Unsung City Beautifiers: Fruit & Flower Shops

Danforth & Glebeholme, South side

As Pug Award fever reaches its apex tomorrow night, I thought it might be time to shine a light on smaller-scale design issues.

The area where I live, on the Danforth between Coxwell and Woodbine, doesn’t win a lot of prizes for streetscape design. Though there’s a few trees in concrete planters—and the promise of more from the newly formed BIA—as well as a real gem in East Lynn Park, the general combination of empty/“aroma massage” storefronts with four lanes of speedy traffic make the main street stroll, well, a little bare and unpadded at times.

However, there are some small businesses that do a lot to beautify the stretch, the most prominent of which are the fruit and flower shops that turn their sidewalks into veritable gardens of vegetation and colour during their open hours.

The corner of Glebemount and Danforth has two of these right across the street from each other, with Prince of Wales Market to the west and Natural Florist to the east:

As you can see, they really brighten up the sidewalk:

Natural Florist sidewalk

Natural Florist is open year-round, which is much appreciated visually during the dank, grey winter months, even if the flowers are behind glass. (For this, I presume we can think the O’Connor funeral home, which sits right across the street. Other close-by funeral homes are also likely part of the reason flower shops seem quite popular along the strip, even in the non-yard-work months.)

Another shout-out is due to Kelly Food Mark (yes, that’s “Mark,” not “Mart”) at Coxwell and East Lynn, which is also open and displays outside for most of the year. I really enjoy the colours of the fruits and vegetables together.

Kelly Food Mark, Danforth Ave

Once I got on this local streetscape appreciation kick, I started to notice the blah representation of politicians along the strip. Take, for instance, MPP Michael Prue’s constituency office:

MPP Michael Prue Constituency Office, Danforth Ave

It’s functional but doesn’t contribute much. MP Maria Minna’s office a block away matches the look.

Comparing corporate stores along the way is also interesting. McDonald’s at Woodmount and Danforth actually has some vegetation planted along the borders of the parking lot—I’m unsure if this was perhaps mandated by the city when the fast-foodery came in, or whether it’s a branding thing:

McDonald's Woodmount & Danforth

Note to the Ronald: those pansies could use some watering. But however sad McD’s gardening skills, Shopper’s Drug Mart across the street got off easy (and blandly) with an unadorned asphalt parking lot on each side:

Shopper's Drug Mart Coxwell & Danforth

Should gardening be incompatible with Shopper’s management, the Bus Terminal diner offers an example of how to contribute colour sans garden:

The Bus Terminal Family Restaurant, Coxwell & Danforth

There’s more good examples I could show, of course: Mimi’s Convenience, Greenwood Veggie Depot, Michael’s Meat & Deli, Rendez-Vous Restaurant. And that’s just in my personal stumbling distance.

How about your ‘hood? Is there a business in your community that you think needs some long-overdue recognition for streetscape good deeds done?

All photos by Leah Sandals

12 comments

  1. Speaking of East Lynn Park, check out the new Farmers’ Market on Thursdays from 3pm-7pm. It will feature only certified, locally produced goods (ie if someone is selling bread, they grew the wheat, milled the flour, baked the bread themselves, etc). It’s sponsored by Farmers’ Markets Ontario which features only certified, local farmers. It will run until October 30.

    I live in the area too and must say that it is truly a hidden gem. Sure, there are a few warts, but it’s still relatively affordable, with excellent transportation options, several authentic Sicilian cafés, a few good restaurants and of course, all those flower shops. I’ve seen a steady improvement in the area since I moved here several years ago, and this Farmers’ Market is yet another example. East Lynn Park is already a treasure, and this new Farmers’ Market will make it even better.

  2. The flower shops aren’t there just because of the funeral homes, but because they’re the most convenient place that locals can get flowers. Notice that there aren’t any mega super-market grocery stores in the area, so the local grocers and vendors fill the gap nicely providing groceries in a pinch, and supplying lots of nice flowers. At Woodington, the corner shop even used to sell grapes so you could make your own wine, back in the days when there was a stronger Italian community in the area. A couple of markets bit the dust over the years, notably Monte’s Supermarket, at the SW corner at Bastedo, and Bari over near Monarch Park, but those local markets are a feature on Danforth all the way over to Pape. There was a Loblaws near Greenwood that closed around 1980, and Shoppers was a Loblaws until the early 1970s. (It was a lumber store and the used car dept for Robertson Motors after that and became a Shoppers in the 1990s). The only grocery store I can think of right close by Danforth is the Valu-Mart (formerly Mr. Grocer and before that it was Dominion) at Woodbine. There used to be some used-car lots in that area when I grew up, and I’m glad to see them gone, they were like gaps in teeth in the streetscape. McDonald’s was one of them, as was the NW corner at Woodington. The old Woodbine Building Supply/Home Hardware was a great store until the owners burned it down several years ago… it was like a time portal to a hardware store of the 60s.

  3. It’s a double-edged sword – yes, it’s colour and a service, but at some points it’s usurpation of public space and greed that inconveniences pedestrians, at times in very critical corners.
    I don’t like some of the bar/patios for that same encroachment, especially on the main streets.

  4. Another issue is the entire floral industry that has a lot of unethical labour and environmental practices to produce these bright, cheap flowers year round.

    There are a few “fair trade and green” floral shops but they are specialty items that will not spill out onto a street corner like this.

    What would really brighten my day would be to see locally grown fruits and vegetables spilling out onto the sidewalks in a few months but in the meantime there is something to be said for a locally owned, independent store competing against a big box like Shoppers.
    We just got a new Shoppers Drugmart at the southeast corner of Queen and Parliament and it is terrible. The building mass comes right up to the sidewalk on both sides of the corner, the streetscape is horrible and the all windows are completely covered with awful stock images of glossy people smiling.

    I would much rather step around an eclectic display spilling out into the sidewalk any day…..

  5. Thanks for your comments all…

    Hamish & Alex: Like you, I do have some mixed feelings about the sidewalk encroachment and congentional-ag issues. But after doing some thinking (and checking that those stores I pointed out usually do leave some sidewalk space for use) I guess I feel that the benefits visually outweigh the drawbacks.

    Financially, many of these smaller markets also offer better pricing on fruit, veg and flowers than the Valu Mart, making them more accessible in some ways to different income levels.

    Rob: I appreciate your argument that the many markets exist due to consumer demand — and I am chagrined I failed to mention Jerry’s Supermarket east of Coxwell, one of the other indie markets. But the flower thing I have to say is really quite exceptional. I’ve lived in a few different areas of Toronto and I’ve never seen as many flower shops in one strip… so I still think there might be some connection to the funeral biz.

    I do really appreciate your history of the area though, Rob, it would be great to know more about that as it’s hard to find that kind of info. If you’re interested maybe you could look into sharing your knowledge either here or with Jane’s Walks for next year?

    Leo: I’m looking forward to the Farmer’s Market too (starts today!) but am also a bit concerned about the impact on Kelly Food Mark and the like. Guess I’ll have to try to spread the bucks around a bit!

  6. Jerry’s Supermarket at Danforth and Monarch Park is exceptional…organics, imports and a fantastic old school meat counter. Sadly, one of the more depressed facades on the east Danforth, but well worth pushing past to get a look inside.

    Thanks to the Danforth East Community Association for all their hard work…East Lynn Farmers’ Market is just the beginning!

  7. The East Lynn Farmers’ market was a HUGE success today. Many of the farmers sold out of their product, and there was a massive turn out of customers. Many of the people who came were not from the area, so I’m sure it only helped the businesses surrounding. Had the weather co-operated a bit more, customers would have spilled out onto Danforth and would have ventured into the neighbouring restaurants. I know Seb’s Cappucino did well, because I saw MANY of his coffee cups floating around.

  8. The owner of the Mimi’s, Lee, at Danforth and Coxwell are doing excellent job in bringing the neighbourhood to something extra. Not only he has most beautiful and healthiest flowers every year, he cleans the street so often that it stays very clean.

    and there seems to be no problem for the pedestrians, like myself, to walk that corner… the corner full of flowers (which would otherwise be dreadful)

  9. I am delighted to spearhead the new BIA on the Danforth, from Jones to Westlake. We are working to beautify the area in many ways. Watch for many positive improvements in the next 12 months. We are bringing vibrancy to the area with community festivals, such as our recent Family Fun Day. For all of those businesses who are enhancing the streetscape – bravo!

Comments are closed.