Wagstaff Drive is one of Toronto’s hidden pockets that is now home to one-of-a-kind businesses
Although Wagstaff Drive may at first glance be mistaken for an empty lane, the hidden street has a rich history and is now home to some of Toronto’s most distinguished and diverse businesses.
Located just off Greenwood Street between Danforth and Gerrard, Wagstaff is one of the city’s best-kept secrets.
The street was named after the brick manufacturing family that built its empire here in the late 1800s, with manufacturing buildings giving existing businesses the feel of an industrial warehouse.
When you first turn down the Wagstaff Hotel, you’re greeted by Left Field Brewery and Pilot Coffee Roasters, which have anchored the street for the better part of a decade.
However, new businesses have recently joined the neighbourhood’s supporters, and together they have made the street one of Toronto’s most distinctive corners.
Avenue Road was one of the first to join the community when it settled in a huge space in the middle of the street in the fall of 2022.
The upscale furniture store, run by Toronto-based Weishaupt Design Group, has locations across North America, but Weishaupt managing director Michael Barr says the building was a perfect fit for the brand’s newest location after it closed its store on Eastern Avenue.
“It’s hard to find buildings like this,” he says. “Having some kind of unique characteristic of the building is important.”
The unique features he refers to are the exposed brick and exposed interior that Avenue Road has pledged to keep untouched in honor of the brickworkers who once called the place “home,” and who then gave the company’s “Brickyard” location its name.
Although Avenue Road does most of its work directly with architects and designers, Barr says clients are more than welcome to step off the street and browse the wares.
The Brickyard location in Wagstaff primarily sells residential furniture of its own design, but also carries high-end rugs from The Rug Company and unique stone furniture from Salvatori.
If you go to the end of the street and walk around a short brick wall, you’ll find a garage door, which is the entrance to the new home of Soul Chocolate, which is preparing for its grand opening at the end of the month.
Owners Kyle and Katie Wilson operated Soul Chocolate at nearby Gerrard and Broadview for five years before they decided they needed more space to operate and signed a lease for a unit at 20 Wagstaff Dr.
They wanted more space in order to increase their in-house production and dining capacity – and they got both at the new location.
Massive production machines fill the back of the house, which is left transparent so customers can watch the roasting process while they shop or snack (or both).
The Wilsons also have big plans for a seating area to match their flat production space which Kyle says will produce about a ton of chocolate a week once fully operational.
He and Katie plan to curate a tasting menu in partnership with a new local coffee roaster each month to pair different chocolates with their coffee in an effort to create a new kind of sensory experience.
They’ll also continue to sell bars ($4.87 and up), hot chocolate powder ($16), spreads ($15.50), and more cocoa-based products they make themselves.
And while Kyle admits that his products cost higher than the market average, he stresses that his and Katie’s choice to prioritize ethical wholesale purchasing of raw cacao at the expense of cheaper prices is more significant—and certainly justifies a slightly higher cost.
“There is a big gray area in terms of transparency of cocoa, especially in West Africa,” he says. “We are completely transparent. Like: ‘This is where we import from, we pay the middlemen this much money and the farmer gets this price.’”
To honor this, they made sure to include the names of the countries from which the cocoa is sourced (primarily South American and East African countries) on the bars’ packaging.
Just above Soul Chocolate, you’ll find Quince Flowers, who has spent over two decades in various locations throughout Toronto and is preparing to open its doors soon.
Located near Queen and Broadview, this former city favorite primarily sells custom, hand-arranged bouquets in color combinations of the customer’s choice.
They also cater to large-scale events and weddings and offer monthly subscription services for delivery of both plants and flowers.
The store’s owner, Rosie Guevares-Levitt, says she made the move from Queen and Broadview in part because of concerns about impending construction from the Ontario Line subway.
She was the head of the BIA in Quince Flowers’ old neighborhood, and although there is no such group of organizations in Wagstaff, Jeffares-Levitt is determined to work closely in collaboration with her neighbors.
“If you need a forklift, go to Left Field. If you need flowers, come to me,” she laughed, referring to the custom bouquet she gifted the Wilson family that hangs above the front counter at Soul Chocolate.
“I know how to manage events,” she added. “I know how to make people excited to come.”
Watch Wagstaff Drive as it continues to transform from a historic industrial park into a small but vibrant enclave of unique businesses.
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