One of the intentions of NorthRonces.com is to direct attention beyond the mental and legal boundaries that constitute the Roncesvalles Business Improvement Area (RBIA) which officially ends at Hewitt Ave. on the north end and Galley Ave. on the south. The expanse of Roncesvalles and Dundas West between Hewitt and Bloor has generally been considered something of a commercial and community dead zone, one of those stretches of well-travelled thoroughfare familiar to most Torontonians (south Bathurst comes to mind). These areas are characterized by heavy traffic, predominantly rental housing, transient businesses and a generally less inviting, less loved feel. And this despite the existence of strong residential neighbourhoods just behind the uninviting commuter facade. In the case of North Ronces and Dundas West, however, there have always been a few strong businesses and lately there have been even more signs of renewal.
In my opinion, any account of Dundas West and Roncesvalles must begin with De Francesca Men’s Hair Stylists (2231 Dundas Street West) where brothers Joe & Palmo cut hair while chatting about society, Pierre Elliott Trudeau and Italian soccer. Aparita Bhandari has written a slice of life portrait of Joe and Palmo’s barber shop.
Macklem’s Baby Carriages & Toys (2223 Dundas St. West) has been in the neighborhood since–wait for it–45 years. The Ranger family has traversed the evolutionary path from covered prams to the current all-terrain, SUV, baby strollers. The selection of baby stuff here will surprise you.
Fast becoming an institution in its own right, Hugh’s Room (2261 Dundas St West) has provided live folk and roots music, as well as fine dining, since 2001. The list of established acts that have performed at Hugh’s is impressive.
Steven R. Smith Restoration (476 Roncesvalles Ave.) has also been around for a number of years and has more recently added a storefront showroom. Steven restores old furniture and antiques and also builds elegant custom furniture which, frankly, looks better than most actual antiques. You have to check it out.
Cheryl McCarron has just opened an English as a second language bookstore appropriately called the ESL Shop (2233 Dundas St. West). Cheryl is in the process of setting up her web site so ESL teachers and students will be able to purchase from her online.
And these are just a few of the enterprises that contribute to the life of North Ronces. As residents of the community we have to remember that North Ronces does not end at Hewitt.
Now we just need the Loblaws/Zellers complex to recreate itself so that it respects the life of the street as an integral part of a sense of place and community. As it is, the Loblaws parking lot acts as a black hole absorbing Dundas West into its vehicular nothingness. Wouldn’t it be great if Loblaws fronted Dundas West and parking was either behind or underneath the building? It would also be a perfect place to locate a LCBO Liquor Store, would it not? Of course it would.