Some­thing spe­cial is cooking in the for­mer ware­house waste­land of the Car­law Av­enue stu­dios

NOW Magazine - Toronto Living - - Emerging Hoods - By MEAGHAN CLARK Pho­tos by DER­RICK HAYNES

It used to be that the drive down Car­law was all about mak­ing it to the Lakeshore or turn­ing onto Queen East and head­ing some­place else. Aside from a few houses and a se­ries of industrial build­ings, there wasn’t much to look at, noth­ing to stop for and cer­tainly nowhere in­ter­est­ing to shop.

But now there’s plenty to look at, thanks to the cre­ativ­ity of the ded­i­cated artists, re­tail­ers and res­i­dents who have changed the face and feel of the street. In­stead of end­less walls of red brick, you’ll now find colour­ful flags wav­ing out­side build­ings with prom­ises of great trea­sures in­side. Sand­wich boards line up out­side each door hint­ing at spe­cial sales and mer­chan­dise, like the si­lent barkers out­side a Tokyo night­club.

At Sastra Im­ports, Dragon Heir and Green­tea De­sign, it’s easy to be trans­ported to ex­otic lo­cales while re­main­ing in the 416 area. Jen­nifer Sloan and Dale Storer of Green­tea were among the first re­tail­ers to set up shop on Car­law. “We needed a large space to show­case our fur­nish­ings and store our in­ven­tory,” says Sloan, a fan of far-flung trav­els. Both she and Storer cul­ti­vated their love of Asian de­sign and an­tiques in Korea. Though most of their clien­tele are lo­cal, this me­dia savvy duo also do brisk busi­ness ship­ping their wares to the

U.S. The Don­ald him­self found Green­tea and fea­tured one of its kitchen units in the fi­nal episode of The Ap­pren­tice. Sloan and Storer work with artists and crafts­men to pro­vide one-of-a-kind mul­ti­me­dia art pieces, cus­tom-built free-stand­ing kitchen units and me­dia cab­i­nets, us­ing only sal­vaged woods. “On the last day of my buy­ing trip I visit the an­tique mar­kets in Korea for smaller items and un­usual pieces like th­ese porce­lain sinks” says Sloan. She and Storer keep regular busi­ness hours but also host par­ties here well into the wee hours for friends and clients.

New to this neigh­bor­hood, though no stranger to the city, is Dragon Heir. Jing Zhu and her part­ner have had a show­room on Jarvis and a ware­house in Markham for the past two and a half years. How­ever, when the large show­room on Car­law be­came avail­able, they im­me­di­ately jumped at the op­por­tu­nity and had the main show­room ready to roll within weeks. Step­ping into their all-white space, with its soft mu­sic, can­dles and dis­tinct vignettes is like en­ter­ing a se­cret Asian so­ci­ety. More of a Ming Dy­nasty fan than a Huang sup­porter? Along with sleek con­tem­po­rary pieces, Dragon Heir of­fers black or white lac­quer, painted cus­tom pieces and rare an­tiques like a 17th-cen­tury day bed ($40,000). If that doesn’t fit your bud­get, Zhu has a spe­cial sec­tion called Chi­nese Junk, full of pieces that have slight dings from the trip over­seas. This sum­mer Zhu plans to in­stall a lounge for spe­cial events, such as her “Man­darin Club,” a se­ries of in­for­mal gath­er­ings, to share Chi­nese cul­ture, food and lan­guage.

The re­tail­ers on Car­law are the big­gest draw, but they’re by no means the only ones re­spon­si­ble for this re­nais­sance. In­di­vid­ual artists keep shops and stu­dios in an un­der­ground maze of hall­ways and doors. Though sig­nage in­side 388 Car­law is poor at best, there is a sense of adventure as you wind your way along, read­ing the num­bers and search­ing for clues that lead you to your des­ti­na­tion. Weld Done De­signs is one of those smaller stu­dios, home to welders Teresa Jenk­ins, Wendy Kel­loway and Em­manuel Pa­pachris­tou. Art is def­i­nitely a col­lab­o­ra­tive ef­fort, with artists shar­ing or split­ting jobs and re­fer­ring one an­other for spe­cific projects.“Wendy does more fab­ri­ca­tion, and I do a lot of hand­forged work” says Jenk­ins, a full-time set designer and lo­cal res­i­dent. Jenk­ins is the first to sing the praises of her fel­low ar­ti­sans and of the spirit of com­mu­nity here.

Like any true artis­tic com­mu­nity, Car­law also in­cludes a per­for­mance space – Artists’ Play Stu­dio Theatre, at num­ber 290. Founders El­iz­a­beth Dawn Snell and Bron­wyn K. Shaw teach tra­di­tional ballet and jazz, among other classes, and sub­let the space for out­side teach­ers as well. You’ll find a va­ri­ety of classes here, in­clud­ing African dance, Feldenkrais, Nia, Pi­lates and act­ing. There’s an open im­prov jam ses­sion ev­ery Sun­day night, and of­ten a live per­for­mance as well. Snell goes out of her way to en­cour­age “slightly crazy and overly ex­citable” artists to ap­ply for per­for­mance time. Round­ing out the neigh­bour­hood are record stu­dios, cloth­ing shops, cater­ing com­pa­nies and flo­ral con­sul­tants. Next time you find your­self head­ing to­ward the Lakeshore, pull over and take a minute to check out the finds on Car­law.

The Asian wares of Sastra Im­ports, Dragon Heir and Green­tea De­sign

Artists’ Play Stu­dio Theatre

Weld Done De­signs

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