An innovative Toronto design store owner has found a way, after nearly a decade of being forced to cut staff and move to a new location in a building that once housed a clothing factory.
The new location, which opened in June, features a design shop and a retail outlet as well as a coffee shop, an art gallery and a children’s area.
The former clothing factory, which was part of the former Torontonian factory site, is being replaced with a more modern design space that includes a restaurant, a grocery store and a pharmacy.
It’s a win for business owners like Michael Johnson, owner of Design Stores.
Johnson says he and other design store owners have been struggling to keep up with the demand for their products, which include some that are considered high-end, such as the new York City range from J. Crew and a line of men’s and women’s clothing, as well a range of accessories for men.
He says he’s been forced to trim down staff and to close a store because the cost of moving to a location was too high, which he says forced him to close down his previous store.
“You have to make that decision for you and your business,” Johnson said.
“I just felt that this was a decision that was going to be good for my business and good for the city and good to be able to offer the best products to the customers.”
Johnson has had a difficult time finding retail space in Toronto, which has long been considered the city’s centre of design and design-focused businesses.
A few years ago, Johnson said he thought about closing his store because he felt he could not find retail space on the west side of the city, where the downtown core is.
“That was just the furthest thing from my mind,” he said.
The city has tried to get more retail space up on the city limits, but the problem has been finding space to accommodate the growing number of people who are coming to the city from out of town.
Johnson has found space on a street near the University of Toronto that is a good fit for the business.
He’s seen some success with the design shop.
He’s been able to sell some of his products online through the store, he said, but he still has to find space for the shop to expand its operations.
Johnson said he thinks the new location will be a boon for the designers and artists in the city.
“We have an incredible number of designers, we have an amazing number of artists and we have a lot of interesting design stores and we’re going to have to continue to expand that space,” he added.
“It’s really great to see what Toronto has to offer.”