Upside Dive, a tidy vintage shop occupying a sunny Queen East storefront, opened just over a year ago as a family affair. Four siblings launched it but now only two of the original founders remain.
Mike Dalla-Giustina patiently buffs out spots on a pair of near-immaculate vintage suede sneaks while we talk shop. He and sister Angie run the business alone and tag-team the multiple demanding roles. They are all at once buyers, business managers, sales staff, merchandisers, and creative directors. As Mike tends to finicky shoe-care, I realize that I am not doing justice to their actual workload.
The new endeavour was a natural next step for a family that grew up on the thrill of the find. "We've always been thrifters," Angie tells me. The collection is a reflection of the duo's common love of times past, and a mix of their differing tastes. Sourcing goes beyond the owners' own sense of style, though. The finds are carefully chosen and edited to be accessible in terms of both price and trend. Stock originates from estate sales, auctions, thrift stores and garage sales across Ontario and beyond.
A breathable space, Upside Dive is a delight to shop, comparatively. Some of the city's stuffier and overstocked vintage destinations can overwhelm even a seasoned scavenger like me. Mike admits that their actual stock overflows to storage. I am impressed at the restraint. The clever visual merchandising appeals to my neat-n'-tidy nature and eclectic design-sense.
I show a little restraint of my own as I managed to leave the shop without buying even one of many coveted items. A mini industrial filing cabinet, navy gingham picnic shorts, a schoolroom pencil sharpener, still-packaged chartreuse vintage yarn, gaudy bookends, and a 1954 edition of Better Homes and Gardens' Garden Book filled my wish list.
I make a mental note to return in budget-friendlier times. I eyed a pair of rust-colored "sexretary" loafers (size 6) while I bemoaned my gigantic feet. A more petite fellow shopper scored them while I browsed.
Upside Dive is a 60/40 blend of housewares and fashion. With more and more requests for furniture, organizing the store's small footprint has been a challenge. Graduating to a larger space is already on the radar, however. "We hope to buy a building in the future," Mike muses. For now, a small selection of tables and cabinets rotate through the shop, providing additional display space for 50s kitsch, 60s décor and 70s luggage.
The off-the-beaten-vintage-path location has finally started to attract destination shoppers, and they have watched passer-by traffic increase with new vinyl signage and a fresh coat of exterior paint. Mike and his sisters were attracted to the character of the neighbourhood and the ample natural light of the space. Customers are attracted by vintage deals spilling (neatly) out onto the sidewalk.
Upside Dive is a hidden gem. A determined flower driving up from a crack in the pavement, the shop is a worthy destination in a quiet space in Corktown.
Writing by Dayna Winter. Photos by Dennis Marciniak