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Suburban strip malls: the Peanut Plaza

Posted by Guest Contributor / May 25, 2012

Peanut PlazaA strip mall will know varying degrees of success and failure over its years. The massive Peanut Plaza near Don Mills and Finch has known the latter, but is currently experiencing the former in spades. Built in the 1960's, this 100,000+ square foot beast has been many things to many people over the years.

Here's what you need to know about the Peanut Plaza:

  • Built in the 1960's
  • Currently over 100,000 square feet.
  • Gets its name from being literally shaped like a peanut.
  • Splits Don Mills in half, turning it into two, one-way roads on both its sides.
  • Parking comes at a premium from 9am to midnight every day. Saturday and Sunday are terrifying ordeals.
  • Owned by the secretive, clandestine cabal known only as The Sitzer Group.
  • Peanut Plaza has played host to a revolving door of shops over the years, but its chain-store mainstays include The Beer Store, Mac's, Pizza Pizza, McDonald's, Popeye's and Dollarama. The positive reputation Peanut Plaza enjoys comes from local store owners, however.
  • Mr. Jerk, a beloved Toronto franchise, built its first location here. Even those who've moved out of the area return for a combo.
  • Allan's Pastries is known far and wide for having one of the best patties in the city.
  • Harbour Fish & Chips still uses real Halibut, and fresh-cut fries - an increasing rarity. Vanier students would likely starve if it were to ever go away.

Peanut PlazaOf all the local businesses drawing customers in, no one has made a bigger impact than Tone Tai Supermarket. After IGA's closure in 2005, Peanut Plaza had no supermarket to speak of. With no main draw, the volume of customers receded. In 2009, Tone Tai overtook IGA's empty space, and became an instant success. The area's growing Asian population took to the place immediately, capitalizing on its amazing variety (4 kinds of durian!) and ridiculously low prices.

Peanut PlazaTone Tai's success brought a Bank of China branch, while Seneca Pub has met the increased volume of people by transforming into a full-blown (and well-frequented) sports bar.

Peanut PlazaWhile Peanut Plaza has been around for some time, its current success is reflective of the cultural changes all around it. Come for a Big Mac and 12-pack, stay for the fresh eel and curried goat.

Peanut PlazaPeanut PlazaPeanut PlazaWriting by Daniel Gerichter



What do you know about Peanut Plaza / May 25, 2012 at 08:56 am
Mr. Jerk ftw.
TJ / May 25, 2012 at 09:17 am
Such a ghetto mall. Dudes carrying knives and guns are around this plaza all the time. Friend got mugged here once a couple years back at knife point. At night, it turns into an occasional hub for youth gangs and drug activity. I say occasional because police caught on and visit this plaza frequently at night.
BIG CITY replying to a comment from TJ / May 25, 2012 at 09:23 am
If city life scares you, please go back to your mennonite compound in Kitchener.
George T / May 25, 2012 at 09:50 am
No thanks.
w-hat / May 25, 2012 at 09:56 am
Back in the early 80's when I was little my Dentist was here. He was draconian by modern standards. I used to get fillings all the time without freezing, and one time he literally pulled a not so loose baby tooth right out of my mouth with his hands. The strange thing was we lived no where near Don Mills.
Ian / May 25, 2012 at 09:58 am
Your camera/sensor is just a wee bit dirty there....
Dan / May 25, 2012 at 10:00 am
Great article on what's happening present-day.

Would've loved to read more history of the plaza. When I was a child, my favourite snack was the wedge fries and gravy from the Mary Brown's Fried Chicken.

The McDonalds ate up a big chunk of parking when it was built in the early 1990s. I think the supermarket did the same when Tone Tai took over.

Some other Peanut history:

1. The older of the two barber shops has been there forever. They still use the blue liquid to sanitize tools.

2. Remember the original lower level anchor store: Bargain Harold's? At one point, it was occupied by a bingo hall.

3. It was a big deal for the community when a doctor's office opened up in the mid-late 1980s.

4. The original pharmacy (Shopper's) was twice as big as the current one, but the pharmacists for both the former and present care a great deal about the community.

5. The original stroller ramp at the West entrance had small stairs and a steeper incline - great for kids to slide down.

6. Consumers Distributing occupied the space where the bank and thrift store now reside. A Roger's Video once occupied that space as well.

7. There used to be a donut castle/burger shack (with joint bathrooms). The Donut Castle was sold to a coffee time (?) franchise before its current incarnation.

8. There was no mention of the still operating Indian market or the American-style Chinese take-out place near the Fish and Chips place.

9. If I'm correct, part of the lower level used to host a strip club as well.
DKLo / May 25, 2012 at 10:03 am
Not a big fan of this plaza, but love this article. I always pass by it and thus this article feels like "home" to me
Gluten Free Edmonton / May 25, 2012 at 10:24 am
Oh memories of my old stomping grounds in Toronto.

Bargain Harolds and bi-way used to be part of the mall as well. I always used to cry for a toy from Bi-Way. I think there was an IDA in there as well at one point.

I remember when the McDonalds first opened up. It was a huge ordeal because it closed the one at Leslie and Cummer (Now a Tim Hortons).

I think there was a pool hall my brother used to go to often as well in the basement.

And just to prove a point about the peanut shape, here is the google map:,+Don+Mills+Road,+Toronto,+ON&;hl=en&ll=43.783364,-79.349549&spn=0.012533,0.01929&sll=49.891235,-97.15369&sspn=46.110979,79.013672&oq=peanut&hq=Peanut+Plaza,+Don+Mills+Road,+Toronto,+ON&t=h&z=16

BTW, yes, the mall was/is a ghetto, but it was my ghetto.


Torontonian replying to a comment from BIG CITY / May 25, 2012 at 10:28 am
What an ignorant comment. I happen to live right by there and TJ is right about all of it.
MSigs replying to a comment from BIG CITY / May 25, 2012 at 10:49 am
Well said +1
David L replying to a comment from Dan / May 25, 2012 at 10:53 am
You are correct, sir, my friends and I used to bike up when we were still pre-teens to try to get a glimpse of the strippers. Then we'd go to Consumer's Distributing and look at the electronics catalogue. It was all very Stand By Me ish. LOL
TOsince83 replying to a comment from BIG CITY / May 25, 2012 at 11:17 am
Well said +2
Sean / May 25, 2012 at 11:51 am
I don't notice it being a dangerous place at all. i, live at Yonge and Sheppard and do 90% of all my groceries here. tone tai is part of foodymart. the Chinese bbq store is actually one of my favorites in the gta
Ron / May 25, 2012 at 12:21 pm
It's interesting that the "Seneca Pub" which was Col. Mustard's till a few months ago, is doing so well. They had to change their name after 3 guys were shot, and 24 Year old Melvin Gomez was murdered there in late 2010.

Chris replying to a comment from TOsince83 / May 25, 2012 at 12:26 pm

I grew up in that area and some of my fondest memories were hanging out at the Peanut, looking at the toys and electronics at Consumers Distributing, while eating a patty and cocoa bread from Allans.

That area was great because it had no class divide - kids from all different backgrounds and ethnicities, from public housing, to larger 4 or 5 bedroom detached houses, all went to school together and hung out together after school and on weekends.

Growing up, I had no idea it even had a "bad" reputation until I moved away. I agree with David L. - It was very "Stand By Me" -ish.
The CJM / May 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm
My mom worked at the Rogers Video in Peanut Plaza for a little while. Definitely roughneck, especially when the sun went down.

More than once I saw a car turn the wrong way onto the divided Don Mills and have to reverse at speed back into the parking lot.
Tamir replying to a comment from Dan / May 25, 2012 at 01:02 pm
"6. Consumers Distributing occupied the space where the bank and thrift store now reside. A Roger's Video once occupied that space as well."

Hate to burst your bubble but the Consumers Distributing was actually in the Beer Store, seeing as how it had all the warehousing space.
christine replying to a comment from Dan / May 25, 2012 at 01:03 pm
yes, i used to love the kiddie stroller ramp! i'd slide down that thing LIKE A BOSS.

and in the basement, there was indeed a billiards pool hall. i used to go as a teenager and suck at it.
Dan replying to a comment from Tamir / May 25, 2012 at 01:21 pm
Not quite true. The Consumers definitely occupied what's currently the bank and thrift store, where the thrift store's area (and most of the bank's for that matter) was warehouse. The beer store may have expanded its warehouse after the Consumers left, however, there has always been a retail store front at the West end of the consumers distributing building as well. I don't recall what it was before the beer store if it wasn't the beer store at one point.
Frizz / May 25, 2012 at 01:43 pm
I remember Seneca Pub when it was still Col. Mustards. I loved that little dive bar with its shredded cheese poutine. My friends and I would spend Friday nights there doing 649s with Wendy the bartender. Ahh memories...
Gd / May 25, 2012 at 06:44 pm
before col. mustards it was jacky's.. lol what a dive.. but i hung out at that dive.. what was it before that though? i can't seem to remember..
Bsv / May 25, 2012 at 08:22 pm
I grew up going to the peanut.
The consumers was where the bank is.
The strip club was under the resturant which served not bad food but if you needed to use the bathroom, you went downstairs. Aka: be careful of creepy guys if female but don't worry the strippers always had your back.
The pool hall was where the pub is & I spent many a class playing a game or just hanging out,

And the bulk store never changed in all those years.
Ravi / May 25, 2012 at 09:35 pm
I grew up in the area. That mall was the depressing and embarrassing ghetto ass little brother to Fairview mall. maybe it was good in the 60/70's but it sucked from then until now.

David Katz / May 25, 2012 at 11:39 pm
Wow...blast from the past. Appears to be just as sketchy as in the 80s.
dnr / May 25, 2012 at 11:56 pm
Back in the 70's Peanut Plaza had a great pizza place called don valley pizza. It's not the plaza that's shaped like a peanut, it's the island that it's on. Went to both schools there - woodbine and vanier. The plaza was sketchy back then. The pool hall was friightening. looking at pictures of it now - i don't recognize it at all.
John / May 26, 2012 at 01:01 am
Cops are here all the time. Got stopped by the cops for 'loitering' when I was just looking at subway's store hours around midnight. Proof that this is a pretty ghetto neighborhood.
Once you pass the bridge over the highway (near fairview mall), it's all good. Tons of condos being built and the area is being modernized.
4Corners4life / May 26, 2012 at 08:16 am
I used to attend george vanier during the mid to late 1990s and the peanut plaza was the scene for many school yard brawls (mainly involving females) and other fond memories. Allan's patties were the best, Mr. Jerk food was ok, and the area was a fun place to be on any given day of the week. It was the heart of all 4 Corner youths.
milo / May 26, 2012 at 09:03 am
i did nightschool at Vanier in the late 90's and never found this area to be ghetto. I only imagine it's even better now as the homes there are expensive.

To all the people complaining about how dangerous it is -- please stay in Hamilton ...
Kris / May 26, 2012 at 09:27 pm
I have lived in the are of the Peanut my whole life. All areas have had their 'ups' and 'downs', the Peanut now is clean, modern, safe, and has a terrific variety of stores. To all those complaining about the 'ghettoness' of the Peanut, to ensure your safety, I suggest you don't go to Yorkdale, Scarborough Town Centre, Fairview or any other malls where there have been 'problems'. I pity those who live with such unwarranted fear and delusion. This article not only brings back great memories but also illustrates the Peanut's great future.
Samantha / May 26, 2012 at 10:36 pm
I also really enjoy the thrift store there. I have found some really great items there!

Louis / May 27, 2012 at 01:26 pm
I can't wait till this place is replaced by a nice condo.
GA / May 29, 2012 at 03:10 pm
i recall riding my bike to Peanut Plaza back in the day (early 90's) and there was a park/ramp kinda underground (probably where delivery trucks go to drop things off. My buddies and I rode our bikes down there and looked through some peep hole in a door and saw what looked like a strip club. It was awesome!

I was like 12 or 13 years old so take this with a grain of salt. But does anyone else recall anything like this? Maybe it was a teenage dream...

This whole memory seems like something straight out of the Wonder Years or Stand by Me.
BVMS / May 31, 2012 at 09:01 am
Alright, I grew up in the peanut plaza area and to this day still live there. I do not frequent the peanut much but occasionally I drop in. I recall the Consumers Distributing it was around the area of popeye's and subway but it was detached from the main plaza. I also recall when there was a liquour store there and they use to have a jeans outlet called boo-boos. I remember Don Valley Pizza, quite enjoyed that but they had a St. Clair ice cream store before it turned into Baskin and Robbins which then was turned into Pizza Pizza. Also in the early days of the peanut there was an ice cream store called Mr. Magoos. And yes, Mary Browns had the best fries anywhere ... in the paper bag ... those were the days! I still wish there was a Food City or IGA versus the Tone Tai but I'm probably one of a few. Alright did I trigger any other memories?
JJ / June 1, 2012 at 10:53 am
FRIZZ & GD- I went to Vanier SS, after class we would all drink and play pool at Jackies... Friday nights, that the the spot!! I was there a few times when the cops rushed the place looking for wanted people. It never really phased us and seemed like "just another day" at Peanut tho. Glad to hear it's cleaned up.
JJ / June 1, 2012 at 10:58 am
... and I remember Reggie, the bartender there. And the lady with long blonde hair.. is that Wendy?
Quark / June 1, 2012 at 01:45 pm
Peanut Plaza at the corner of Don Mills and Finch? Uh-uh! Try Don Mills and Van Horne Avenue-I know, because I used to live at the corner of Edmonton and Van Horne when I was a kid, and also my parents would go there sometimes.

Which reminds me-I have to go back there one day, just to see how things still are, and what has changed, myself.
Quark replying to a comment from Louis / June 1, 2012 at 01:51 pm
I hope that it won't be; there must be some other place near Don Mills and Van Horne that could become a condo. The Peanut Plaza's a main shopping center for that area.
J smith / June 8, 2012 at 10:50 am
I have lived in the area since The mid 60's and still do.

Don mills ended at Van Horne

Fairview was an open field

Joe the baber at the Don Valley Barber Shop is the only original tenant still in the plaza. He is approaching retirement. He still cuts my grey hair

The Royal Bank had a branch in the plaza.

Everyone east of the Peanut and south of Van HOrne had to go around the Peanut to south on Don Mills and meeting a car going the wrong way way almost a daily occurrence
MsNY replying to a comment from w-hat / June 21, 2012 at 11:23 pm
Dr. Rouhani?
MsNY replying to a comment from Dan / June 21, 2012 at 11:26 pm
Re: point 5 - that ramp was awesome; though clearly not the most accessible

Re: point 6 - do you mean Cash Converters?
MsNY replying to a comment from Kris / June 21, 2012 at 11:35 pm
Hear hear
Ted / July 8, 2012 at 05:44 pm
The McDonalds here isn't bad provided you don't mind not getting your order.
Kevin / August 14, 2012 at 08:53 pm
Picture taker, get your sensor cleaned ya dope! I sell cameras and am gonna use your pictures as reference next time I'm talking about cleaning.
Richard replying to a comment from Dan / August 22, 2012 at 12:34 pm
I remember this Plaza growing up as well. I lived in the "Brown" building across the street and would play in the mall almost everyday. and YES i remember sneaking downstairs to the Strip club ONLY to have them catch me and call my
Richard replying to a comment from J smith / August 22, 2012 at 12:35 pm
YES we used to sit on the rocks outside my building to watch all the cars that would come out and head north onto Don Mills when its clearly marked ONE WAY only...all those honking horns made us laugh...
Adam / September 5, 2012 at 04:27 am
I am enjoying reading your article. It grabbed my interest and I could read it over over again.
I remember this Plaza growing up as well. I lived in the "Brown" building across the street and would play in the mall almost everyday.
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cooper cook / October 26, 2012 at 10:36 am
I have to say this is a first but since were on the topic of malls. my friends were visiting a mall in Nevada and they say a dentists office inside the mall. I first I thought it was a little strange because when you think of a dentist office you think of a nice and quiet place to work. And when you think of a place like the mall it's kind of really the opposite.
bonnie / February 1, 2013 at 10:39 pm
Was interesting reading about the Peanut. I went to Woodbine Junior High in the late 60's and remember going to the Mall for a coke. I also remember having to run the whole peanut for gym class..the whole school had to do it!! Anyone else remember that?
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Ned / May 15, 2013 at 10:16 am
TJ's strip club was a dump that I loved to sit there enjoying a beer or 2 every weekend. / December 13, 2013 at 01:49 pm
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Dude / May 17, 2014 at 05:13 pm
Spent many a night at TJ's. It was gone by the time I started at World Master TKD, though. I always parked in the tiny underground portion of the lot around back for both rear entrances. The dojang has moved to a spot with better visibility now, but these days I only drive into the area to load up on produce at Tone Tai.

I had no idea about the gun violence.
Rach / July 26, 2014 at 11:40 am
HORRIBLE experience at the Dollarama...the management is so horrible and rude! I did a video blog on my experience. Never experienced such disgusting behaviour in my entire life. Shame on them.
kim replying to a comment from Rach / August 13, 2014 at 11:24 pm
As are the folks at Tone Tai. Just the worst customer service I have ever experienced. I used to shop there for all of my produce and meat, but one time while in the check-out line, a bag of fish that was on the conveyer belt split open and fish juice was everywhere. The cashier picked up the bag with juice running all over the place and put it into a grocery bag and continued checking the customer out. The customer asked for her get another bag and she ignored her. Not wanting to carry home a bag dripping with fish juice, she waited to no avail. The cashier continued with other customers without any sanitizing of the belt. The first customer complained to no avail, when she finally picked up her bags and left. When I noticed that there was no interest in cleaning up the mess, I moved forward to ask her to get help to clean it. I asked to speak to a manager and she refused to call one. When I left the line to find one, he argued too, saying there was no problem. All I wanted was for them to use some sanitizer to clean the mess... you know trying to avoid the whole cross-contamination thing. By the way I was dealt with and the refusal to clean the mess, I will never shop there again.
PeanutDays / December 13, 2015 at 01:27 am
Awesome memories! Finally someone mentioned Food City! Loved all the foods.. we'd buy friend chow mein noodles for snacks and sugar cane to chew on while dad explained where sugar came from!
This article finally explains why I had a couple of odd encounters when I was about 8 or 9 and cutting through that alley to meet my dad at Becker's when some drunk creep made a comment about my but and freaked me out. He was a bit surprised when I turned around too.
Before that, I remember filling the form for a father's day gift at Consumers and I cheaped out at Bargain Harold's for a cheap perfume for mother's day.
I ran over a few times to get smokes for my dad until one day at about 9 yrs they said they knew the smokes weren't for me but I was too old for them to sell me those penny matches. (My dad got the hint and quit!)
Yummy Chinese food at that tiny take out place on the corner.
I thought there had to be safer places for kids from Woodbine to run for gym.
First bank account, chocolate éclair and Jamaican patty there.
Baskin Robbins is the biggest reminder of that place to this day.
Ok now I remember the ramp, it was inside the mall; there were steps down the middle but it was a kid's right to slide down the outer edge.. oh my gosh that ramp was fun. Thank you for the memories!
That was the best neighbourhood to grow up and so many friends from so many cultures in the 70s, so sad violence increased gradually after that.. for those that say go back to Mennonite Kitchener/Hamilton... that used to be it! Nothing wrong with people getting along and liking their neighbours! I miss the all the kids around there!
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