chain stores ossington

Chain stores start to pile up on Ossington

Day or night, the Ossington corridor between Queen and Dundas is usually pretty busy. Between those lining up at Bang Bang or the Bellwoods Brewery patio and shoppers eager to check out the new Peace Collective store (if only for its milkshakes), but as the area continues to gentrify, more big businesses are starting to move in.

It all, of course, started with Starbucks back in 2012. Tiger of Sweden and Shinola came later. And just last week, Lululemon announced it'd be opening its first Toronto menswear store at 96 Ossington Ave., in the space the Harley Davidson Cafe popped up in.

Since the street's evolving yet again, we decided to speak with local businesses owners about what they think of the latest changes.

"It's great," says Ian C. Gillies from the framing store Telegramme. "A lot of people remember when there were practically tumbleweeds blowing up and down the street and how dark it was, especially at night. And that doesn't even seem like that long ago."

He moved to Ossington when the moratorium on new restaurant and bars was still in place in place in 2010. And over the past few years, he's noticed foot traffic increase.

Crywolf, which has been on Ossington for about three years, sells unique pins, patches, apparel and accessories. "There is the worry of big chains coming in, I guess in terms of rent increasing and possibly pushing us smaller companies out," says co-owner Stephanie Drabik. "I know that's kind of what happened on Queen West."

But Ossington's far from becoming the outdoor mall that is Queen West. Bigger chains can help draw more people to the street, but it's all about balance, notes Nicky Potter, who runs the Ossington BIA (Business Improvement Area).

That's a sentiment Kate Ferguson, who owns Unleashed in the City, shares. But she's also seen how the street's increased popularity can affect small business, especially since rent is going up.

"If it means everyone's rent goes up then little independent places, like myself, may not be able to stay on the street, which is really heartbreaking because I've put my heart and soul into helping develop the street through the BIA and through our community events," she says.

It would be shame, she notes, if the little guys are forced to leave.

Photo by Jesse Milns.


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