‘Tis the season to start roaming your independent shopping strip for holiday ideas and specialized products you won’t find at the mall.
On the Danforth at Chester and just east of there, a trio of new shops are offering some distinctive pieces for fa-la-la-la-la time and beyond.
Jexy & Jax opened Thanksgiving weekend in the former space of Taste the 4th Sense. And like the sauces carried in the hot sauce store, the new concept is pretty hot.
Jessica (Jexy) Calder has teamed with her mom — a hitherto unnamed designer otherwise known as “Jax” who has been in the rag design trade for years. She creates the shop’s house collections, the Jexy & Jax label for women and the XER (pronounced “sir”) for men.
The store’s a perfect addition to the Dani as it’s all about lifestyle dressing — ie: comfy, stylish pieces that can take you from the office to the coffee shop.
The best thing: the prices aren’t Danforth prices.
Take Jexy & Jax Artsy jacket for women, $95. The style says yoga, yet the fabric and detailing says the office.
Calder is wearing a bright purple scoop-neck top made of modal (the material feels like cashmere and all the modal pieces are made locally) and a wee bit of Spandex for stretch, and she wears it well. It’s a mere $34. May tuck it under the tree pour moi.
Don’t worry, gents, there’s a version for men coming in a couple weeks.
More casual pieces like leggings ($35) and yoga pants ($50), the latter of which is made of hypo-allergenic polyester, intermix with casual chic pieces that could go with a skirt to jeans.
Jax has a history in Gore-Tex so the men’s and ladies’ outerwear is technical beyond belief.
I’m not waiting for Christmas for this one: a three-quarter sleeve plaid fitted jacket with velvet pocket detailing and silver-tone buttons, $89 has my name on it so if you see an XS stay away.
There’s some unique accessories that you won’t find in every store – like locally made jewellery pieces by Toronto’s Gay Isber; handbags by Amy Kathryn made from recycled fabric; and leather shoes and boots by ZiGiny.
375 Danforth Ave. 416-465-5557
I’ve been meaning to write about Tsaa Tea Shop since it opened in the summer. Located in the space previously occupied by Charmin, an accessories shop I wrote about a few years ago, I’d say the new owners have the same good biz Karma as the former.
The tea shop and café is family-owned by the Ramos family, a brood of siblings and parents who take turns working in the shop.
Tsaa, by the way, means tea in the Filipino language the family speaks.
Luellie Ramos is the tea expert, having graduated from the tea sommelier course at George Brown.
The shop also offers actual meals like breakfast and sandwiches in addition to pastries and bon-bons.
The pastries, created specially for them by a local chef, are beautiful to look at and aren’t heaped with sugar. I try something called Royal Double Chocolate, a gorgeous looking chocolate mousse dipped in dark chocolate and sprinkled with gold flecks — I’m told the mango mousse nummy is most popular.
Coming soon: organic vegan and gluten-free pastry made with raw ingredients.
On the tea side, you can buy up to a 100 varieties of loose-leaf tea by weight or sit and sip it in the café. The ginger rooibus tea I try from South Africa is yummy and Ramos pours it into a humungous white tea cup with something she calls a reverse French press method —a non- toxic, heat-resistant plastic funnel that you pour the hot water through.
You can also get chilled tea, tea latte, bubble tea and tea accessories, for yourself or as stocking stuffers. Happy drinking!
412 Danforth Ave. www.tsaateashop.com
Great gift ideas at Nharo!, which opened a permanent store in March after testing out a pop-up shop further east on the Dani.
The shop carries fair trade art, décor, jewellery and other accessories mainly from Africa.
I’m not into the whole tribal look but am pleasantly surprised when I pop in. The wares are cool and there’s one of the most informative salespeople I’ve ever encountered working in the store that day.
The masks and sculptures made of wood and stone aren’t that interesting to me, but the recycled metal art is whimsical and inexpensive. A twisted coil snake is $195 but there are geckos, crocs and other animals for well under $100.
There’s lots of jewellery with an ethnic look to it, but the malachite stone bracelets, one for $15 or three for $30, are my chic picks for stylish holiday pressies.
For the kids: hand carved wooden animals that are so whimsical looking, $6 and $14 for the small and medium sizes.
Ostrich eggshell bracelets by the ancient San people of South Africa, $20 each, look like they have a neat story behind them.
There’s also a few vintage pieces in store, something I wouldn’t have expected. A lovely bead and metal necklace, $75, is from the 1940s at least, I’m told, while a leather cattle whip looks old as the hills.
Even the teens and tweens can find something for their pals: my money’s on the tiny sandstone pendants in various shapes and animals, $3 if memory serves.
543 Danforth Ave., 416-828-6884 www.nharo.com
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