toronto monkey's paw book vending machine

Why a popular local business is quitting Dundas West

Stephen Fowler opened Monkey's Paw in 2006. His quirky shop, located just west of Ossington, features an array of titles and it's unlike any other book store in the city; you won't find any Heather's Picks here.

However, after more than a decade in Little Portugal, he's packing up and moving to Bloordale.

Fowler moved to Toronto from San Francisco in 2002; he wanted to escape the rapidly gentrifying city. Toronto and Dundas West drew him in thanks to its diversity.

"Ten years on, a huge percentage of the Portuguese businesses are gone replaced by upscale restaurants and trendy bars," he tells me via email. "These places target, and apparently attract, a very specific clientele."

The area's now a nighttime destination thanks to bars and restaurants such as Enoteca Sociale and Get Well as well as newbies like Hanmoto, Ufficio, Junked Food Co. and The Lockhart (the so-called Harry Potter bar).

"Unfortunately, to my jaded eye, Dundas West today looks a lot like SF in 2002 - glossy and aspirational and monochrome," he notes. "Maybe I'm just too old and poor to appreciate it, but the culture of the neighbourhood doesn't really excite me."

Gentrification is natural and neighbourhoods change over time. Queen West, for instance, is unrecognizable from its days as a counter-culture haven in the 1980s.

Even still, when Fowler's new landlord threatened to raise his rent, he decided to move and settled on Bloordale for Monkey Paw's new and bigger home. It's an area on the subway line that supports a variety of businesses, including art galleries, a strip club and an array of restaurants.

"That's an actual functioning city neighbourhood, and it's interesting," he says. "I'm excited to contribute to it."

Before it makes the leap to Bloor Street West, Monkey's Paw will host a blow out garage sale today and tomorrow at its Dundas West store. Expect to find items between $1 and $4.

Photo by Stephen Fowler


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