Get to know a street: Carlaw Avenue
Carlaw Avenue between Queen and Gerrard is condo-heavy and sort of homogenous-looking. Long brown buildings are punctuated with the occasional parking lot, an underpass, and a dog park (swoon) at Gerrard. But behind the meek exteriors are stores with lots of colour, from niche furniture shops, to tiny cafes and even a boxing gym just for women. While typically Carlaw doesn't seduce a lot of foot traffic beyond the regular condo-dwellers, some of its shops are worth a little exploration. Here are some places to check out on Carlaw.
River Rock CafĂŠ
Almost romantic from the outside, painted a deep gray-green with lantern fixtures, River Rock CafĂŠ has a rustic feel once you get indoors. Opened a few months ago, the place is brimming with plants and other green things by the windows, and a few sets of wooden tables and chairs throughout. And with all-day breakfast and organic and fair-trade tea, coffee, and hot chocolate, it's easy to get comfortable.
A bike shop in Leslieville? Nah! Ok, but a bike shop here might be sort of unexpected. Hello Velo offers fitting, sizing, and repairs, as well as parts, clothing, accessories, and of course, bikes. Brands include Felt, Argon18, Pivot, and BH.
The first thing you'll notice is the Flaunt's outstanding starburst light fixture. It goes with the space; relaxed with leaning mirrors and spotlights at each styling station. There are retail items for sale including hair products and "hipster accessories, bags and belts," according to Flaunt's website, which you can grab on your way out from a cut starting at $40.
Toronto Newsgirls is a boxing club for women started by Savoy Howe in 1996. I've stopped in many times, but I'm still astounded each time I take in the agility of the women pounding at bags and darting their way around the ring. Along with regular classes and workshops, Toronto Newsgirls offers a special program called "Shape Your Life" for survivors of violence and domestic abuse.
If the name didn't tip you off, Greentea Design offers exceptional home furnishings from Asia, or else customized and Asian-inspired. I was lost in the room of antique cabinets, which included a pair of intricately detailed iron doors ($4,000), which I desperately wanted to find a way to lug home. Step chests with lots of little drawers and cubbies were pepper throughout the showroom, where I also found framed Maoist posters and antique, worn fish blades.
Hands On You
If the name is a little forward, the overall atmosphere is not. You could hear a pin drop when I walked into the space, which is part therapeutic clinic and part training facility. Hands On You offers registered massage therapy, Fascial Stretch Therapy, personal training, studio classes and more. There's also a retail space offering one-of-a-kind jewellery and beauty and wellness products.
First Break Coffee Shop
What it lacks in space, First Break Coffee makes up in menu, with everything from subs, to scrambled egg wraps, sandwiches, bagels, and coffee, tea, and other drinks. With room just for a window bar, you'll likely be in and out--and better leave your plastic at home, since First Break Coffee is cash-only.
Home of "Fat Loss 101," a free seminar for Fortis orientation members. More notably, however, is that Fortis is one of Toronto's 24-hour access gyms, allowing members anytime access to its facilities. Fortis looks like most other gyms, with wall-mounted flat screens, rows of treadmills, lots of free weights, and muffled grunts.
Previously in this series:
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