Gerrard Square mall suddenly finds itself on one of Toronto's trendiest streets
Evidently the 'Gerrard Scare' or 'Scary Square' days are over: the bustling mall at Gerrard and Pape has officially shed its reputation as a seedy corner where unwanted, threatening interactions were more common than not.
It was the early 2000s that marked the beginning of slow change that's culminated to the Gerrard Square area we see today.
The early arrival of brands like Winners, Home Depot, Food Basics, Walmart, and The Source (basically the royal flush of big-box stores) transformed the hulking building into a one-stop shop.
Following that, there was the arrival of Grinder Coffee, and—gasp—a now shuttered Starbucks, around 2011 on Gerrard East between Pape and Jones. A couple of years later, the opening of Maple Leaf Tavern was another milestone.
In recent years, a second wave of businesses moving east of Gerrard Square by Marjory Ave. (past the small, aging plaza with a couple of tech stores and a 24-hour pizza shop) has opened up the street even further.
Double D's, a second location of Yonge and Dundas's GB Hand-Pulled Noodles, and La Cubana may not be big box brands, but they're Toronto names in their own right, and signifiers of a new era on the Gerrard strip.
And less than 500 metres east of the mall is the burgeoning corner of Gerrard and Jones, or, as the people behind Vatican Gift Shop and Pinkteron's call it, Gerrones, marking two new latenight spots where none really existed before.
But even as the area continues to build up, Gerrard Square itself appears to be impervious to the change.
The brutalist foot bridge leading over the railway tracks still stands, connecting both dead ends of Pape Avenue in a strange, architectural wonder that offers one of the best views of the skyline.
Aside from the very clutch amenities like Planet Fitness, hair gels from Sunrise Beauty Supplies, and the Ecko knock offs at Fashion World, Gerrard Square doesn't disappoint when it comes to food.
Gems inside include Kin-Kin's end of day sales on Chinese buns, and of course, the decade-old food court staple Tropical Joe's with its stuffed patties, coco bread, and unreal jerk poutine. (If you don't visit TJ's ,why even bother?)
"I think it's always going to feel the same," says Matt Schachtebeck, owner of the vintage shop Coffee and Clothing, located outside on Pape's dead-end.
Schachtebeck says the shop was a direct beneficiary of Gerrard Square: when they first launched the store less than a year ago, they were in the mall every day for basics.
As newcomers to the city from San Francisco, Matt and his family view the area as a "direct representation of Toronto as a city."
"This area seems to embrace it, even though there is some gentrification, it's very authentic...even when new businesses come in, it's still the same."
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