Foodie heaven reopens on Robbers Row

After four and a half years of trying to operate out of a portable trailer during the renovation of the city’s premier gourmet row, All The Best Fine Foods has just moved into its glam new digs. The new store is a beauty. Beyondthe Victorian brick façade onYonge St., which has been bothlovingly restored and neatlybrought up to date with a largeplate-glass window skirted bydark-painted wainscotting, is a2,400-square-foot shop thatevokes the rough-and-tumblecharm of a country market withoutveering into dangerous LauraAshley territory. The new andimproved All The Best joins neighboursPisces seafood, Oliffe Meatsand the smashing new HarvestWagon, its long-awaited completionmade all the more poignant bythe recent tragic death of its developer,Paul Oberman, in a planecrash this month.Along with his sensitive and sophisticatedrenovation of TheShops at Scrivener Square (theproper name for the strip of YongeSt. at Summerhill Ave. that willalways be locally known as “RobbersRow”), Oberman’s company,Woodcliffe Properties, has beenresponsible for several magnificentrestorations. There’s the old NorthToronto train station that nowhouses the LCBO in airy grandeur,the elegant King James Place atQueen St. E. and Sherbourne St. —whose 1836 exteriors were boldlymarried with contemporary architecture— and the landmark GooderhamFlatiron building. Thereare all heritage properties thatwould have been lost or destroyedwithout the kind of champion whounderstood that urban landscapesare made more beautiful and interestingby buildings that addressthe layers of a city’s history in theirarchitecture and design.Ralph Giannone of GiannonePetricone Associates, the designerof the eagerly awaited TerroniCentrale (which is still under constructionat Scrivener Square),describes this approach as a “blendof the old and the new that comesfrom a respect for heritage. Onethat isn’t about recreating or mimickingthe old in a Disneyesqueway, but a real, creative understandingof the linearity of history.”Above a heated granite walkwayevoking the piazza of a Europeanmarket, a contemporary glass boxpops out of the north face of the Harvest Wagon’s brick heritagebuilding like a see-through awning,spilling over with neat stacks ofbrightly coloured fruits and vegonto Yonge St. Inside, the samesophisticated mix of old-world soulwith clean-lined contemporarycontinues — the simple dark woodshelving suggests old crates orlibrary bookcases, while the samewood, in arced staves across theceiling, creates the illusion of abarrel-vaulted cave. The creamceramic tiled floor suggests pavingstones, while the curvaceous glassfronteddisplay case of preparedfoods could have come straightfrom a grand old Munich deli. Next door at All The Best, therough pine floors, brick walls fittedwith rustic wood shelving (reclaimedfrom an old factory outsideWaterloo) and Victorianporch-fronted cheese room (salvagedfrom Marnwood, an 1873manse outside Bowmanville) conveythe city equivalent of a century-old barn. “We wanted to preservea bit of the warmth and traditionof a European food shop, as ifit were somewhere that had beenhere forever,” says owner JaneRodmell, who set up shop in thesame location 27 years ago andworked with Brad Denton of PencilDesign on the new interior. “The buildings were really inneed of tender loving care,” saysRodmell, adding that Oberman“was a real visionary. He was theone who saw the potential hereand what could be done.”Along with her fellow robbers,Rodmell agrees that as far as Obermanwas concerned, “nothing wastoo much trouble,” and there wasno point in doing something cheapor shoddy.“Usually, in this kind of situation,it’s the landlord who is the enemy,”says Giannone. “But for Paul, ‘goodenough’ just wasn’t in his lexicon.It was almost off-putting howmuch energy and passion he had about doing the right thing.”As Giannone observes, the saddestpart for many in the designcommunity is that the visionaryhimself didn’t have the chance toenjoy his legacy.“I think Paul’s vision for these oldspaces and the architectural heritageof this city was unique,” saysRodmell. “It will be hard to replacehim, but hopefully there will beothers who will take up the charge.”

KAREN VON HAHNKaren von Hahn is a Toronto-basedtrend observer and style commentator.Contact her [email protected]

Foodie heaven reopens on Robbers Row – Original Article (PDF)

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