The air is usually fresh during the spring and summer in Toronto, the temperature seldom stifling. Saturdays and Sundays are lovely for taking a stroll.
During these favorite times of year, Torontonians turn out to promenade along one of the city's favorite shopping streets. It is Markham Street, otherwise known as Mirvish Village.
The street's charming collection of quaint Victorian houses was slated for demolition several years ago. Developer Ed Mirvish owned, with one or two exceptions, all the buildings along a block-long stretch. He wanted to raze them and construct in their place a huge parking lot to accommodate patrons at his nearby discount store, the famous and very popular Honest Ed's.
But conservation-conscious Toronto citizens voiced a resounding protest to the Mirvish plan, and ultimately the government passed zoning regulations to terminate the project. So Ed Mirvish devised a new plan that resulted in the creation of Mirvish Village, and everyone, including Mirvish, seems glad that things were resolved as they were.
The Victorian houses have not only been saved from the steam shovel but many have been renovated. They are painted pretty pastel colors, with white wooden trim and verandas, and have neatly manicured patches of lawn, well-groomed bushes and flower boxes. Some of the flower boxes are old bathtubs, brightly decorated with colorful paints. At dusk, old-fashioned gaslights illuminate this charming scene.
The upper floors of the buildings are used as workshops and studios, rented at reasonable cost to Toronto's talented young painters, potters, printers and other artists and craftspeople. Ground floors--and some second stories--are occupied by a fine assortment of specialty shops, boutiques, galleries and cafes.
Some of the shopkeepers sell items that are made or restored in the street's workshops, others offer a wide variety of merchandise of interest to shoppers who fancy unusual, well-made and beautiful things. The range of wares includes impressive antique and strikingly contemporary items. You'll find decorative items and some that are functional.
The street's clothing boutiques are particularly interesting. At No. 585 is Portfolio, the shop belonging to and featuring the fashions of Franco Mirabella. This talented, young (age 27) Toronto designer worked for Anne Klein in New York before developing his own line of clothes. Mirabella's designs are high style and beautifully tailored.
The emphasis is on fabrics, ranging from hand-woven silks to fine textured woolens and sturdy linens to hand knits, and on construction for comfort and figure-flattering lines.
Houndstooth suits feature broad-shouldered, wide-lapeled jackets ($210) to be worn with skinny little skirts ($100) or generously pleated slacks ($110). Flowing skirts made from an entire c1769104236black or a variety of other colors to be coordinated with bulky hand-knit sweaters ($150) that are finished off with velvet trim.
Dressier items include wonderful ensembles (about $200) made of exotic gold-flecked wool imported from Italy. Mirabella finishes off his outfits with beautiful belts.
Exotic, Dressy Fashions
Designer Rhondi Palangio offers her exotic ready-to-wear and custom clothes in her shop at No. 590. The designs are unusual, dressy and attention-getting. Take for example the gray-and-fuchsia ensemble (about $750) of a mushroom-shaped pleated skirt to be worn with a high-collared, broad-shouldered, cinch-waisted jacket. The collection has many fanciful gowns and cocktail dresses, in addition to some innovative casual clothing.
Styles, Labels Vary
At No. 601 La Mode de Vija has a tastefully assembled selection of designer and better-quality fashions at discounted prices. Styles and labels vary from week to week, but may include Alfred Sung, Liz Claiborne and other recognizable names with sports and dressier garments. Discounts are sometimes as high as 70% during the shop's frequent special sales. It's difficult to predict what bargains you'll discover on any given day, but the shop is worth a visit.
Mirvish Village has some popular antique shops. Cynthia J. Findlay, at No. 593, specializes in discontinued and hard-to-find porcelain, including pieces by Royal Doulton, Royal Crown Derby, Royal Worcester, Belleek and Moorcroft. The stock ranges from entire sets of antique china to single place settings to individual plates or pitchers.
This is the sort of shop where stock varies from one day to the next and price depends upon what the market (or buyer) will bear. But Findlay has a reputation for fairness and reliability and for helping to find special pieces on a customer's wish list.
The shop also carries some estate silver, sterling flatware, paintings and jewelry, as well as home accessories and wearables by Suttles & Seawinds, a Nova Scotia-based company that makes colorful patchwork jackets (about $250), vests (about $125), quilted bags and quilts.