Russet and Empire
Russet and Empire, in the Junction , just north of Dundas West, is a great stop for anyone looking for some unique vintage pieces or fun, locally-made gifts. The new store successfully walks a tight balance between hippie baby stuff, classic Canadian memorabilia and vintage, antique decor and design items.
The kid and baby items include a set of solid wood egg maracas for $12 and a modern paper playhouse for $25. The playhouse includes a kit of self-assembly furniture, wall, light fixtures and other home accessories. They also have a pink octopus kite for $29 and a wooden balloon powerboat for $13. It's this type of variety and cheekiness that flows though the entire store and makes you want to stop, look and even rationalize buying everything.
For those not in the market for toys and baby related merchandise, the store has some stylish tartan scarves and RCAF bags and memorabilia. Scarves aren't for everyone, but I would think that it's hard not to look handsome while sporting a Canadian, Ontario, New Brunswick or RCAF tartan scarf, available for $50 or $30. I also liked the enormous, but seemingly very practical RCAF bag for $150.
For those into knick-knacks and assorted glassware, Russet and Empire has a good variety of cups, mugs, saucers and jars at a range of prices. A set of vintage Swedish milk glasses for $9 caught my eye, as well as a tin alcohol dispenser - as I am always looking for new and unusual ways to dispense my alcohol - for $75.
There's also a collection of old cameras (ex: Kodak motormatic 35f from the 1960's for $30) and framed, black and white photographs (ex: "Helen's wedding" for $11) in close proximity to an array of candles, soap boxes, flower vases and soap bars.
As I explored the store, I found it hard not to crack a smile as it became clear that every item had been chosen and displayed with a real sense of care and affection. There's a real sense of pride in Russet and Empire and you can't help but root for it. I mean, many design and decor stores across Toronto sell similar stuff, but Russet and Empire is downright heartwarming.
After I left, I spent the rest of my day telling everybody I knew about how much I fell in love with this store. It's bright, friendly and warm, but it's a shame that it's a little off the beaten path, situated on Keele, north of Dundas West, rather than in the heart of the Junction. This likely means it won't get the foot traffic it really deserves.
Photos by Dennis Marciniak