70 years on the Mink Mile
William Ashley will reopen in its new location inside the Colonnade Feb. 1
During a time in history that didn’t favour the aspirations of independent women, a single mother named Tillie Abrams opened a little shop on Bloor Street devoted to English bone china and home decor under the name William Ashley, a moniker that suggested British elegance and masculinity. Seventy years later, William Ashley is a Bloor mainstay. Its resilience hasn’t been without innovation: the first retailer to offer wedding registries in Canada back in the ’70s, William Ashley has served as a rite of passage for the city’s elite brides ever since. This anniversary marks the company’s fourth move, from their current space on Bay and Bloor to a twostorey shop within the Colonnade in Yorkville, 131 Bloor St. W. Post City spoke with Jackie Chiesa, president of William Ashley, about the company’s long history.
How did the store get its start?
“The company was originally founded by Tillie Abrams in 1947. She started with a little 700-squarefoot shop, and it became truly a destination for people looking for quality tableware. Over the years, it has expanded to include over 300 brands.”
What was Tillie Abrams like?
“I’ve been with the company for 35 years and actually trained under her. We all fondly called her Mrs. Ashley. She was never a behindthe-scenes woman. She liked to be on the floor with the customers, selling. She took a great amount of pride in the quality and the workmanship of the products she was selling.”
What prompted the move to the Colonnade?
“When we looked at the Colonnade, I immediately fell in love with the 23-foot ceilings and the natural light. We really want to bring in a shopping VIP area, more private areas for customers to shop and a lounging area where they can drink tea and feel comfortable.”
The William Ashley storefront at its old location at 55 Bloor St. W.