As a big-time consumer of design blogs and shelter magazines, I've been familiar with Angus & Company for awhile. Merch from the shop is constantly being featured in House and Home magazine, and the owner, Michael Angus, has an awesome apartment that's also been shown in the magazine and online. (I think it's upstairs from the shop.)  Here's a video of Angus' apartment, toured for H&H online TV.
But familiar as I was, I'd never actually seen the store in person, which makes no sense since it's actually very close to me. (It's right at the corner of Christie St. and Dupont, here in Toronto, and I've passed it a million times.) 

Finally, finally, a few weeks ago, I decided to go in. The experience was a little awkward, frankly. I was the only shopper there, and the staffer on hand was busy doing some cleaning (mopping, etc.) I felt a bit like I was intruding. Even so, I loved what I saw, even though a lot of it wasn't really my taste. (I like quirky, weird decor, and Angus & Co. stocks lots of traditional stuff.) Even so, everything I saw was beautiful. Here are some pictures from the shop's website:
Antler chandelier
A sofa (and the shop all around)
A table top accessory (the gold tone foot) - only about $25
Orange lacquer boxes (which also come in white)
A display area in the shop. I believe nearly everything here is for sale, from the trays and dishes to the sofa to the sunburst mirror to the candlesticks to the vintage books.
I don't know that I'm going to become an Angus & Company regular or anything, but I'm glad I finally checked it out. It's great if you're looking for beautiful little decor pieces, especially if you like a classic or vintage vibe, but don't have the time or desire to hunt around traditionally cluttered antique/vintage shops. Everything at Angus & Co. is already perfectly curated, which is nice.  

As I said, some stuff is pretty pricey (the real antiques, for example, light fixtures, furniture), but there are lots of affordable table top pieces, barware, glassware, etc. The website has plenty of it listed online, so you don't even need to visit the store to check it out in person. 

Angus & Company: I think I recommend it.

Angus & Company
647 Dupont St.
Toronto, ON M6G 1Z4
For years people have been telling me to check out Karen Found It, a small Toronto vintage boutique. And finally, a couple of months ago, I did. I wanted to blog about it at the time, but the shop's website always seemed to be down and I wanted to be able to link to it, so I delayed. 

The truth is, my Karen Found It experience wasn't great. The shop was teeny, the wares were cool, but too pricey for my means, and the place just had a generally dusty and deserted vibe. And now I know why. 

Karen Found It was/is closing. (In fact, it might be closed already.)
Today, I decided to finally sit down to write my review of the shop, and Googling for images led me to a Blog TO post, which was followed by the following comment from shop owner  Karen Wilson:

"We are closing KFI and are having a sale! Come by and find a bargain! No reasonable offer refused. Help us move our inventory! Thanks for your patronage over the last 6 years, it has been a good run. See you at the market somewhere, sometime soon.

This news made me sort of sad. As someone who's trying to make a go of a vintage shop herself, it's a bummer to see one go under. I don't know why Karen decided to close her place. Her stuff was definitely cool, from hipster leather and vinyl bags, to funky old housewares, to jewellery made from vintage silver spoons (pieces she told me were made by her father, which is kinda cool). And after six years and so many people recommending it to me, I sort of expected the place to be thriving. Alas.

I feel like I missed the boat. 

Anyway, RIP Karen Found It. I hope Karen keeps finding stuff, wherever she ends up next.
Back in February of last year, I did a little blog about a new kitchen boutique that had recently opened in the St. Clair west neighbourhood of Toronto. Called Clay, the place had (as I put it) a "neat indie aesthetic" and that hasn't changed. It's still a very cute place, and it seems it's doing quite well. One of the owners got in touch awhile back asked me to pop in again to see how it had changed and grown over the past couple of years and I finally got around to it this week. My verdict: the shop is a success.
When I first wrote about Clay, I said that it felt a little sparse and very IKEA-y. Sparse is definitely no longer accurate. The store is now very well stocked -- not packed -- but there's plenty to see. It's definitely handy to have a place like this in the 'hood. I feel like I can shop for a wedding or for a last minute gift without going out of my favoured 5 block area, and that's big for me.
Clay is a place where you can get both big ticket items and small stuff. In other words, it's very option-friendly. For example, if you want to splurge, Clay has a good selection of Le Crueset:
At the same time, the shop stocks cool and quirky stuff like this adorable squirrel nut cracker, for about $26. (Push down on the tail and the mouth opens. Put the nut in the squirrels mouth and press down on the tail to crack. Fun! It was hard to resist buying this little guy.) 
I also love that the shop has a warm, neighbourhood vibe. Since it's a neighbourhood store, that seems appropriate. Check out the mantle on the back wall:
Finally, check out this interesting line of cookware Clay has stocked:
A little research tells me that while this line looks new, it's actually been around since the early part of the 20th Century. Since the line is imported from France, a lot of the information about it is in French, so I can't tell you much more except that it seems super eco friendly and it can go from stovetop to oven, which is always handy. Maybe it'll be the next old-to-new boom like the aforementioned Le Crueset? Who knows. Clay is one of the only places I've EVER seen carrying it. 

Anyway. Yay for Clay! That should be the title of this post. Having to go to a mall or a big box store makes me want to shoot myself in the face. It's places like Clay that let me avoid that sort of thing, and that's why I love it.

Congratulations, Clay. Keep on truckin'. 
Aw, man. It's been way too long between reviews posts. Time to get back to it. 

And with that, I bring you a little piece on a new vintage shop that opened recently in my hood (St. Clair West/Hilcrest Village). 

The shop's called Gypsy and it's FABULOUS.
Gypsy is located in the same space as another local store that died recently (always a bummer). If you live in the neighbourhood, you might have noticed the recent changes to the facade. It used to be beige/tan. Now it's a wine/plum/burgundy colour. 

Initially, this change made me nervous. Burgundy brings back memories of my 9th grade fetish for crushed velvet baby-doll dresses. 
I was wrong to worry. The building's colour, and the romantic signage perfectly suit the moody, eclectic interior. The shop is dark and sumptuous, like a Parisian boutique you found hidden in a neighbourhood you only visited by accident. (In other words: it's awesomesauce and full of personality.)

On the day when I was there, I didn't have my camera, so I will rely on shots pilfered from the shop's own Tumbler page (linked via the shop name above).
What I love about it? It's PACKED with stock. This is one of the most well-stocked vintage shops I've ever visited, in fact. It's a little overwhelming. Though the space is not enormous, every square inch is filled with treasures, from boho dresses to leather boots, to jewellery, to collectibles to oddities. My friend and I stayed for two full hours and I don't think we managed to see everything.

And in general, stuff at Gypsy is well priced. It's a mid-range pre-loved kind of place. Here's a quote from the shop's Tumbler, describing the prices for some of the pieces in a recent window display: 

"The jean dungarees on the tall model go for $30, which is a bit higher than the average for our jean shorts. Her 100% silk peasant blouse top is $38, and all the silk ties she’s adorned with (for belts and roses) - as well as all the silk ties in the store - are $24 each."

All those prices are fair, I'd say. Well below mall-range retail, but pricier than Goodwill, which makes complete sense when you factor in the work it takes to curate a nice vintage collection.

The shop's owner, Donnetta Galloway, seems like a lovely lady, with lots of experience. She told me she used to do custom bridal back in the day. (Her partner apparently owns one of the newish cafe's in the 'hood as well - NOIR - so shopping at Gypsy makes me feel like I'm supporting TWO small local businesses, which gives me the warm fuzzies.) 

I didn't buy any clothing (not that I wasn't tempted), but I did snag a decorative piece that I absolutely love: a brass, moroccan-style pendant that I could easily convert into a light fixture. For the time being, it's hanging from the ceiling in my office. 
Look past the bad lighting. It's great, right?

Anyway. Do check out Gypsy if you're in the hood. I couldn't be happier to see such a cool little shop making a go of it. 

GYPSY (found objects)
762 St. Clair Ave. W.
Toronto, ON m6C 1B5
So, I'm not usually much of a jewellery person. I mean, I LIKE jewellery. I like looking at it, and I admire it on other people, but owning to a raging inherited contact allergy, I can't wear much metal adornment myself. I break into horrible rashes and hives. Even my vintage rose gold wedding ring irritates me sometimes.

Anyway, as a result, I hardly every post about jewellery. But today, I just had to share something with you:

City and Cedar - Handcrafted Jewellery made by a girl I know right here in Toronto.

I don't know Rachel -- the artist -- well. She's the partner of a guy who is a friend of my husband (not exactly a close connection), but DAMN, I like her stuff. (In fact, I almost descended into a little jealous rage when I first saw her website, which made my website look kind of hokey.)

Anyway, take a look at some of this awesomesauce jewellery. It's a mix of boho/industrial styles, urban and hippie chic at the same time. Here, look - I've pulled a few of my faves:

This is the Kunda Flower Bracelet. ($15 each - probably the most inexpensive piece in the shop). Looks so good layered.
Next up, two incarnations of the Neci necklace:
And finally here's a bad-ass necklace called the Kita:
If I wasn't wildly allergic to brass, I would buy some of this stuff in a wink, but since I can't, I thought I'd spread the word to you in the hopes that you might buy a piece of two and let me live vicariously. (Note: some of City and Cedar's other pieces include customizable ribbon, wood beads, and leather cords. You can definitely make any of their pieces your own.)

Seriously... this stuff is funktastic. Pretty, feminine, unique, urban, etc. Love it. And I'm so happy to be able to give a little blog shout-out to a local artisan who's making a go of something crafty and wonderful instead of giving in to a life as a cog in the corporate machine. I really want people like this to succeed, especially when they're super talented.

Anyway. Last, but not least, here's a sweet (and very hip) behind the scenes video Rachel made of the recent City and Cedar "look book" photo shoot.
Bejewel yourself, my friends. You won't be sorry.
So, I'm starting to think this whole "sell your jewellery" thing is a big fat crock.

I don't get why the fad is still going. Selling gold to be melted down is a HUGE rip off, in my opinion, as will be evidence by this little post I'm about to share about my recent experience trying to sell to Toronto's Omni Jewelcrafters at Bathurst & Glencairn.
Here's how it went:

I went to Omni hoping to sell 3 things. These things are as follows:

1) A 14k gold circle pendant (with chain) featuring a ring of small diamonds. (Original price: about $500)
2) A pair of diamond earrings (studs). Smallish, by v. high quality diamonds, set in white gold. (Original price: $750)
3) One 18k gold earring set with six small diamonds (like the ones in the circle pendant) that didn't have a mate. It was real, but I don't know how much it cost, because I found it in Heathrow airport six years ago.

I wasn't expecting that much, but considering that I had original receipts and/or appraisal documents for each item, I figured I might get a nice little chunk of change. Maybe... $200? $250?

Not even close. Omni offered me $110. For all three items combined.

Now, this is jewellery I don't want. It's stuff I don't wear. Besides the found earring, it was all given to me by an ex and is infected with bad juju. I WANTED to sell it, but I just couldn't bring myself to settle for such a crappy pay out.

I had receipts! I had appraisals! But in the world of jewellery hocking, such things mean nothing, I've learned.

Perhaps I should have known. I mean, consider the kinds of ads these outfits run.
_I definitely should have known.

I'd also like to add that the clerk at Omni was a bit smarmy and condescending, which didn't make me want to make a deal. Regarding the pendant necklace, he said "I know it's pretty and it sparkles, but it's not really worth anything." And "these diamonds are sOooo small ... it would cost me as much as they're worth to remove them from the setting."

Um. Yeah right, I thought. You could take apart this setting in five minutes, buster. You're not fooling anyone.

The whole experience was lame. I parted with the one earring and was paid $20 for it. (Six little diamonds, plus the thick gold setting and all I got was $20. But hey... he was doing me a favour, right? The diamonds were soooo small.) I let the earring go because I'd found it. Didn't seem fair to profit too much from someone else's loss. But I took the rest of my pieces home.

After having this experience, I can't understand why people sell jewellery this way at all. You've got to be desperate.

Maybe I'll do some sort of bad juju cleansing and start wearing this stuff again. Maybe I'll regift it. Who knows?

Omni Jewel & Java Café
2793 Bathurst St.
Toronto, ON M6B 3A4
(416) 783-2091

P.S. Also, there's a built in café/restaurant at the Omni location I visited. Because it makes total sense to combine food service and fine jewellery sales? Totally weird.
As some of you guys know, I work in the Queen West area of Toronto, right at the edge of Parkdale. And in nice weather, I like to wander the neighbourhood during my lunch hour. This wandering has lead me to a lot of great vintage stores.

In particular, one I'm loving more and more lately is 69 Vintage.

One of a small chain/group of shops, the 69 Vintage on Queen carries a lot of country/western style garments. Think leather boots, bags and jackets. Pendleton and Hudson Bay style patterns. And beautiful wools.

They've also got some great old dresses - both glittery and saloon-style.

I pop in regularly, but don't often buy because it CAN get a little pricey. (At least for my budget, which is miniscule, though in general, items range from $50 to $150, which seems fair considering their high quality). That said, I did find something for Nathan recently: A COACH Beekman Briefcase (in a rugged, worn tan). It was $60, but retails for over $500 new, so I'm happy with the deal.

(While we're talking price, I should also say that there are often $10 items at 69 Vintage as well. Ironic vintage tees and that sort of thing.)
Back in 2007, Robyn Urback at BlogTO did a piece on the store, but all I really remember about it was her focus on the smell... as in, the smell of vintage stores. She LOVED that 69 Vintage didn't (in her opinion) smell.

People are so weird. Why do so many people think second hand stores smell bad? It's all in your head, weirdos. Do they smell different than new stores? Yes. Do they smell unique in the way that people's houses smell unique? Yes, they do. But don't be a snob, please. It's totally lame. Just because another person's body has touched a piece of clothing, doesn't mean it's going to smell. Geeze.

Anyway, here are some ads and images that capture the 69 Vintage look:
Creative commons image by moon angel, from Flickr.
Dolce & Gabbana ad from fall/winter 2008/2009.
The Dude, fromThe Big Lebowski. If you liked his cardi - read more about it on the Pendleton blog.

If you like the look of the stuff above, you'll like 69 Vintage. I suggest you check it out.
Okay, so this isn't a review. It is, however, a story that I think might be of value to consumers.
A few weeks ago (on July 7th, specifically), I was driving west along Eglinton Ave. in Toronto. Behind me was a Sleep Country Canada delivery truck. And when I say behind me, I mean RIGHT behind me. The driver was practically stuck to my bumper. Major tailgating.

And yes, it was making me angry.

I don't like tailgaters at the best of times, but when the tailgater in question is driving a huge truck, it makes me even more nervous.

After awhile, fed up, I gestured to the driver to move back. This was not an aggressive gesture. It was a limp-wristed flapping. A sort of non-verbal "shoo!" I wanted the truck to back up.

Did the truck back up? No. The Sleep Country Canada truck did NOT back up. Rather, the Sleep Country Canada truck swerved out to the right and pulled up beside me so that the driver could yell out his window "Stick it up your ass, lady! You fucking cunt!"

That's right. Apparently, Sleep Country Canada delivery men think yelling out "you fucking cunt" is... appropriate? Funny? Intimidating? I'm not sure what the guy thought. Clearly, he thought I was a "fucking cunt" for wanting him to back up, but that seems a bit... excessive, don't you think?

So what did I do? Well, I was startled and frightened so I didn't do much of anything. I kept my eyes on the road and tried not to incite the lunatic driver any further. But I DID take down his license plate. And after getting home, via a Facebook connection, I shared my experience with Sleep Country corporate.

But nothing came of it.

Apparently, my experience was forwarded to the Manager and VP of operations here in Toronto. Those people followed up with the driver and his "helper." Their version of events was, unsurprisingly, different from my own.

What did they say happened, I wonder? What situation did the driver and his helper concoct to make it seem appropriate for him to have called me a cunt? Or did he pretend he hadn't said that at all? I suppose if I were him, I'd lie as well. Still, I wonder what lie he told. Or at least, how he managed to concoct a lie that made sense to his superiors.

"In the absence of evidence, we aren't able to take disciplinary action," said Sleep Country in its email response.

Of course, I hadn't asked for disciplinary action. I hadn't asked for anything at all. I'd simply shared my experience. And considering that I'm a random person on the street, uninterested in discounts, compensation or the like, you'd think someone over at Sleep Country might have twigged to the fact that I have no motivation for making this sort of thing up. But alas, we live in a strange age.

Sleep Country did offer this much: "As well as individual conversations with these individuals, a general review of the Code of Business Conduct will be reviewed with all associates on the delivery team and we will also use your example to demonstrate the swiftness with which negative actions can be disseminated through social media and the negative impact it has on branding."

In other words, Sleep Country will be using what happened as a teaching tool. Hooray.

Here's the thing: the language the driver used was clearly gendered, clearly misogynistic, and definitely threatening. And that's a big deal. But Sleep Country didn't seem to care. Not enough, anyway.

Now, of course, I wasn't a Sleep Country customer. I was just a woman on the street. So perhaps Sleep Country's promise of "professional, courteous and friendly" delivery teams applies only to those who've actually purchased a mattress, but I can tell you one thing, I won't be purchasing ANYTHING from Sleep Country any time soon.

Why buy a mattress anywhere else? Why, indeed.

The Nicholas Hoare book shop is certainly one of the most beautiful and charming independent bookstores in Toronto. There used to be several of these gems (Remember Britnell? It's now a Starbucks.), but big chains like Chapters have put most of them out of business. For that reason alone, I like to pop into Nicolas Hoare every now and again, even though it's out of the way, and even though it often doesn't have what I'm looking for.

I just like supporting the little guy.
The best things about Nicholas Hoare:
  • It's beautiful
  • It's got comfy chairs and a squashy sofa grouped around a fireplace in the store
  • You can browse and read to your heart's content and no one bothers you
  • The collection is highly curated
  • The gift wrap is free
The worst things about Nicholas Hoare:
  • It's too highly curated -- often doesn't have what I'm looking for
  • It's way downtown, on Front St., which isn't convenient
  • The staff are occasionally snooty
  • The store specializes in British books (which is cool, but limiting)
I would highly recommend Nicholas Hoare for a holiday visit (it's lovely at Christmas), or as a stop on a tour of the city. It's a shop that will impress the grumpiest of tourists. It's also nice to visit on a lazy Sunday, when you feel like browsing and don't have a specific book in mind.  Or check out a book events there sometime. The shop hosts launches, signings and the like.

All that said, if you ARE looking for something specific, I suggest you call the store first. They will order you something if they don't have it in. But that means waiting. Personally, I don't like waiting. It's annoying, but then again, it's not like it'll kill you.
Found a really cute little local store on my lunch hour the other day. (I work in the Queen West/Parkdale area of Toronto.) It's called Madam Vintage.

It's a tiny little corner shop, located in a space that probably started life as a convenience store.

I was lured in by the flapping cowboy shirts displayed on the front patio. Nathan's been obsessed with plaids and snaps lately, so I thought I might find something for him.

I definitely found a lot of options but decided not to buy anything until he was there to try things on. In addition to the cowboy shirts, boots, and other plaid paraphernalia, I noticed some cute heels, purses and blouses.

According to its website, Madam Vintage carries "cowboy chic" and "80s vintage" for both men and women. The lady working there when I popped in (the owner, I believe, who looked like she was still in her 20s), told me she imports a lot of her stuff directly from Alberta - that is to say, the Canadian hub of cowboy-land. So I think it's all pretty authentic.

The one thing I REALLY wanted to buy was a black and white cow hide rug, but it turns out the rug wasn't for sale and while I asked, the owner was unwilling to part with it.

Madam Vintage is an out-of-the-way place, but I found it (and the owner) to be surprisingly cute, casual and friendly. I'd like to see it succeed. So if you're in the neighbourhood and you have a penchant for plaid, I suggest you stop in.

Madam Vintage
168 Gladstone Ave. (between Dundas and Queen)
(647) 348-2264