Welcome to the Urbaneer.com blog that explores housing, culture and design in Toronto, Ontario, Canada!
If you’re new to our blog, we feature local destinations we love; the ABC’s on urban planning, architecture & design; posts about the history, evolution and future growth of our city; and a whole lot of information, guidance and counsel about Toronto real estate, housing, and home including the challenges to affordability in a climate of rising interest rates, the roles and responsibilities of municipal, provincial and federal governments, and how competing interests for property shape the movement and momentum of the market.
In today’s post, we’re going to explore one of our favourite building typologies in Toronto – the quintessential neighbourhood corner store – and share some corner store conversions that recently sold in the City of Toronto. And if you love local history as much as we do, check out the Historic Toronto blog by John Taylor called Memories Of Corner Stores In Toronto Of Old which includes the vintage photograph (date unknown) below of Patoff’s Grocery at 391 Brock (built 1915) and Smythe Variety Store beside it (built 1890). Thanks Mr. Taylor!
As original mixed-use buildings (that would later be designated by the City of Toronto’s Building Department as a ‘legal non-conforming use in a residential zoned area’), the commercial residential ‘corner store’ was an essential fixture in many of the original City of Toronto neighbourhoods – particularly those dating from the mid to late 1800s through the 1930s and 40s. Constructed as places of commerce to primarily serve their immediate community (who didn’t own cars), they usually sat prominently – and complementarily – on street corners in residential neighbourhoods, with much of the ground level dedicated to the business while the upper levels served as the shop owner’s residence. These buildings were often built in a similar style and scale as the surrounding dwellings, except for larger ground-floor windows, perhaps a more prominent entry and, of course, signage.
These corner stores were typically purveyors of sundries – though they could offer any variety of goods and services specific to the cultural community they were serving. Given they catered principally to the shopping needs of those who lived nearby, they also became convivial destinations where the locals could gather casually and connect, making them an integral part of the neighbourhood’s social fabric. Given Toronto: The City Of Neighbourhoods evolved based on the settlement patterns of different ethnicities immigrating to the city, the corner store likely would have served as an important lifeline in connecting you with your culture and community.
Although you will still find corner stores operating throughout the central core, you’re more likely to see them beside other small businesses on our city’s mid and major thoroughfares like Queen Street East & West, Harbord Street, Ossington Avenue, and Gerrard Street East, to name a few. Whereas the corner stores nestled in the centres of leafy low-density residential neighbourhoods are more likely to now be purely residential or live/work spaces (no one goes to the corner store as frequently as one would have in earlier days), most that are still operating are located on a corner where a local residential street intersects with a busier arterial road, as is the case with Harbord Convenience on Harbord and Robert Streets just west of Spadina. The building that is home to Harbord Convenience, was clearly intended as a place of commerce given its prominent placement on the property line compared to the adjoining row of residences that are further setback. Incidentally, it was constructed in 1890.
Corner stores, like all things Toronto housing and home, have a rich history. From druggists to grocers to barber shops, these corner stores evoke nostalgia, not only because of their architecture but also because of their signage and branding – which serve as markers of the time, place and culture from yesteryear.
This post from BlogTO, “What Variety Stores Used To Look Like In Toronto“, has some great snaps from the early 20th century. This post from Spacing talks about the value of the corner store in today’s lifestyle – and the 15-minute city: “Spotting (And Reviving?) The Neighbourhood Corner Commercial Building“. And this article from the Globe and Mail by Spacing Magazine editor Dylan Reid, talks about how the corner store gained new prominence during the pandemic, and how the benefits of having a self-contained community (corner store included) is a lesson worth keeping post-pandemic: “Historic Side-Street Corner Stores Offer Lessons For Today’s Cities“.
Many corner stores – particularly those in inner-city neighbourhoods – have been converted entirely into housing, though you can see the hallmarks of their former lives in their architecture. There is an undeniable flavour to this style; its history adds substance and texture to the home. And we adore them!
Here is a collection of clever and stylish corner store conversions that have sold in the recent past.
A Converted Store In Cabbagetown
From MLS: Charm Abounds In This Circa 1880 Former Storefront In Vibrant Cabbagetown. Tucked Behind A Private Garden, This 2 Bed, 2 Bath Loft Alternative Is Just The Spot You’re Looking For. Open Concept Main Floor With 9’5″ Ceilings, Floor To Ceiling Windows Flood The Space With Light, And Double Doors Open To Private Terrace, Great For Summer Entertaining. Hardwood Floors, Renovated Kitchen With Stainless Steel Appliances And Ample Storage. Skylit Upper Level Hall.
List: $1,425,000 • Sold: $1,411,000
Sold: March 2020
Another Re-Imagined Store Front in Cabbagetown
From MLS: Absolutely Charming Cabbagetown Victorian Sitting Proudly On A Corner Lot At The Top Of One Of Cabbagetown’s Most Desireable Streets. Exterior Exudes The Character Of A Vintage Storefront While Plenty Of Windows Create An Open And Sun Filled Interior. 2 Bedrooms, 2 Baths Plus A Private 3rd Floor Loft/Bdrm With Juliette And Wall To Wall Windows. Delightful Enclosed Backyard. This Warm And Attractive Home Will Inspire Your Creative Imagination.
Listed: $1,099,000 • Sold: $1,000,000
Sold: April 2020
A Refurbished Corner Store In Little Portugal Originally Built In 1875
From MLS: Designer’s Own Home – Decades Ago The N’hood Corner Store, Now A Spectacular Stylish Home In Brockton Village ** Not A Typical Predictable Reno – Very Well Thought Out Design And Many Unique Features ** Wide 8-Inch Plank Floors With Open Concept, Loft-Like Feel, Full Of Natural Light And Lots Of Storage ** Vineclad Backyard Oasis; Sliding Gate Opens To Private Parking Off Shirley ** Two Bdrms Currently Used As Home Offices By Owners **
Here’s a property tour!
Listed: $1,726,000 •. Sold: $1,399,000
Sold April 2021
A Former Corner Store Dating From 1912 In Riverdale
From MLS: Spectacular Family Home In Coveted Prime Riverdale, Thoughtfully Renovated Former Storefront Makes An Amazing Open Concept, Light Filled Main Floor With Soaring Ceiling & Many Lg Windows. Hardwood Floors Thruout. 3 Bdrms + Office/Tv Room On 2nd Fl. Private Beautifully Fenced-In Garden, Separate Entrance To High, Dry Finished Bsmt.
List $1,349,000 Sold $1,723,571
Sold: April 2021
A Reimagined Corner Apothecary In Little Portugal
From MLS: A Rare Offering In Queen West! This 1890S Corner Apothecary Has Been Reimagined As A Spectacular Duplex.Its Main Floor Unit Boasts 12′ Original Tin Ceilings, The Spacious 2 Storey,2 Bdrm Suite Above Features A W/O To A Magical 33’X 153′ Rooftop Terrace Which Overlooks Toronto Skyline. The Separate Historic Coach House Was Recently Transformed Into A Fabulous 600Sq’ Modern Pied-A-Terre Which Has Been Extensively Featured In Architecture & Design Publication
List: $3,295,000 • Sold: $3,250,000
Sold: December 2021
A Store Front Conversion In Leslieville
From MLS: Here You’ll Find A Very Special And Unique Home In The Heart Of Leslieville. A Gem Like This Rarely Comes To Market…A Store Front Conversion That Has Been Gutted To The Studs, With Soaring Ceilings, Polished Heated Concrete Floors, An Open Concept Living Plan That Is Bathed In Natural Sun-Light With Large Expansive Windows Throughout. Chef’s Kitchen With Stainless Steel Appliances & Centre Island. Beautifully Finished Dug Down/Underpinned Basement With Separate Entrance. Perfect For Rental Income + In-Law Suite. Live/Work Lofty Living. All Flooring Radiant Heated. Spectacular Backyard With Garage & Artist Studio. 3 Car Parking!! There Is So Much To Love Here!
Listed: $1,499,000 • Sold $1,812,000
Sold: April 2022
A Converted Corner Store (Built In 1909) In Bloorcourt Village
From MLS: Located In Central Toronto, This Unique Property Has A Variety Of Options For Any Buyer. Main Floor Is Ideal For Studio, Home Office, Gallery, Work Room. Second Floor Is A Large 1 Bedroom Apartment With All The Modern Upgrades One Would Expect In A Chic Property Such As This One.
Listed: $1,515,000. • Sold: $1,549,900
Sold: June 2022
I applaud anyone who converts mixed-use or non-residential buildings. Whether they preserve the original architectural features or radically transform the structure into a contemporary abode, I believe there is more power in place when as much of the original building is retained and adapted, or at the very least acknowledged if not honoured. Even when undergoing substantial reinvention, taking cues from a building’s heritage and infusing it with the present allows a property to gracefully evolve into its future. Which makes it special. And cherished. Having been involved in the adaptive reuse conversions of several buildings in the 90s and 00s, and lived in several as well, I can attest that domestic life is magical in these spaces.
A city can never have enough unique urban spaces!
Did you enjoy this? If you did, these other Urbaneer.com posts offer more insight into Toronto property conversions and other unique urban real estate:
Did any of these homes speak to you?
Serving first- and second-time buyers, relocations, renovators and those building their long-term property portfolios, my mandate is to help clients choose the property which will realize the highest future return on their investment while ensuring the property best serves their practical needs and their dream of “Home” during their ownership. At Urbaneer, my team and I identify a property’s best qualities, features and insouciant charm in the context of your wishes and wants, plus your future target market. Although searching for the right property can be an intense and sometimes lengthy process it is, without fail, rewarding both to our clients and the Urbaneer team. Now in our 30th year, we are grateful to be the realtor of choice for both established Torontonians, and the newly arrived.
Are you property hunting? Consider letting Urbaneer guide you through your purchase process, without pressure, or hassle.
We are here to help!
With three decades of experience navigating the ever-changing Toronto real estate market, a commitment to promote the sale of properties like yours with interesting and relevant information, and the ability to guide Buyers with credible insights and well-informed guidance, the Urbaneer Team help without pressure or hassle.
Thanks for reading!
-The Urbaneer Team
Steven Fudge, Sales Representative
& The Innovative Urbaneer Team
Bosley Real Estate Ltd., Brokerage – (416) 322-800
– we’re here to earn your trust, then your business –
*Did you know we were recently listed as one of The Top 25 Toronto Real Estate Agents To Follow On Twitter! – The Top 50 Blogs On Toronto – and The Top 100 Real Estate Blogs In Canada? Consider signing up in the box below to receive our FREE monthly e-newsletter on housing, culture and design including our love for unique urban homes and other Toronto real estate!