Books, blooms, and shakes

Above ground at Yonge and Finch, Middle East flare meets Asian flavour

I haven’t written about Finch and Yonge for a few years, not since unearthing a dress in a subway shop there for $12.99.

As special as that moment was, when I head back to the area this month I venture above ground to see what shopping terrain lies beyond the turnstiles.

I hear the area south of Finch is a Korea north of sorts, catering to a growing population of Visa students not just from Korea but China as well.

But as you’ll see the area is diversifying and in constant flux, not so easily identifiable as a certain type of ethnic neighbourhood.

Standing at Yonge and Finch looking at the southwest corner, you may be lucky enough to catch the live models I hear sometimes occupy the upper-level windows of Total Wedding Lewis Baehr at 5600 Yonge St. Alas, the gown-clad lovelies aren’t in the window the Friday afternoon I visit.


Another disappointment: the space across the street that used to house a DVD Theatre at 5519 Yonge is for lease. I would have liked to have checked out what I hear were private viewing rooms for movies on DVD.

If you stop into Pegah Books, you could learn as I did that the ’hood used to be more Persian and is only now becoming more so, with the opening of a few restos. The shop has been there for 18 years and sells a wide selection of Iranian books, music and movies, but there are also some English translations of popular books like My Uncle Napoleon. The hand-painted tablecloths, which I would use as a bed cover, are gorgeous.

5513 Yonge St., 416-223-0850

You’ll also find two long-standing stores, both flower shops, standing side-by side. Green Garden Florist has been on the strip for almost two decades, selling not just flower arrangements but also all the gifty fare that goes with them, like teddy bears, ready-made gift baskets, chocolates and even jewellery.

5453 Yonge St., 416-250-7070

Next door, you’ll want to check out Hatcher Florist, if only to meet Bob and Doug, brothers and owners of the florist shop that’s been in the Hatcher family for just over 100 years. Yes, they admit they’re used to being razzed about being Bob and Doug Mackenzie from the famous SCTV skit. I’m going back in December to see if they’ll sing The Twelve Days of Christmas with a pack of beer and toques on.

5455 Yonge St., 416-221-5557

There’s a ton of condo development happening, which is having a corresponding effect on local small biz. A string of shops appear to have opened recently on the ground level at 5500 and 5508 Yonge St. And at the corner of Byng and Yonge, you’ll find a condo development that’s so new, many of the shops aren’t even open yet.

At 5431, a family is unpacking handbags behind closed doors in preparation for their imminent opening. Canaan Drapery The House of Silk is already open at 5427 Yonge, 416-226-6977, and it looks like a boutique is coming soon at 5373, a tea and coffee room at 5415, and a restaurant with patio at 5367.

Hair stylist Nahid Salehi is one of the few merchants whose doors are already open; she’s being doing hair for 12 years and launched her own biz, Breeze Salon, in April. In the contemporary-looking space you can get a haircut and style and some esthetic services like waxing.

5375 Yonge St., 647-350-4411

Meanwhile a Juicy Babes juice and yogurt bar at 5425 Yonge, whose windows are still papered with brown, appears to have picked up on a trend in the area: frozen yogurt and gelato.

The add-on frozen yogurt shop is a neat, and certainly sweet, phenomenon in the ’hood: at the 24-hour Green Mart grocery at Yonge and Olive, for example, the owners have just added a gelato, ice-cream, and frozen yogurt addition to the space.


Meanwhile at the corner of Yonge and Finch, a crowd has gathered around a similar build-on yogurt joint that’s also just opened, which sells shakes, natural frozen yogurt, gelato, and hotdogs to go.

Yoon-Kyu Park, who runs the place, tells me he makes bubble tea shakes, a popular treat in Korea and China. I show my Canadian roots by going for a chocolate shake — it’s less creamy but totally yummy — but apparently the avocado slushies or taro-flavoured milkshakes are the most popular.

The place is owned by the new Crazy Wings bar and restaurant next door, which used to be a Korean cuisine resto, I hear, but renovated and re-branded to appeal to the beer-and-chicken-wing lovin’ crowd.

5600 Yonge St., 416-224-5509

Speaking of dinner, I hear from the guy at the Twister Karaoke place close by that people start trickling in after dinner and can stay up until 5 a.m., when the place closes. This isn’t your typical western karaoke bar: the way they do it in Korea is to belt out their fave tunes in private rooms they rent with pals.

The gent shows me a room — a small leather-couched affair with a coffee table, hanging disco ball and video screen — into which the longest-singing patrons cloistered themselves for a full 15 hours.

5586 Yonge St., 416-225-2465

Once you’re all sung out and perhaps sauced enough to do some serious spending, pop into the 24-hour Shopper Drug Mart next door, where I know I’d rack up the points on my Optimum Card in the makeup section — something one of the associates says happens practically every night.

5576 Yonge St. 416-225-2321

About this article:

By: Kelly Gadzala
Posted: Aug 16 2010 10:52 am
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto