70 years on the Mink Mile

Wil­liam Ash­ley will re­open in its new lo­ca­tion in­side the Colon­nade Feb. 1

Midtown Post - - News | Neighbourhood Business -

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.

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