For this series of blog posts marking our 10th year, (our DECAde) we are looking back on where DECA started, how far we’ve come and where the next 10 years might take us and our neighbourhood. We are including interviews with some of DECA’s founding and earliest Board members along with other info and tidbits from DECA’s “archives”. 

That was then

Ten years ago, the stretch of Danforth from Monarch Park to Main Street was bleak. Walkability had been in decline since the introduction of the subway in 1966. Storefronts were empty, parks were sketchy and unsafe and residents were disconnected. Back then you had to leave the neighbourhood to buy things, go for coffee or enjoy a night out. We had no smartphones or social media. There was no path forward to get the neighbourhood closer to its potential.

Check out this Globe & Mail article from August 2006 about Danforth East called The rougher end of the Danforth.

In 2007, a group of neighbours started meeting around dining room tables, eventually forming DECA. Among that group were Peter Schmiedchen, Catherine Porter, Mary-Margaret McMahon, Natasha Granatstein, Alison McMurray and Mary Vallis. This is what the neighbourhood was like when they moved here.  


PS: My wife and I moved here in 2002. We had been renting at Danforth and Greenwood, and when we decided to buy, we told our Real Estate agent we didn’t want to look anywhere East of Pape. Knowing our own area, we didn’t think that the areas further east were going to be places we would want to settle down. However, after realizing that Pape was waaaay out of our price range, and looking at 60+ houses around East York and Leslieville, our agent finally talked us into showing us an area near Woodbine. We were wary, but agreed as we were weary of house hunting. She took us to a house on Keystone Avenue and we fell in love. At once, we knew that this was the neighbourhood we wanted to remain in. The downside was the lack of great restaurants and shops on our stretch of the Danforth.

MV: I moved to the neighbourhood in 2006 with my husband. The decision was based solely on the fact he wanted a house with a basement high enough to stand up in, and easy access to the subway line. At the time, we got little else. But after forging friendships with our neighbours and connecting with colleagues in the neighbourhood, we saw its potential and both dedicated what spare time we had to helping make it a great place to live.

NG: We moved here in 2004. Our real estate agent did not want us to buy on the east side of Coxwell and REFUSED to sell us anything east of Woodbine. When my oldest son was born in 2006, I spent a lot of time pushing a stroller around the neighbourhood. I got very thin because it was a LONG walk to even get to a coffee shop that I was willing to enter into with my infant son. It was so puzzling that people were spending a whack of money on houses in the neighbourhood, but there were no shops that catered to them on the Danforth. People obviously had money to spend, but there was nowhere local to spend it.

CP: My husband and I moved into our house on Keystone in September 2004. What was it like? Grungy, I’d say. It felt desolate. We had a daughter in Feb. 2006, who was very colicky. The only way to calm her down was to tie her onto our bodies and walk briskly around. So, I saw the neighbourhood at all hours. I started to look at it in ways I hadn’t before, because I was always nipping in and out. I saw the boarded up storefronts. Mostly, I noticed young girls getting picked up for tricks outside of Sobeys in the early hours of the night and I worried that no one was on the street to watch out for them.

MMM: We were renting an apartment in the Beach Triangle and put an offer in on a dirt cheap house on Cedarvale in 1994. We weren’t super keen on the neighbourhood and figured we would only stick around for a few years – 5 max! There were many derelict empty shops. The Danforth had a filthy feel to it and we had a neighbour who used to pee on our lawn.  It wasn’t till we had kids that we actually started exploring the parks in the neighbourhood and were shocked to see how many we actually have in a such a close proximity! 

AM: My husband Patrick grew up in the east end so when it was time to buy a house, a small East York bungalow fit the bill. The neighbourhood had a few gems on the Danforth like Monte’s, Biway and Royal Beef but overall it was quite desolate. There were lots of young families moving into the area and we met daily in East Lynn Park.

CP: I had worked at City Hall as a reporter, and had witnessed the power of community organizations, mostly to say no to developments. But I thought — maybe we could work together to change our neighbourhood, and bring some life into it. I asked neighbours over to my house for wine and cheese and conversation. That’s how we got started.

Fact: There was no Business Improvement Area (BIA) along our stretch of Danforth in 2007. The Danforth Mosaic BIA was formed in 2008. 

DECA memberships are only $10/household to support our community initiatives including our weekly Farmer’s Market, Diversity Scholarship, annual Arts Fair, Pumpkin Parade, Tree Lighting Festival, #DanforthEast Yard Sale, DECA Pride LGBTQ+ group and more! Sign up here.

Keep in touch with us:

Instagram & Twitter @DECAdiariesFacebook | Website


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Resolve to join DECA!

A quick note from DECA Chair, Sheri Hebdon

A few weeks ago at our AGM, I was honoured to be elected Chair of DECA for the third year. Our Board this year is an exciting mix of experienced and new Board members – the perfect circumstances for good ideas and the expertise to implement. In case you missed it, joining me on the 2016/17 Board is Audrey Kvedaras (Vice Chair), Anita Schretlen (Treasurer), Alison McMurray (Secretary), Loreen Barbour, Nicole Bergot-Browning, Amanda Olson, Melissa Peretti, Jennifer Scott, Gay Stephenson, Peter Woodcock. 

This year is our 10th year – our “DECAde”, if you will. One area we want to focus on during this milestone year is increasing our paid membership base. While thousands of you follow what we do and show up for our events, a much smaller number of you support us financially. None of our events or social media spaces are limited to members-only, but we do depend on membership fees to be able to do much of what we do.

If you want DECA to keep putting on events like the East Lynn Farmers’ Market, the Danforth East Arts Fair, the Pumpkin Parade, Festival of Lights and the Danforth East Yard Sale, then sign up for your $10/household Annual membership by clicking here. (Yes, it’s just $10!)

If you don’t have time to volunteer but you want to feel like you’re doing something,  throw money at that problem! Sign up for a $10/household membership by clicking here

Of course, if you do want to be more involved, send us an email to start the conversation. 

Members must live within our borders (Main St north to Lumsden/Mortimer, west to Monarch Park, south to the train tracks) but if you live outside of the catchment, you can still make a donation to us as a “friend” of DECA. We are a non-profit but not a registered charity so we do not issue tax receipts.

You can also keep up on our events and other local news  by following DECA on social media:
Facebook /DanforthEastCommunityAssociation

Twitter – @decadiaries

On behalf of the DECA Board, I wish you all the best for 2017!


2016/17 DECA Board, Photo credit: Catherine Porter

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We get a lot of requests to post events, classes, sales and other things. It’s a wonderful position to be in to be able to communicate with so many of you about all that our neighbourhood has to offer! We are all volunteers though, and it takes a long time to get a blog post out (30-60 minutes each, if we’re lucky) so be sure to “like” our Facebook page and follow us on Twitter too (@Decadiaries) to ensure that you don’t miss anything.

Mark Your Calendars

We at DECA are busy planning the following events, so mark your calendars:

October 8 – Harvestfest at the East Lynn Farmers’ Market 3-7

October 15 – East Lynn Park Farmers’ Market (last one!) 3-7

October 15 – DECA Beaches East York Debate, Kimbourne Park United Church (doors open at 6:30pm)

November 1 – Pumpkin Parade, East Lynn Park

November 16 – Annual General Meeting, Hirut Restaurant (timing TBD)

November 28 – Festival of Lights, East Lynn Park (4-6)


Take note of these great events/classes as well!

Pegasus New Class: Dance Abilities

Dance Abilities Poster 2015

(We are a bit late with this post so the first class happened but call the wonderful people at Pegasus to see if there is still space!)

Fly Girl Fitness – Back to School Transformation Contest


Click here for the details of this 6-week program.

Upcoming Danforth/Coxwell Library Events

Knit and Lit-page-001 Keith Hyde Aviation-page-001 Amazing Chemical Experiments REV2-page-001




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If optimism could be bottled and sold, Amanda Olsen would be a very wealthy woman, except she’d likely give it away for free. Her optimism is matched only by her generosity, and we all benefit.

Days after giving birth to her second son, when most of us would spend any spare second sleeping, Amanda was at the mic at our AGM convincing people to volunteer for the pop-up shop team (which she was leading at the time). She puts her hand up over and over and inspires others to follow.

We’re so grateful for Amanda, and, dear neighbours, you should be too. Read for yourself in her own words.

Amanda Olson takes her two sons to Grumbles (XX) as a reward for surviving swimming lessons each week. Here is Amanda (middle, brown jacket) with her family and Grumble's owners Denise and Franzi.

Amanda Olson takes her two sons to Grumbles Deli (290 Main St.) as a reward for surviving swimming lessons each week. Here is Amanda (middle, brown jacket) with her husband Lauris, sons Janis and Aksels,  and Grumble’s owners Denise and Franzi.

My name and age is… 

Amanda Olson, aged 37 and 1/4 (Adrian Mole is one of my fave literary characters).

One thing people don’t know about me is… 

By day, I help put books on your shelves. I work for a publisher, but sadly, I can in no way whatsoever help get your novel published.
I moved to Danforth East ….

Four years ago this summer. I was determined to buy a house in Leslieville because I liked the restaurants and shops. On a whim, we decided to check out a place further east than I thought acceptable. We can’t get over our luck of landing in such an amazing neighbourhood.

One change I’ve seen over the years….  

Everyone will say the more vibrant retail strip, so I’ll point out the increase in community involvement. We have a Visioning group the size of a small army; we see more people come out to the DECA meetings; the board is at full capacity. It’s a great time to live in Danforth East. And of course those gains on the retail strip have been a big part of the increases in the overall community cohesion!

My advice to new neighbors is.…

Get on the DECA Diaries blog mailing list. Sign up and you’ve just become part of a community in a single click. I’m forever grateful to my friend Janina for passing on this advice when I first moved here.
The thing I love most about Danforth East is… 

The local retailers. I love being able to go to the butcher to pick up dinner from Carmen, then wave hello to Houman, the owner of Bella Lite (1989 Danforth Ave, just east of East Lynn Park), and his daughter on my way home. Houman just installed the perfect chandelier in my dining room and now that he knows my style he’s on the look out for something for my hallway. If you haven’t been in yet, you really need to check it out next time you need lighting fixtures.

My biggest local pet peeve is.…

Storefronts that aren’t accessible. The places being used for non-commercial purposes drives me bananas. They make their neighbours’ attempts to attract customers that much harder.

My neighborhood secret is.…  

Lunch at Grumbles Deli (290 Main St, south of Danforth) after an hour of torturing my boys with swimming lessons. Mother and daughter, Franzi and Denise, are lovely and the sauerkraut passes muster with my husband–he comes from Latvian stock and knows his pickled foods. Remember to go to the bank machine across the street, though, as it’s cash only.
The thing I’ve done as a DECA board member that makes me most proud is…. 

I dabble in a bit of everything, but I do love being a @DECAdiaries tweeter and helping share the news about the hood. I’m also particularly proud of the Danforth East Dreams event I helped put together last spring. 400 neighbours came together to talk about what they wanted the neighbourhood to be and we could make those changes happen. Everyone was engaged and excited. The atmosphere was electric. And the map of the giant map of the hood plastered with hundreds (Yes, we recorded them all!) was the tangible proof.

This year, I hope to finally ….  

Help our fearless Volunteer & Membership leader, Jane, get organized about emailing volunteers on a regular basis when people need help on projects, big or small. By year end, if the same 5 people don’t have to put up posters for every event, then I’ll bust out the good sparkling wine.

My final word….

Sign up for the #DanforthEast Garage Sale, June 13! It’s a blast and will just get better the more people participate. Last year I teamed up with a neighbour since neither of us had enough stuff to do a sale on our own. We played music, got to see our neighbours, spelled each other off to do some shopping. You can even donate your leftovers to charity. Email Bruce, deca.yard.sale@gmail.com, if you want to help out. The more, the merrier (see Goals answer). Sign up here: http://danfortheastcommunityassociation.com/yard-sale/

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#DECAgems for Kids

John and Heidi of John's Hobbies

John and Heidi of John’s Hobbies

Parents: have you ever tried to “just take a quick peek” or “check out what this place is like” at a local kids’ business—while you have your kid in tow? Yeah, me neither. We would likely be rewarded with either a) a major meltdown or b) a sizable hole in our pockets.

So for those moments when your kid grew 6 cm overnight or you need a last minute gift for your niece or nephew, your neighbours and #DECAgems are here to help!

Ages and Stages (1522 Danforth) is a consignment clothing shop specializing in children’s and maternity clothing, and also sells toys, games, outdoor equipment, pretty much anything you need for little ones. Mia says, “the owner, Nicki, goes out of her way to help local families find great deals for family and children’s products.”

Merrily, Merrily started out as an online store and now has a pop-up shop at 1854 Danforth. Jason nominated this “phenomenal baby and tots clothing consignment store” as a DECA gem on our Facebook page, adding that “what is amazing is that every item they have is also online so you can shop and reserve or buy before you even get there.”

Meri echoes the thoughts of so many of our neighbours: “Argh it is so hard to just choose one, our stretch of the Danforth plays host to so many unique and amazing businesses!” She settles on Silly Goose Kids (2054 Danforth) because “the owners do an amazing job contributing to the community via donations and their time. They have created a wonderful and welcoming store, hosting a wide range of year round fabulous events. It’s the place my son and I most look forward to shopping in.”

Universal Diapers, 1987 Danforth and East Lynn Avenue, specializes in baby and adult diapers and offers a variety of other clothing items. Lori nominates it as her #DECAgem, “the owner, Lewis, was fantastic at ordering in what I needed and over the last four years has changed his store significantly to meet the needs of parents in the neighbourhood. Aside from diapers, this store is a great alternative to a big box store for baby/kid stuff.”

For a slightly older crowd, Steve recommends John’s Hobbies (2188 Danforth), a long-standing Danforth fixture. “I still remember thrill of going John’s Hobbies with my mum to buy an Aurora AFX slot-car racing set, and considering we rode the streetcar over from Yonge, it had to be pre-1966. Even then, John’s was a Danforth fixture and gem. Aside from selling model kits, radio-controlled planes and classic train sets, the place lives by its original slogan: ‘We service what we sell.’”

What are your other favourite #DECAgems? Tell your neighbors about them! Spread the love. And nominate them on Facebook (DanforthEastCommunityAssociation), Twitter (@decadiaries using the hashtag #DECAgems) or by e-mail at DECAgems@gmail.com.

— By guest blogger Razili Datta

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Danforth Gems launched today, and the nominations are already rolling in!

Matt has nominated Sunny’s Auto Clinic on Danforth and Westlake. Matt writes, “One time in the winter I had both of my young sons packed in the car for a trip to Hamilton. Everything was good to go… then I went to start the car. No luck. I called Sunny, he personally came to my house, boosted my car, and brought it back to his shop. He replaced the battery and returned the car to my home.”

Four Seas Fashion Tailor's owner, Joseph, started sewing when he was 13. He is a master tailor.

Four Seas Fashion Tailor’s owner, Joseph, started sewing when he was 13. He is a master tailor.

Laurie reveals the impeccable skills tucked away behind “the mannequin in the long faded sequin dress in the window of Four Seas Fashion Tailor.” Laurie says, “Joseph started sewing when he was 13 years old. He’s a master tailor. Joseph’s sewing skills – creating suits from scratch – may not be in high demand these days as buying ‘off the rack’ is more popular and affordable, but his loss is our gain.

Hidden not because they’re in the business of undesirable house pests, Corinne votes for Aetna Pest Control, “the authority on termites in the city of Toronto since 1974.” She says, “Who wouldn’t want to just sit and chat with Dick Murphy for hours with that lovely Irish accent? They deal with creepy crawlies, mice or… gulp, rats! There are other companies who deal with this too, but Aetna is the best. They are local, efficient, and in my opinion, heads and tails above the rest. With a sprucing up in their reception area and window, they could make themselves even more well known in the community.”

Starting today and for the next three weeks, we’re celebrating these and many other local gems! Tell us about your favourite spot in the neighbourhood.

You can nominate on Facebook (DanforthEastCommunityAssociation), Twitter (@decadiaries using the hashtag #DECAgems) or by e-mail at DECAgems@gmail.com.

Mention why your nominee is a gem, how it is hidden, and why it deserves the fabulous marketing prize pack consisting of services from designers, a PR and website specialist, professional stagers and photographers.

We’ve received many excellent nominations already, and we know so many neighbourhood gems are still out there! Keep up the energy and keep the nominations coming this way!

Written by guest blogger, Razili Datta.

Aetna Pest Control has been in business since 1974.

Aetna Pest Control has been in business since 1974.

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Basil Thai Kitchen has the best sole fish with okra and tamarind sauce, but you might never have stepped past the cacti in the window.

Joseph can sew your wedding dress into a cocktail outfit, but you likely have never noticed his shop Four Seas Fashion Tailor (2193 Danforth).

NaNa Florist specializes in Japanese ikebana flower arrangements and it delivers across the city for just $10. Have you ever ordered from them?

These are just a few of our neighbourhood’s hidden gems.

We want to celebrate them! And we need you to help us!

This Thursday, we are launching DECA’s inaugural Danforth Gems competition.

It will last a month. At the end, the business we crown as our neighbourhood’s hidden gem will win a free marketing prize pack, with designers, a PR and website specialist, professional stagers and photographers.

It could mean a whole new look for them, and new publicity, so they no longer remain hidden.



Nominate your favourite hidden gem within DECA boundaries. DECA’s borders are Main Street (east), Lumsden/Mortimer (north), Monarch Park, (west) and the train tracks (south).

Tell us why it is a gem, how it is hidden, and why it deserves this prize pack.

Send us a photo, if you want.

You can nominate it on Facebook (DanforthEastCommunityAssociation), Twitter (@decadiaries using the hashtag #DECAgems) or by e-mail at DECAgems@gmail.com.

On May 8, we will choose the top four contestants.

Then a week later, our panel of celebrity judges will choose the winner.

What do we mean celebrity judges? Well, CBC music columnist Errol Nazareth, Spacing Magazine founder and publisher Matt Blackett, restaurateur and Guinness Record holding Oyster shucker Pat McMurray, Kim Mitchell Band keyboardist Ray Coburn, Danforth Mosaic BIA chair Billy Dertilis, DECA chair Sheri Hebdon & past chair Anita Schretlen. (The last two are celebrities to us.)

Get involved. Unearth your buried treasure in the neighbourhood!

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