On this block of Gerrard Street East, the colourful window of Eclectisaurus attracts passersby and locals to discover vintage treasures of the 20th century.
Owner Leslie Zysman has been familiar with Cabbagetown for years, with a few of her relatives arriving fresh off the boat and living in this east end neighbourhood of Toronto. While running her previous business (an online vintage store) Zysman sold to a retailer based in this small stretch and kept an eye on this Victorian building, hoping that one day she could get the opportunity to transform the dilapidated space into her own store.
Eclectisaurus was opened in 2005, reflecting the passion of the owner for great design. Whether its vintage clothing, accessories and jewellery or teak furniture, glass sculpture or typewriters, Zysman focuses on well-made and distinct items. She avoids the trends, focusing on what she knows are well-designed creations, such as mid-century Canadian and Scandinavian design, and eye-catching décor pieces not easily found in any big box retailer.
Eclectisaurus offers a curated collection of paintings, photography, glass, sculpture, kitchen items, tabletop accessories, ceramics, lighting, office accessories, linens, barware and ephemera of the 20th century design world—items that are a reminder of a favourite aunt or your parent's stylish friends.
The shop's bright yellow front stands out in this strip of Gerrard Street, a combination of independent local businesses and residential homes. In the 10 years Zysman has worked in the shop, she's "been bemused, and surprised, but [she's] never been bored." After working in the impersonal world of online, she appreciates the direct interaction with people, and now counts a barbershop and a coffee shop as neighbours and friends.
"I love my customers—they share the same visual aesthetic for items," explained Zysman. For example, a Thelma Moss Lucite lamp wasn't a hot seller, but last year when a stylish Italian couple purchased the mid-century modern gem, Zysman knew it was worth the wait for the lamp to find the right home. "I buy what I like for the store," says Zysman. "Many of these items are what I would have in my own house."
Zysman loves the constant challenge of discovering rare and unique items of the past, before they disappear. As a 15-year-old, she fell in love with vintage clothing, and offers many stylish pieces in the back of the store's wardrobe room, such as cocktail and evening ensembles that could easily have been seen on Mad Men. Teak furniture and 1960s art glass have always been favourites of Zysman (and are hot sellers right now), but she keeps an eye out for those overlooked items that may be ignored now, but, thanks to their design, will soon get 15 minutes of fame.
The brightly lit space is a perfect spot to find a unique accessory or piece of art for a contemporary home, or for those who adore the past to find another mid-century object to add to the collection. And for those online addicts, Eclectisaurus offers several images of in-store items on its website and new acquisitions via Instagram, and it shows off its style mantra on Pinterest.
This location may not be in the heart of a busy shopping district, but for those who appreciate the stylish past, Eclectisaurus offers many vintage lures for those in the know.
Eclectisaurus, 249 Gerrard Street East, Toronto (Parliament Street & Gerrard Street East)
Monday - Tuesday closed
Wednesday - Friday 3pm-8pm
Meet the Photographer
Roland Shainidze is an amateur photographer in Toronto. He is a graduate student in humanities at York University and his photography is focused primarily on architecture, both interiors and exteriors. He has taken photographs in Toronto, Montreal, Quebec City and Ottawa as well as his native Georgia. Roland uses HDR tools to transform the presentation of the imagery of architectural elements. Self-taught, he takes every opportunity to take pictures and experiment with them; playing with lines, patterns, light and selective colour.