The #DanforthEast Garage Sale Is Back–Saturday June 13th 2015 – Rain or Shine!

Volunteer-extraodinaire, Bruce Cooper, 37, explains everything you need to know about the best garage sale in the city. But first, we thought we’d let you get to know the person behind the event we love so much.

How long have you lived in the ‘hood?
We moved in 6 years ago because we like what the area had and the potential.
How did you get involved with DECA? 
I started coming out about three years ago to start the garage sale.
What was the inspiration behind the Sale?
When I grew up in Ottawa every year there was the Great Garage Sale. It is a huge annual that the whole city comes in to attend. Lawns are filled with stuff for sale, the streets are clogged with neighbours out and about. The neighbourhood where it happens reminds me a lot of DECA with a very active community group. It was a perfect match.
Advice for anyone with an idea for a community event?
Get started because if you don’t it won’t happen. We were hoping for a small event with 30 or 40 sales and let it grow organically. We were really surprised how big it got with over 120 sales. It is also important to reach out to the DECA board. There is a lot of experience and help available.

Now, everything you need to know, from signing up online to getting your stuff hauled away, in Bruce’s words:

It is a great annual event if you want to clear out the basement, find some great deals, meet your neighbours and get in some sustainable retail therapy. When we started the even two years ago we were hoping to get 60 garage sales but were blown away when we got nearly 120. Last year we had over 160 from Greenwood in the west all the way to Dawes in the East. This year we are hoping for a bigger and better sale all across the neighbourhood.

This year we’ve made it even easier to sign up–just head to our website here.

You can even list what you are selling. If you have anything unique or any collectibles, be sure to let the collectors and bargain hunters know about it.  On the day of sale I know it may be tempting to beat the crowds when you see that someone two streets over is selling a collection of rare VHS tapes but please respect your neighbours and don’t knock on doors before they set up. It is a Saturday after all and some of us can be a bit cranky before our first cup (pot?) of coffee.

The most successful sales are the ones where the whole street gets involved. The last two years both Coleridge in the north and the streets surrounding East Lynn Park both had full street sales. So why not talk to your neighbours and ask them to get involved. Street sales also get a special highlight on our famous map.

The map will be posted  map the day before on the blog and this year we will also post a jpg of the map to the DECA Twitter the night before so everyone can find where the best deals are on their phones. Make sure you sign up in time to get on the map.

Volunteers are always welcome. We are going to be putting up flyers this week and we could use a couple of people to help taping them up along the Danforth, pinning them up on the community message boards or putting them up in local businesses. Email me at deca.yard.sale@gmail.com

We could also use some help with promotions. We would appreciate any Twitter or Facebook posts that you are taking part or better yet discuss it with your friends in the area and neighbours. The more sales we have the more people will come out, the more we will sell and the cleaner our basements will be afterwards.

See you on the 13th and cross your fingers for a third sunny year in a row!

My colleague at work had her first baby, L’il Hank, last week. On, Saturday, I dropped in on Universal Diapers to buy a present (the cutest outfit, shoes included, only $18). While I was there, I talked to owners Lewis Liu and Sarah Qin.

They are originally from Inner Mongolia, a province of China. They moved to North America for their daughter, now 31. “All they do in China is work. They have no breaks. They are assigned homework even at lunch,” says Sarah. “Not all knowledge comes from books. Here, children get free time to play….”

Lewis did his Master’s degree in the US in statistics. Then, they were accepted as immigrants to Canada.

How they got from statistics to children’s clothes and diapers is a story of entrepreneurship.

Sarah and Lewis

Sarah Qin and Lewis Liu have backgrounds in graphic art and statistics. They got the idea to open Universal Diapers from a notice they put up in their apartment mailroom: “Extra diapers for sale.” Their phone rang off the hook. They opened Universal Diapers Baby Store at 1987 Danforth on June 1, 2004.

After arriving in Toronto, they had their second child — a son. They were living in a high-rise in Cresent Town (where they still live), when he was finally potty-trained. Lewis put a notice in the mailroom stating they had extra diapers for sale, and his phone rang off the hook. “I realized, this could be our big chance!” he says.

They rented the storefront out at 1987 Danforth Ave. and sourced cheap diapers from China. Then, as parents arrived and asked for other items, they expanded their stock — clothing, clothe diapers, little Robeez and bassinets. Sarah, who has a background in art design (she did the sets for a television station in China), started designing and sewing her own baby clothes, out of UVA sun-veil.

Sarah and her sunveil

At first, business was so slow, they both took up part-time cleaning jobs in Cresent Town to make ends meet. Now, only Sarah still cleans part-time.

If they won the #DECA gems, they would get a new website. “I made it. It’s very ugly. I never finished it,”  says Lewis.

Quattro4Ragazze owners Carmelo and Enza Lorefice have also been nominated as a #DECAgem by many people.

Gay Stephenson went by their family-run Italian restaurant at 1792 Danforth to ask them what they’d do with the prize, should they win. This is what they said: https://youtu.be/2Wgrvwcgvxw

Big thanks to Catherine Dorton and our DECA Tree group for this post and for their unwavering commitment to our tree canopy
Have you noticed the new trees planted along the Danforth between Woodbine and Victoria Park? We need your help to care for these trees.
With the support of the Green Streets Grant awarded by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation and Tree Canada, LEAF has the opportunity to work closely with the City of Toronto and the Danforth community to develop an Adopt-a-Street-Tree Pilot Program for the 142 new street trees planted on the Danforth between Woodbine and Victoria Park. 
Kick-off party will be on May 9 @ 12-1:30pm – see poster for details. 
AAST Community Meeting Flyer

The objective of this pilot program is to foster a collaborative approach to protection and care of the city’s vulnerable street trees and to develop community tree care guidelines and a stewardship approach that can be replicated across Toronto.


Gerard Pizza is a family business. Here are the owners, three generations of Grecos: Nancy, 10-year-old Massimo, Guiseppe and Vito.

Gerard Pizza is a family business. Here are the owners, three generations of Grecos: Nancy, 10-year-old Massimo, Guiseppe and Vito.

If he won the #DECAGems prize, Gerrard Spaghetti and Pizza‘s Vito would freshen up the joint.

He’d redo the facade. Oh, and open up the front with big sliding doors, so people eating pizza could spill right out onto the sidewalk….

Lots of people have nominated Gerrard Pizza as a #DecaGem. That’s got Vito and his family very excited. They’ve put up signs all over their restaurant, located just west of Coxwell at 1528 Danforth.

We visited this week to find out more about the place. It turns out to be a true family business. First, Vito’s great-uncle opened it in 1967. Back then, it was on Gerrard near Woodfield. In 1972, Vito’s dad Guissepe took it over.

It moved here in 1976. Back then, there was a large Robertson Motors across the street, with about 100 employees — so the place was hopping, particularly on Saturday nights. Crossroads Tavern was thriving too. (Can you imagine?)  The local neighborhood was filled with Sicilians — many from the small town called Pachino. (I found it on a map. Here it is.)

“It was like half the town transplanted itself here,” Vito says.

Robertson Motors shut down, so did Crossroads, and most of the Pachino-transplants have retransplanted elsewhere  — making Gerrard Pizza a lot emptier than it was back then.

But the Greco family is still running the place — Guiseppe and his wife Nancy run the kitchen, Vito serves customers, and his two sons, sister Elenor and nephew all help out on weekends.

Kelly Food Mart

Kelly Food Mark is another family-run business. Owners Johnny and Ivy are high school sweethearts from Hong Kong.  Johhny came to Canada first, and then sponsored Ivy to come.

Her brother-in-law owns the building at 1942 Danforth. He couldn’t find any tenants to rent it out ten years ago, so Johnny got it almost by default at a reduced rent and opened a fruit and vegetable store. At the time, his daughter Kelly was just three months old — hence the name.

“The first year, I was so scared. There were no people walking on the street. No customers,” he says. “Now, there are more people walking because there are more businesses on the street.”

What would he do with the #DECAgems prize? “I need a new sign,” he says. “The guy who did it, he made a mistake.” There is no Mark in the family. It was supposed to say: MART.

What about Face to Face Games, the gaming store and cafe that opened above the Pizza Pizza (2077a Danforth) at the end of last summer? It’s been nominated too.

Owners Kelly Ackerman and Anthony Cameron told DECA member Stephanie Nakitsas what they’d do with the prize, should they win.

She caught it on video for you, here:  https://youtu.be/Im3Ktgovi9E

Local Jane’s Walks this weekend

Have you ever wanted to combine a history or social studies class with phys ed.? Jane’s Walk is exactly that.  But the best part is you don’t even realize you’re in phys ed! There are three Jane’s Walks happening in our neighbourhood this weekend, each with it’s own flair. For more about other Jane’s Walks happening, check out janeswalk.org .

Toronto has a Main Street? | May 1, 1015 | 6:00 PM

e3d1cf69ee54bf7c66ff6d582e79c06c_f761In the late 19th-century, the East Toronto rail yard brought settlement and steady employment to the Main Street area of Toronto.  When rail operations moved elsewhere in the early 20th-century, it tore a gap in the fabric of the community.  In the early part of the 20th-century, the Ford Motor Company brought skilled jobs, relative prosperity and suburban growth.  By the early 1950s, Ford had moved its plant to Oakville, thus tearing another gap. In 1968, the subway arrived, ushering in a new era and a promise of a return to prosperity. Using a combination of archival photos and storytelling, we’ll learn how this neighbhourhood has evolved in the past 130 years, and where it is headed in the future.

The Death and Life of Upper Midway | May 2, 2015 | 10:00 AM

44f1df215b8bf284a30f01114ce9cc35_f1608For many Torontonians, the Danforth is the main street of Riverdale or a place to eat Greek. But that image covers just a small strip of this storied street, formerly known as the Second Concession, the Danforth Plank Road and The King’s Highway No. 5.

Danforth east of Pape, often referred to as the “Other Danforth,” wasn’t really developed until the 1920s, after the First World War ended and the Bloor viaduct opened. The Other Danforth has always tended to be blue collar and gritty. And while it has seen hard times, especially in the past four decades, the area is almost certainly on the leading edge of a wave of gentrification, investment and development.

How do we as a community maximize the chances that we get the type of change we want? What factors are key to making neighbourhood economies thrive? How do we ensure that our sidewalks become more welcoming and pleasant and useful?

A good starting point would be to read (or reread) the first three Jane Jacobs books — especially the first: The Death and Life of Great American Cities. A good second step would be to join us for the eighth annual Upper Midway Jane’s Walk, as we try to understand how and why this stretch of the Danforth developed as it did, what made it a thriving pedestrian-friendly place for so long, and why it slipped into decline. The idea is to identify factors and lessons from the past to foster discussion and to help serve as guides for the future. Along the way, we hope to show you a lot of good reasons to get into the habit of putting your feet and your eyes on the street.

Midway was largely a default name for the area between the City of Toronto (whose eastern boundary was at the Ashbridge’s Creek, just east of Greenwood) and the Town of East Toronto (whose western boundary crossed Danforth about a half kilometre east of Woodbine). In its entirety, Midway, which was annexed by the city in 1909, ran down almost to Queen. This walk will focus on Upper Midway, which was north of the Grand Trunk Railway tracks, as well as the former Church of England Glebe lands north of Danforth.

We’re going to concentrate on the history and character of the three main Upper Midway intersections (Woodbine, Coxwell and Greenwood), as well as the three lost creeks that crossed this stretch of the Danforth — creeks that still affect the way land is used.

East Danforth East – A Culinary Walking Tour | May 1 2015 2:00 PM | May 2 2015 2:00 PM

32feb834dd21966792233fdc7ee4ffcc_f2690East of Danforth East, the cafes, gastro-pubs, artisan studios, pop-up shops, and social enterprises give way to offerings that are much more esoteric, but every bit as interesting. From banana flowers and injera to giant catfish and dozens of herbs and spices you’ve never heard of, the bustling and emphatically un-gentrified eastern reaches of the Danforth present a cornucopia of culturally-specific fare that can pass unnoticed by residents en-route to the big-chain supermarket. Participants will be introduced to some of the lesser-known food products and culinary ingredients available at local fruit markets, bakeries, butchers, fish markets and grocers, and invited to broaden our palates by incorporating them in our own household cuisines. Along the way, we’ll be invited to broaden our thinking on just what ingredients make for a healthy and desirable neighborhood. The posted walk for 2pm, May 1st, is an Open Dress Rehearsal. Please be prepared for a lot of stammering and awkwardness!

100 in 1 Day for Danforth East

Have a little idea for a better city and healthier community? Be a part of the 100in1Day event on June 6th, 2015.   100In1Day is a day where hundreds people get together around of small acts of change to improve their neighbourhoods. There will be a public brainstorming workshop held on Wednesday May 6th (6-8 PM) at the Danforth/Coxwell Library to come up with an urban intervention to roll out as a part of 100In1Day for Danforth East on Saturday, June 6th.

Register for this FREE workshop at here and see the poster below for more details.


If you have a kid and you’ve been to the farmer’s market in East Lynn Park, you probably know Melissa Peretti. She’s the person who plays with her or him, while you go smell the peaches and size up the fresh garlic.  For years now, she’s run a creative crafts table every week at the market, teaching kids how to make home-made maracas and finger puppets.

If you don’t know her from there, then maybe you’ve visited her storefront Mrs. Darling. She’s been one of our pop-up entrepreneurs not once, but twice.

But what you should really know about Melissa, is that she’s spent countless hours over many years helping set up and run the annual Danforth East Arts Fair. She is extremely humble about her efforts (“just one of a team!”), but we want to shout out our praises because we think, truly, she is an example of how much of a difference one person can make to a neighbourhood.

Somehow, we got her to join the board too.

Here is veteran DECA board member MELISSA PERETTI, in her own words….

Melissa Peretti as Mrs. Darling at the East Lynn Farmers' Market

Melissa Peretti as Mrs. Darling at the East Lynn Farmers’ Market

My name and age is… Melissa Peretti holding strong at 38. I grew up in Peterborough, went to an intergraded arts high school, and couldn’t wait to leave and find everything in the big city. What I have ended up finding is a welcoming, closeknit community unlike anything there was in my small suburban town, where you had to drive every where to get or do anything.

One thing people don’t know about me is… that I’m that “market craft lady” Mrs. Darling, and due to popular request I’ve recently launched my new interior design business for families to help them have creativity, play, and whimsy in the homes they should love to live in now though purposeful design.

I also belong to an awesome business ladies group, IBOSS (Independent Business Owners Stratagy and Support Group, but I like to think of us as a Secret Society). We meet monthly, usually at Cake Town, but had a spring lunch (in the pic below) at Melanie’s Bistro.

I moved to Danforth East… in 2005 two weeks after I got married in Italy, into a house on Strathmore Blvd., from Spadina and Queen. Big changes.

One change I’ve seen over the years….  the influx of young families. There are waaaay more little ones toddling around then when my eight-year-old was that young. You need a reservation to get into the sandbox at East Lynn now. (Joke credit Andrew Mattews)

The thing I love most about Danforth East is… the proximity to everything. I can get everything I need with in a ten minute walk, but if I do have to leave there’s the subway. Boom! DVP. Boom! Lakeshore Gardiner right down there. Beaches, Greek Town……

My biggest local pet peeve is… the sidewalk flower planters. But I know the street scraping is being rolled out in stages just now. (Thanks MMM!)

My neighborhood secret is… going with my daughter to Royal Beef on a Sunday to get a sandwich (which they will make you if you didn’t know) and her weekly supply of “crack ham”, better known as Applewood smoked ham. She’s nuts for it.

The place I go in DECA’s stomping grounds that you’ve likely never frequented is… my street’s progressive dinner party we host in the cold depths of February. Just when you are starting to forget what your neighbours look like, it’s a great time to make merry. The first one I joined, I brought my one-month-old baby along. She slept in the bassinet as we went form house to house. It was probably the last one were I was conservative with the wine pairings.

The thing I’ve done as a DECA board member that makes me most proud is… my work on the Arts Fair. Really a lot of fun. We are a small group (but can always grow!!). We hand pick every artist, try to create a perfect balance, making sure each one has a unique voice at the show. After all those months of work, there’s nothing like the feeling on a cool, dewy September morning, helping the artists set up and it all coming together.

My final word…. DECA always can use more hands. I was very intimidated by the super-involved, over-achievers when I started hanging around my first meetings. But not everyone has to lead a project to get involved. You just need to figure out what feels interesting and see where it takes you. A few hours lending a hand here and there really makes a big difference to pulling off most of the events we all enjoy.

DECA Board member Melissa Peretti (third from the left) and the other members of the local business group, IBOSS, otherwise known as the Secret Society.

DECA Board member Melissa Peretti (third from the left) and the other members of the local business group, IBOSS, otherwise known as the Secret Society.*

( *For those fellow solo-pronours, or simply curious neighbours, members of IBOSS pictured with Melissa in the photo include: Isabelle Bouchard, owner of Ankh Yoga, ankhyoga.com ; Heather Corbin, graphic designer, corbincreative.ca; Samantha Lowes, bookkeeper, lowesconsulting.ca ; Tobi Asmoucha, photographer, tobiphoto.com ; and Tammy Lai, accountant thecarrotcounter.com. Final member Queenie Best wasn’t there for the pic. She’s a graphic designer,   queeniescards.com.)

There’s just one week left to nominate your favorite local businesses for the DECA Hidden Gems competition. On May 7, the final four will be chosen — based on popularity, merit and need. So, keep nominating — even if your favorite spot has already had a shout-out! We are listening. To date, more than 80 businesses have received nominations. That’s huge.

In the run up to the final four, we decided to highlight some popular nominees for you — just to share the love. We even went to visit them all in our mission for information. This write-up comes from our friend and fellow #DECAgems organizer Niamh Hill:

El Sol at 1448 Danforth is both a Mexican restaurant and gallery.

El Sol at 1448 Danforth is both a Mexican restaurant and gallery.

Did you know El Sol (1448 Danforth) is both a North Mexican restaurant and a gallery?

Before owner Yolanda Paez started working in the kitchen, she studied art in Mexico.

That’s why there’s art on the walls, weighing down the shelves and even covering the ceilings. (All of it is for sale too — check out the  sun (sol) figurines, Mexican glass collections and  sombreros in the back that curious guests are encouraged to try on along with maracas. Ole!)

Even when cooking up some delicious soft or hard tacos, empanadas or guacamole, Yolanda always has art on her mind. She laughs as she thinks about cooking in the kitchen and creating a poem in her head at the same time.

‘I’ve seen children grow up’ she says as she describes her 19 years operating on the Danforth. ‘They come in with their parents when they’re little, and then they come in on their own.’

She runs the gallery/restaurant with her brother Gonzalo. 

The ingredients the family uses are mostly imported from Mexico (locally when it’s not the middle of winter!) and the meals are always prepared fresh and entirely from scratch. Each year Yolanda goes back to Mexico for two weeks and purchases the spices, heading straight to the  market in Mexico City from the airport.

As soon as the weather is warm enough Yolanda wants to start hosting gallery nights on Monday evenings to showcase Mexican art and music. Along with drinks they plan on serving up a special menu of finger foods for visitors. She’s especially excited to open up the patio this summer and to paint the fence a new color, perhaps blue or yellow – she can’t decide.

What would Yolanda do to El Sol if she wins the #DECAgems competition? Marketing. Right now, they rely mostly on word-of-mouth. El Sol has a website, but between the gallery and kitchen, Yolanda can’t find time to update it.

El Sol 3

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