The last week saw two new arrivals on the Bloor-Annex commercial strip, David’s Tea, and Sweet Pete’s Bicycle Shop – the B-Side.
David’s Tea opened December 11th at 424 Bloor Street West, just east of Howland Avenue, in the premises formerly occupied by Alex Cuts (now re-located to the second floor of 386 Bloor Street West). This Canadian chain began as a single store in Montreal in 2008 and has since exploded into 41 locations, the Annex location being the fifth to open in Toronto in under two years.
The upscale store sports a slick, modern interior with halogen lighting throughout. There is minimal seating — one table at the front and two at the back of the shop — but there is a long bar to stand and try samples of some of the over 120 different loose teas proffered by eager staff. The tea selection ranges from black, green, and white teas to exotic pu’erh cakes.
Thirty-three of the teas are caffeine-free herbal or rooibos blends.
A tea shop seems a natural addition to java junction, the aggregation of coffee shops clustered around the intersection of Bloor Street West and Albany Avenue. But All Things Tea, an independent tea shop with a similar offering of teas and tea paraphernalia recently pulled the plug on their 476 Bloor Street West shop. They too offered minimal seating and as a result never attracted the same crowds that flock to the local coffee shops to meet, talk, and surf. Like All Things Tea, DavidsTea lacks a patio, much-desired in local coffee shop culture.
It will be interesting to see if this successful chain’s business model translates to the Annex.
Sweet Pete’s Bicycle Shop — the B-Side
Sweet Pete’s opened on December 8, 2010 at 517 Bloor Street West, in the former premises of The Tap Bar and Grill. In this second Sweet Pete’s location, the shop is making a strong bid to go head-to-head with nearby Curbside Cycle for the city bike/urban commuter bicycle market. But where Curbside features mostly European bikes from Batavus, Pashley, Biomega and others, Sweet Pete’s focuses on bikes from North American companies like Kona, Trek, and Opus who have of late jumped on the Euro-style commuter bicycle bandwagon.
The shop interior is sleek and welcoming, with exposed steel beams, bare brick walls, “eco-friendly wood flooring” (according to Sweet Pete’s website) and subtle lighting. Classic jazz plays on the sound system.
Most welcome is the large workshop in the back, where Sweet Pete’s will offer bike tune-ups and repairs. Since Curbside stopped providing repairs to all but the bikes they sell, ex-Curbside mechanic Rob Bateman’s Bicycle Co. has been the go-to place for tune-ups and repairs in the neighbourhood. But in the busy summer months, Bateman is sometimes a victim of his own excellent reputation, and his 29A Barton Avenue shop can get overwhelmed with work.
Sweet Pete’s has thoughtfully left The Tap’s signature sign, a neon beer stein with animated keg tap, intact above their own sign, in a nice tip of the hat to the memory of the long-time Annex institution.
In Arrivals & Departures we document the changes in the commercial/retails strips of the West Annex on Bloor, Bathurst, and Dupont Streets, and think about these changes in the context of Jane Jacobs’ observation that popularity on retail strips can lead to commercial monocultures, and Max Fawcett’s thesis that the Annex is un-gentrifying.