasn't exactly inspired when her realtor took her to check out the building.
"I thought, 'Ew, really? That old, run-down Coffee Time?'" Belter tells me as we chat in the completely made-over space. But she was back soon enough, determined to find her own space to buy and inspired by the building's potential-ridden frame. The owners of the building of her former space on Queen were looking to sell and the timing (and price) of the Coffee Time structure seemed right.
So Belter jumped on it. But the leap, it should be noted, was more of a treacherous, eight-month trek than a leisurely bounce. Everything - from heating and cooling, floors, windows, stairs, and walls - everything was renovated and made anew. Coffee Time's drop ceiling was eliminated, revealing big double windows and more than 13 feet of height (though the airy blue the boutique has chosen for the walls makes it feel much larger). The dark wood floors create a sense of sophisticated elegance, which will surely be maintained by the "please remove your shoes" policy at the door. And romance is hinted by the subtle lip prints in the exterior wall, much more understated than, say, the True Love Cafe several blocks to the west.
The gowns themselves are very much in keeping with the showroom's vibe; that is elegant, clean, romantic, and sophisticated. Belter began her bridal career after graduating from fashion school, asked by her brother to design a dress for his fiancé. She found she had a knack for creating gowns for urban, profession women, and now offers a collection that is made entirely in Toronto. Prices range from about $2,100 to $5,100, though most gowns ring in at around $3,000.
I ask Belter if she thinks her arrival will catalyze a change in the surrounding area. "Everyone has been excited," she says. "And I think it may encourage nice new businesses to move into the area."
Belter adds that she has ordered a new exterior clock and it should be fixed up soon. "This is just a beautiful building," she says. "And I think you can see that now."