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Fashion & Style

Is Corktown Toronto's next design district?

Posted by Robyn Urback / April 28, 2012

Ethel TorontoCorktown is probably one of the last neighbourhoods that comes to mind when looking for great design. The Junction is the place for salvage and antiques, King East for the newest in high-end and modern — but the blocks just to the north? Not much.

Though it looks like that might start to change. After all, the right ingredients are already in place; plenty of vacancies, relatively cheap rents, and an influx of first-time homeowners who will need to deck out their new condos.

Longtime Leslieville design shop, Ethel, is already prepping for its move to Corktown next week. The shop has been on Queen East for at least the past 15 years, under the current ownership of Shauntelle Le Blanc for the last three. But the sale of the building, combined with a rise in rent and decline in local sales, has motivated Shauntelle to pick up and move the store elsewhere.

"Financially, the cost to lease is quite high," she says. "But I also felt that while Leslieville has this 'retro' reputation, there are a lot of tire kickers; they like the idea of the shop being here, but they don't actually shop here."

Shauntelle's rent was to go from $4000 to $4500 monthly — not an incredibly drastic increase, though she says her new landlords also expected her to help with the cost of repairs and maintenance. So she starting looking around the city for new neighbourhoods for Ethel. "One that kept coming up," she says, "was Corktown."

"I think it's where Leslieville was 10 or 20 years ago," Shauntelle continues. "Especially with the condo development, there will be lots of new people looking to buy coffee tables. The people in Leslieville already have theirs."

Of course, that's not the view of all the design shop owners in Leslieville, many of whom consider the area to be flourishing with furniture customers. "I think it's as vibrant as ever," Jake Keck, owner of Machine Age Modern, says when I stop by his store. "Especially on weekends, there are lots of people. Many come from the west end specifically looking for furniture."

Jake does acknowledge, however, that rising rents in the area have made running a business tough. "Leslieville is not a deal, that's for sure," he says. "My rent has doubled — tripled since I first moved in. That's why so many businesses come and go."

He admits he never thought of Corktown as the next up-and-coming design district, but some new businesses owners have already sniffed out the potential. One is Carmen Tsang, who just opened up her design shop Even & Odd yesterday.

"It has all the things we were looking for," she says when I ask her why she settled on Queen and Parliament. "The area is developing — it has personality — and the rent is pretty good."

"With all the condos developing nearby," she continues, "people will be moving in. And they'll need home accessories."



steve / April 28, 2012 at 09:07 am
I love cork town, for its feel, charm and potential. Used to think of Liberty village that way too. *sigh*
Larry / April 28, 2012 at 10:35 am
Welcome to Corktown! Check us out at corktown.ca or send an e-mail to info@corktown.ca for information about our Corktown Residents and Business Association.
H2BO / April 28, 2012 at 12:53 pm
Just stay clear of the "Homeless Gauntlet"........Sherbourne to Parliament.

So terrible.
Crocography / April 28, 2012 at 01:33 pm
Although this article doesn't mention it, Corktown has lot more in it than the writer realizes. I believe that the Distillery District is also part of Corktown. At least this is how the city defines it.
Mesonto / April 28, 2012 at 03:06 pm
Corktown is blossoming! Just in time for Spring. Becoming a real gem in the city.
Michelle / April 28, 2012 at 05:44 pm
One of my favourite shops is between Sherbourne and Parliament - Free My Interior, they do custom cushions, headboards and have an affordable selection of vintage furniture.
Kurt Diener / April 28, 2012 at 07:45 pm
Welcome to Corktown! If you are looking for a condo or home please contact me at kurt@kurtdiener.com or call me at 647-234-5878
nippleholic replying to a comment from H2BO / April 29, 2012 at 01:54 am
Agreed. Walking past the Good Sheppard makes my skin crawl.

Jeebus / April 29, 2012 at 07:02 am
"Agreed. Walking past the Good Sheppard makes my skin crawl."

Well done my son you are the dirt that hold this planet together. lol
michael / April 29, 2012 at 08:28 am
I Remember when Ethel first opened ( in a smaller location across the street) What happened to Craig and Greg who opened and operated it for Years? Loved those two !!!
iSkyscraper / April 29, 2012 at 10:14 am
New York Times seems to think it is, at least as a parallel to Dumbo in Brookyln...

Zipper replying to a comment from Jeebus / April 29, 2012 at 10:26 am
Come on Jeebus, give it a rest. You are the type of person that calls someone 'Dirt'. Nippleholic makes a valid point that Good Sheppard place is bad news for their community. I only work in Corktown and have to walk past the Sheppard centre most everyday and have seen men pissing against the walls there, shouting at women (sometimes that woman is me) and always, always blocking the sidewalks for pedestrians as they light up their dope. Get real Jeebus, that place is no good for their neighbourhood and the administrators of that place should be ashamed of not policing it better. On a side note, Corktown is starting to rock.
Rosie / April 29, 2012 at 10:44 am
Corktown is such a beautiful place but I agree with zipper, her issues when walking past that Sheppard cetnre are similar to mine. Those men outside need supervision. If I never hear another "baby why don't you..." I will be so lucky.
al kikuras / April 29, 2012 at 12:42 pm
I agree, with Zipper. These godamn poor people that clutter the street really spoil my otherwise nice day.
Sam / April 29, 2012 at 01:06 pm
Mark my words! Corktown is the next Leslieville. Besides, some grit is good along with chic!!
angelonfire / April 29, 2012 at 06:21 pm
al kikuras they don't clutter they completely block the street and they yell obscenities at you. You obviously are not a woman. Glad you live in your man's world, heaven help your wife, if you've got one.
BM / April 29, 2012 at 06:56 pm
That's too bad. I live in Riverside. That part of Corktown is a part I tend to stay away from. Good luck. :-)
al_kikuras replying to a comment from angelonfire / April 30, 2012 at 12:31 am
so walk on the other side of the street-yuppie
BM / April 30, 2012 at 07:37 am
Right angelonfire...the homeless are now targetting women only. Run for your lives!
Minnan-Wong Glasses / April 30, 2012 at 08:25 am
What our administration is looking at is making being homeless illegal. All these people have mental disorder and should be put into hospitals for their own safety. The taxpayers should not have to be harassed while they are out spending their hard earned money.
Seema / April 30, 2012 at 09:55 am
Some of the commentators i.e. BM and al_kik would have everyone believe "oh poor homeless" and the rest of us would agree. But when I walk with my kids down the side of Tracy I don't need to see the men with their penis's hanging out peeing against walls. I live just to the north of the centre and I know there are toilets inside the centre for these men to use. I think we are getting the idea of homelessness mixed up "people who don't give a sh!t". And even more to the point no one is ever going to say the homeless should be outlawed (unless your alias is M-W Glasses) but people should behave properly while in family oriented neighbourhoods. BUt Corktown is changing and changing in great ways, I agree with Rosie though some areas need supervision... hey Sheppard Centre what do you guys say?
Gravelly-voiced Homeless Man / April 30, 2012 at 10:19 am
All you people keep talking about the Sheppard Centre which is located at Yonge and Sheppard. The Good Shepherd Centre on the other hand is in Corktown.

Get it right or go back to Orangeville, ya goof yuppies.
Seema / April 30, 2012 at 10:33 am
@homelessman Maybe the reason no one is using the word "Good" in front of the Sheppard Centre is because most of the women in the neighbourhood with families don't find it to be good for their families or neighbourhood.
Fieldgater / April 30, 2012 at 03:28 pm
Yeah, we always figured Corktown was an up-and-coming neighbourhood! http://fieldgatehomesblog.com/2011/12/13/corktown-whats-up-in-the-neighbourhood/
smartassmike / April 30, 2012 at 04:01 pm
Seema, it isn't just about the lack of the word "Good"; it's about the incorrect spelling of "Shepherd" which isn't the same as "Sheppard" the street. That will be all. :)
Seema / April 30, 2012 at 04:43 pm
@smartassmike You are right I stand corrected. But as a mother of 2 young children, I still stand behind my love of Corktown but my distaste for the Shepherd Centre.
Poor person / April 30, 2012 at 05:15 pm
Seema. Seema. You are spoilt rotten and although you think it's all about you and your little miracles I think it's really about your property. I know it's not fashionable currently but find some grace AND humility or STFU.
Rich Person / April 30, 2012 at 08:51 pm
Hey 'Poor person' stop calling people names. Anyone with a shred of decency would understand why she (seema) doesn't want to have men exposing themselves on the street to her or her kids. This is about bad behaviour (yours included), just because you may be poor doesn't excuse you from not behaving in a civil manner in our neighbourhood. Contribute like everyone else, do it positively and proactively.
Rich Girl / April 30, 2012 at 09:01 pm
@poor person. Really? Spoilt rotten because she doesn't want to see a guy pee on the side of a wall in front of her and her children? I would say that isn't asking for much. Gimme a break.

Yay for Ethel! I hope it is a great business venture for you and your business! Long Live Ethel!
Kotter / April 30, 2012 at 09:09 pm
To answer the title question. NO Corktown is not the next design district.
Poor Person / May 1, 2012 at 03:46 pm
So the ill and the poor no longer have a place in your $1500.00 strolller lane?
Your mayor will take of it, call 311. Demand your rights as a taxpayer! No more dirty mentally men! Think of Seema's "little miracles". Jebus wake up you stupid idiots. The poor and sick have a right to piss.
HeyDay / May 1, 2012 at 04:59 pm
Poor Person, urinate in/on your own home not on my home. BTW, you are the type person Corktown people must despise, you are not mentally ill just an a$$hole.
Middle Class replying to a comment from Poor Person / May 1, 2012 at 06:35 pm
Isn't there a park you should be occupying. Your right to be a filthy degenerate stops when it spills onto public property and sidewalks. Keep it in your pants pervert.
mike1234 replying to a comment from Poor Person / May 3, 2012 at 11:30 am
The argument wasn't that they cannot take a piss, it was that she (and we all) do not want to seem them doing it OUTSIDE IN POBLIC. Taking a piss outside is illegal, and you can get fined for it. Though when you're homeless, a fine is the least of your worries. Maybe you are poor, or maybe you are one of those people who feels the need to attack someone whom you perceive as "rich" or successful (both definitions can mean different to anybody). Either way, try constructing a logical argument, it will probably help you
Quark replying to a comment from Zipper / May 3, 2012 at 01:31 pm
So where are these poor people supposed to go, if not Corktown? To the streets? Or to a place like this (http://en.memory-alpha.org/wiki/Sanctuary_District)?
poverty stricken pee pee dude / May 3, 2012 at 03:56 pm
Look at Seema posting under all those pseudonyms. How sad. Can I use your can Seema? Could I sleep in one of your three extra bedrooms hon? Look for me babe... I am the 50 something guy on the church steps with my Macbook Air. Peeing. You hysterical shrew. BTW the poor were in Corktown a lot longer before you and your spawn picked up that property deal in the the neighbourhood. Corktown will never gentrify if me and my buds have a say in it.
AOB replying to a comment from poverty stricken pee pee dude / May 3, 2012 at 05:02 pm
For someone so poverty stricken you sure have high level access to the interwebs.

And not to worry, you and your buds wont have any say in it.

Just like they had no say over in Regent Park when it finally started cleaning up its act.

You'll all be swept away.

Quark replying to a comment from AOB / May 3, 2012 at 06:32 pm
Wish that we all could sweep away neocon idiots like to to a distant planet, where you can be greedy, stupid, ignorant of anything except your own material comfort, and where you can live in cities devoid of culture, art and decent food, FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIVES. Wouldn't that be fun for the rest of the human race?
oranjj replying to a comment from Seema / May 3, 2012 at 07:09 pm
Friggin' entitled parent. Go live in Stoufville or something.
AOB replying to a comment from Quark / May 3, 2012 at 08:19 pm
I love culture, art and great not decent food.

Doesn't mean I have to give a shit about how other people choose to live.
Poor Person persecuted by Seema / May 4, 2012 at 01:13 am
Lying here from my damp vantage point in front of the Good Shepard, I can feel the winds of change a comin'.
Poor Person persecuted by Seema / May 4, 2012 at 01:15 am
AOB aka Sleema.
Sheri / September 10, 2012 at 12:06 pm
If you're interested in renting your condo or house please call us.
Veronica / April 5, 2013 at 10:54 am
The us vs. them game will only end in violence: like the violent words used here to describe a whole class of people. The only solution is better services for care & opportunity for rehabilitation. The Good Sheppard is one of the most important factors of this neighborhood, but it can't do it alone. There is no sweeping away a problem such as poverty- there is only the conquest of poverty. The exodus that the regent park community members suffered had real consequences- just ask Brampton. There is no way around it we all must recognize the economic injustices being perpetuated and seek to erradicate that system which keeps people believing in quick fixes that discriminate a whole class of people. That's how a relatively small group of people could change our community, the city, the country for the better in a sustainable and REAL way. Denial, or sweeping it aside only makes an otherwise fleshy heart, harden. Keep it real corktown.
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