Riverside 40 Years, 40 Stories: Better Way Cleaners, A Constant for 56 Years

As part of the Riverside BIA: 40 Years, 40 Stories series, we’re putting a spotlight on Better Way Cleaners at 724 Queen Street East, one of Riverside’s longest standing family businesses and the family behind the steadfast storefront.

Our thanks go to Edward Jang – who took over the family business after his late father William (Bill) Jang’s retirement in 1988 – for sharing his thoughts and memories for this article.

Photo of Better Way Cleaners storefront in 2021

Photo of Better Way Cleaners storefront in 2021 at 724 Queen Street East in Riverside neighbourhood, Toronto

How has the community changed over the years?

When asked what the Riverside neighbourhood was like when Better Way Cleaners first opened, Edward shared:

“Not like it is now. It was a bunch of clothing stores, shoe stores, and the odd grocery – unlike now, how it is mostly restaurants. Once Gerrard Square opened up in the 70s, all the businesses on Queen started moving there and they were replaced by restaurants.”

“It wasn’t the best area in Toronto at the time… it was a rougher area. The [Broadview] hotel was a hotel, then it became a strip club, now they’ve renovated it to what it is now. The southeast corner was a bank, and the southwest corner was actually another cleaners at the time.”

View of Queen Street East, view east across Broadview Avenue, Riverside neighbourhood, Toronto – April 2, 1982

View of Queen Street East, view east across Broadview Avenue, Riverside neighbourhood, Toronto – April 2, 1982

Reflecting on how the community itself had changed, he added that Riverside in the 1960s was “definitely a working-class neighbourhood…”

“The community is younger now, and more couples and families. It’s more family oriented. With the new condo developments, there’s a lot more young professionals. Before these were condos, they were working areas.”

With so many local and family-owned businesses having come and gone in the neighbourhood in the time since Better Way Cleaners opened, we asked what kept them in Riverside. Edward shared that his roots are in this neighbourhood, where he grew up and went to school, and knows so well. He grew up in a large family in a busy neighbourhood, no stranger to hard work, with a strong sense of community. 

“It’s tradition”, he said, “My father opened this store. I grew up in this area, graduated from U of T and worked at TD bank. When my father was ready to retire, he asked me if I wanted to take over the business, and I’ve been doing this full time since 1988.”

“I come from a family of 8, and I’m number 6. All of us have come and worked here and then gone off to school, but I stuck around here and took over the business.”

When asked about what challenges the business has faced over the years, Edward chuckles and answers “Taxes! They’re crazy in this area” before adding:

“There’s been a decline in demand for dry cleaning services. When I worked at the bank in the 80s, everybody wore suits, skirts, dresses. Then they introduced casual Fridays… there’s just been a whole shift culturally and people rely on dry cleaning services less. Especially now, more and more people are working from home. Even when they do go to work, it’s sweaters or golf tops – when I was at the bank, it was jackets, ties, and suits. Dress codes are becoming less restrictive, and I guess that effects my line of business!”

Hanging proudly in the shop are plaques recognizing Better Way Cleaners as community sponsors. Ate right is Edward’s son’s hockey team, c. 2000.

What hopes do you have for Riverside’s future?

“I hope it continues to grow and trend with new stores. I would hope that this area becomes more like Queen and Spadina – how it’s so busy and they have some higher end shops. A shift towards more of a balance between retail and dining, to draw more young people in and keep them in the area.”

Edward shares that the main changes that the business has made over the years has been in their machinery and equipment, but their business model and approach has remained constant: “We’ve had the same storefront since 1965.”

Keeping up with industry standards, as well as shifting toward digital and automated technology has been the biggest business change. “We’ve updated our machines. The ones we have now are just three or four years old. We started 50 some odd years ago with used machines.”

Passers-by may be familiar with the cleaning machines visible from the window at Better Way Cleaners.

Does the technology change frequently in this industry?

“It has become a lot more computerized. Before, you could fix the machines with stuff you could get at the hardware store. Now when something breaks down, you have to call the specialist to fix it.”

Edward also shared the sad news of his father’s passing last year:

“It happened on Thanksgiving last year. He was 89 years old… Fine one day and didn’t wake up the next. He did start it all back here in ’65.”

Photo of the front counter inside Better Way Cleaners at 724 Queen St E

Photo of the front counter inside Better Way Cleaners at 724 Queen St E

When asked for any final thoughts for this article, Edward mentions that he plans on retiring in the next few years. While there are no concrete plans regarding what to do with the business, or a set date in his mind, Edward is fond of his years in Riverside. He says he embraces change and is excited for the future of this neighbourhood — which he will observe from retirement. 

40 years 40 stories graphic

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Meet our #QueenEastEats Community Supporter: Hullmark

We’re excited to thank Hullmark , one of our Queen East Eats Community Supporters!

Hullmark is a real estate and investment development team which is heavily involved in supporting community. Owner Jeff Hull has carried on Hullmark as the family business that started with his grandfather, investing in the same neighbourhoods the family first lived in.⠀

“We are pleased to be part of Queen Eats Eats. The programme is helping shine a spotlight in support of so many hard hits businesses through this summer and fall, including White Lily Diner and other beloved Hullmark tenants. Our Queen Street Eats eateries and bars have so many unique local flavours and so much personality that makes up the character of their neighbourhoods – we’re looking forward to seeing everyone out on the patios in support of local businesses!”~Jamie Zeldin, Director of Asset Management at Hullmark.

What’s #QueenEastEats?

It’s a series of giveaways, colourful displays, public art, tours, business features, and more to welcome everyone to the Queen Street East al fresco dining experience this summer and fall. Stay tuned as we bring you something new every week! Learn more check out our Patio Map to plan your experience Queen East Eats in #RiversideTO & #Leslieville

 

Jamie Zeldin of Hullmark (left) with Ben Denham of White Lily Diner who are part of the CafeTO and Queen East Eats programme in 2021

Jamie Zeldin of Hullmark (left) with Ben Denham of White Lily Diner who are part of the CafeTO and Queen East Eats programme in 2021

Hullmark has been a strong community member within Riverside for many years, as a supporter of the Riverside Gateway Bridge Project and past events such as Wine & Craft Beer Fest, and the Eats & Beats Streetfest.

Beyond being just a real estate investment and development team, Hullmark is a city builder committed to shaping a vibrant urban Toronto, with their involvement in Queen East Eats certainly being no exception to this!

Queen East Eats Thank You Decal - Riverside Toronto

Big thanks to ALL our Community Supporters of ‘Queen East Eats’:

Hullmark, Outline Financial, The Wright Group, and Radical Road Brewery’s Marketplace

Riverside 40 Years, 40 Stories: Bank of Montreal & 711 Queen E

As part of the 40 Years, 40 Storiesseries, were sharing the story of Riversides long-standing Bank of Montreal branch, which has been serving the community for over 100 years, and the latest adventures of the historic building at 711 Queen E.

For 103 years, 711 Queen St. E was home to the Bank of Montreal’s Queen/Broadview branch, serving the Riverside community through its financial services and community efforts. 

Did you know BMO was Canada’s first bank? Born and bred in Canada, it opened for business in 1817. It provided Canada’s first widely recognized and used currency. 

The following photos show the historic building at 711 Queen Street East from it’s opening in 1913 when Queen Street was made of cobblestones:

711 Queen Street East, where BMO used to stand, early 20th century, courtesy of newsroom.bmo.com

View of Queen Street East, view east across Broadview Avenue showing the BMO Building at 711 Queen E April 13, 1918 Photo source - Leslieville Historical Society

View of Queen Street East, view east across Broadview Avenue showing the BMO Building at 711 Queen E , April 13, 1918 (Photo source – Leslieville Historical Society)

1920 City of Toronto Directory

1920 City of Toronto Directory

Fast forward to the 1970s:

709 Corner of Broadview Ave. and Queen St. and BMO next door at 711 Queen E, looking south-east – 1972

709 Corner of Broadview Ave. and Queen St. and BMO next door at 711 Queen E, looking south-east – 1972

…and the late 1980s to 2013s:

BMO building beside The Real Jerk, Riverside, Toronto. Photo Credit - Chris Barker, May 2021

BMO nestled building beside colourful facade of The Real Jerk from 1989-2013, Riverside, Toronto. Photo Credit – Chris Barker, May 2021

Celebrating 100+ Years of Community-Building

On Saturday, June 1st, 2013, BMO Bank of Montreal invited customers and members of the community to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Queen & Broadview branch.

“BMO proudly opened its Queen & Broadview branch in 1913 in the middle of what is now one of Toronto’s oldest commercial hubs,” said Andrew Auerbach, Senior Vice President, Greater Toronto Division, BMO Bank of Montreal. “One hundred years later, BMO continues to serve the financial needs of Toronto, which now boasts more than 2.7 million residents and is home to a diverse range of Fortune 500 companies,” (read the full official news release).

The 100th celebration continued as BMO celebrated 100 years in Riverside in style with refreshments, games, giveaways, photo opportunities, and formal speeches as part of Riverside’s annual street festival at the time, called ‘Sounds Like the Riverside’.

“I’d like to congratulate BMO on 100 years in our community,” said City Councillor Paula Fletcher. “Queen St. East has a rich heritage of culture and commerce, thanks to long-standing community members like BMO who contribute to the vibrancy of this neighbourhood.”

Over the years, BMO has contributed to the vibrancy of Riverside in various ways. In a literal sense, they helped light up the bridge as a Bronze sponsor of the Riverside Gateway Bridge Lighting project in 2015. 

Invitation for the July 5th, 2015 Riverside Gateway Bridge Project Launch celebration, which includes project community supporters like BMO

Invitation for the July 5th, 2015 Riverside Gateway Bridge Project Launch celebration, which includes project community supporters like BMO

They have also been known to host initiatives such as skate nights at Jimmie Simpson for families, free financial consultations, and workshops for small business owners. BMO has also been a sponsor of the Eats & Beats Streetfest and Riverdale ArtWalk, supporting local artists and the Riverside neighbourhood.

At the 2018 Eats & Beats Streetfest, BMO proudly celebrated 105 years in Riverside with a corner full of activities, gifts and prizes for local kids.

BMO's Tent at the 2018 Street Fest

BMO’s tent and mascot at the 2018 Eats & Beats Streetfest – pictured: Riverside BIA Executive Director Jennifer Lay, with a BMO staff festival volunteer (Photo credit: Riverside  BIA)

In 2016, after 104 years in the building at 711 Queen Street East, BMO made a big move their new home at 744 Queen Street East on May 4th, 2017 (the force was surely with them!). Once again, they celebrated their then 104 years in business by inviting the community into their space. They also changed their name a bit to reflect their new location as the BMO Queen & Saulter Branch

Images from BMO's move to 744 Queen E and Community re-opening as the BMO Queen/Saulter Branch

Images from BMO’s move to 744 Queen E and Community re-opening as the BMO Queen/Saulter Branch

Their new and current location features accessible entrance with automatic doors, multiple ATM machines and modern open concept offices. 

What happened with 711 Queen Street East?

The newest owner of the building where BMO operated for over a century is Dave, an entrepreneur and investor based in Toronto. When he first purchased the building in 2017, he was open to unique ideas for the space, recognizing its incredible, central location in Toronto’s Riverside neighbourhood, right on the corner of Queen and Broadview.

That’s how the beloved business venture Tertulia Espresso Bar came about to serve the community with coffee and baked goods in 2018:

Photo from Tertulia's 1 year anniversary

Tertulia Cafe at 711 Queen E for their 1 year anniversary in 2019

Photo from 2019 Riverside Coffee Tour which stopped at Tertulia to learn about Spanish Lattes - Credit-Riverside BIA

At the 2019 Riverside Coffee Tour which stopped at Tertulia to learn about Spanish Lattes – Credit-Riverside BIA

While unfortunately Tertulia succumbed to the devastating economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, closing in early 2021, new things are surely on the way for this historic property.

The building facade is currently under restoration which will be completed fall 2021, thanks to support from the City of Toronto’s Commercial and Industrial Facade Improvement Grant. The new facade will retain aspects of its Victorian roots while modernizing to fit the demands and standards of the 21st century, and to accommodate its new purposes.

The construction of 711 Queen St. E.

40 years 40 stories graphic

The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighbourhood of community-builders.

FIND THE SERIES HERE AS WE SHARE NEW STORIES EACH WEEK

DO YOU HAVE A STORY OF THE RIVERSIDE BIA? SUBMIT YOUR STORY

Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories: The Opera House – Where Were You?

As part of the Riverside BIA: 40 Years, 40 Stories series, we’re putting a spotlight on The Opera House, a long-standing establishment for the performing arts and a cultural landmark of Toronto. We dive into the history and origins of the historic building at 735 Queen Street East, and how this family-owned and run establishment has reinvented itself over the years and persevered as a thriving spot to converge today.

Thanks to Athena Ellinas-Towers and her family for sharing their memories and updates for this article, and to local writer Aarti Sharma for her research and writing for this article.

Ask Toronto’s music lovers to list their (pre-COVID) top hang out places for live concerts in downtown and The Opera House in Riverside is one name that would be at the top for younger and older generations alike.

For more than 30 years, popular and as well as upcoming artists, have been creating vivid memories for their fans on the historic stage of The Opera House: Metallica, Nirvana, Robbie Williams, The Killers, Eminem, The Foo Fighters and Metric are just a few of the hundreds of acts who have elated fans.

While concerts have been king at The Opera House since its opening in 1989, the venue’s 950-person capacity has also hosted a diversity of celebrations and occasions including marriages, charity fundraisers, and film shoots. 

And the well-kept and fairly unassuming red-brick exterior does not give much away about the happenings that have transpired within its walls over the past century so we’re taking you on a trip through time of re-discovery. What we know as The Opera House today has seen many identities under the fostering of its different owners over the past 112 years since its inception….

The birth of La Plaza Theatre:  Take a leap into the Toronto of the early 1900s, when the sound of trotting horses and carriages were still common on Toronto’s streets; and hats and flat caps were typical accessories for many. This was also the time when theatrical settings were budding places for amusement. 

At this time, what was gaining traction was Vaudeville – a live entertainment form that featured singing, dancing, magic shows, comedy and much more. On the heels of this trend, in 1909, the La Plaza Theatre designed by architect Charles Wagner, opened at 735 Queen E as an Edwardian vaudeville stage. For many years, La Plaza reverberated with the cheers of its audience, who were primarily the workers of the industries in the vicinity.

La Plaza Theatre in October, 1963

La Plaza Theatre in October, 1946 – Photo source: Archives of Ontario

1920 City of Toronto Directory

1920 City of Toronto Directory – see 735 Queen Street East – La Plaza Theatre

 
Interior of La Plaza Theatre

La Plaza Theatre -view of screen from balcony, Toronto , Photo credit: Archives of Ontario

Theatre to Cinema: With galloping technological advancements, when automobile sounds were replacing the trotting sound of horses, the applause of the La Plaza started gravitating toward proliferating cinema theatres, as was so from the 1930s to the 1960s. Acculturating with the drift, the venue converted into a single screen cinema hall. Over the years, owing to the soaring multiplex market, this single-screen setting went back to being the stage for performing arts. With the course of time, the building was passed in the hands of different proprietors and had various names on its façade including Acropolis, the Dundas, Cinema Ellas, and the Off-Broadway Theatre in the 1980s. 

La Plaza Theatre - 1963 -Toronto Archives

La Plaza Theatre – 1963 -Toronto Archives

 
La Plaza Theatre Auditorium and Balcony (October 27, 1947)

La Plaza Theatre Auditorium and Balcony (October 27, 1947) – Photo Credit: The Archives of Ontario

The Original 1900s projector inside The Opera House from when the building was a one-screen movie theatre

The original 1900s projector inside The Opera House from when the building was a movie theatre (Photo: Riverside BIA, 2019)

The Dawn of The Opera House and a Leap of Faith:

Athena Ellinas-Towers – a member of this family-run business and a Riverside BIA Board member for over 20 years – shared that her brother Gus found the 735 Queen Street East building in 1989 when they were already running the family’s restaurant on The Danforth.

Recollecting the day when her brother took her to see the old theatre at 735 Queen E for the first time, Athena spoke about how she looked at the exterior of the building and exclaimed how gorgeous it was. However, her brother promptly said that she was looking at the Ralph Thornton Community Centre (765 Queen East about a block east) and not the place that they were buying. Soon her excitement was tempered when she saw that her brother had set his eyes on a very old, run-down theatre that had not been renovated in decades. Additionally, back then, this part of the town did not seem as lively and inviting….

However, her belief in her visionary brother’s business acumen and the fact that she did not feel challenged anymore in their existing restaurant business, led them to forge ahead.

All in the Family

Athena, one of the three children of the family, became the new businesses general manager of facilities, along with her eldest brother Gus and younger brother Chris Ellinas, with equal responsibilities and all hands-on with the business.

Mom, Helen, contributed throughout the years in any capacity she was able to, as well as Dad, Adam Ellinas, who passed three years ago, was always contributing in his own way. Collectively, the whole family contributes equally to the success  of The Opera House. 

What inspired the name ‘The Opera House’?

Athena gave ‘The Opera House’ its name. The 1900s vaudeville theatre architecture of the building and the fact that it was formerly a Vaudeville theater inspired that name. The venue has a lot of character which needed to be recognized. The 12,000 square feet grand premise embodies a multi-level auditorium with tiered balcony hanging over a tiered stall (and a licensed bar in the balcony was later added!)

Fun Fact:  Riverside Toronto’s The Opera House hosts everything but the opera; except for just one weekend in the past 30+ years, when an incredible opera event was hosted: it was a Live Opera event called “AtG’s Messiah” staged by Against the Grain Theatre on December 14 & 15, 2013.  What is amusing here? Well, the spectators watched the opera while having poutine and beer.  Without a doubt, the appealingly bizarre combination resulted in a sold-out event.

Fun Fact again:  When the Canadian Opera Company opened, the Opera House received calls from all over the world asking for a line-up.

Pursuits of entertainment in The Opera House:

The kickoff as a Dance Club and Adaption to a Concert Venue: The Opera House embarked on its original journey as a dance club in 1989. However, it hit a roadblock within a period of six months. The frequent patrons, chiefly younger demographics, waltzed their way to the other trending and newer venues.  This left Athena and her brothers weighing out options that could best use this spacious setting.

Glam rock was very popular in those days and many bands were interested in performing on the huge stage at The Opera house. There were not many concert venues back then, so it made sense to re-launch as a concert hall. This fitting transition in these favorable conditions, kept The Opera House busy all the time.

The Opera House concert venue

The Opera House -the busy concert venue we all know and love (Photo Credit: The Opera House)

Lots of grunge bands, and touring bands from Europe, Asia, Africa, US and many other places chose the venue to delight their fans.

The Ellinas family, who originally immigrated from Cyprus to Canada during the Turkish invasion in 1974, have always been very welcoming or diversity. This holds true for the versatile genres of music they’ve hosted including Metal, punk, Indie pop, Folk and hip-hop – to name just a few. 

Realizing the augmenting demand for large spaces with staffing, alcohol and security, the Ellinas family, with their astute business acuity, broadened the horizons for The Opera House by offering its stage for varying needs.  So while the spring and fall seasons, kept The Opera House pulsating with live concerts, the winters brought in fundraisers and charity events. Live theatre, product launches and traditional marriages also felt a warm welcome here. Over years, The Opera House also became the location for the film industry and flaunted its 1900s personality in several music videos and film scenes. 

The Opera House-30 years tshirt-Riverside, Toronto

The Opera House came out with a special tshirt to commemorate 30 years showing a list of many performers and acts (Photo Credit: The Opera house)

Over years, the Opera House also became a go-to location for the film industry both for scenes and space – it’s been featured in music videos (e.g. in this well known music video of Brian Wilson by Barenaked Ladies), TV and film scenes (e..g. guest appearance in film Loser).

A Scrumptious Addition to the Family – Opera House Grill & Patio at 737 Queen E:

Dwelling in a small but mighty space on the eastern façade of the Opera House, adjoining the building’s main entrance, is The Opera House Grill, opened in 2015 to serve concertgoers as well as pedestrians.

This pet-friendly Greek food joint operated by the Ellinas family is the residence of the massive ‘Shaggy Burger’ –ranked among Toronto’s top 25 burgers by Toronto Life, and features their famous Greek fries.  

The Opera House Grill

The Opera House Grill, spacious side patio

The secret behind the Unfailing Footfall in The Opera House:

Be it artists or concertgoers, all are enchanted by the look and the architecture of this establishment. The venue has bewitched many artists, especially European ones. Several bands call The Opera House their home and choose it as their destination when they are in Toronto. 

Alongside these strong emotional strings that pull artists to The Opera House, several commercial aspects also make this place compelling. When it comes to producing events, The Opera House is a trusted establishment, having collaborated with global leading promoters, coupled with their long-time experience in the hospitality industry has hard-wired the owners to know how to make their customers happy. 

What Happened during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

While the pandemic had hushed The Opera House through a long moratorium on live concerts and large-scale events, the sight of this formerly spirited and bustling entertainment abode sitting in the dark, made the owners look beyond what they had come to know as their norm. The Opera House collaborated with PRG, a world leading entertainment and event producing company, and Lemmon Entertainment, an entertainment consulting and brand development firm, to launch The HUB in Toronto – a content broadcast studio. Armed with Lemmon Entertainment’s experience in consulting and producing large-scale events, and PRG’s state-of-the-art sound and lighting equipment, the venue of The Opera House was re-imagined as a broadcast studio.

During the COVID-19 Pandemic The Opera House has operated as The Hub in Toronto

During the COVID-19 Pandemic The Opera House has operated as The Hub in Toronto

Working for both not-for-profit and sponsorship, THE HUB is geared to strategize, create, record and broadcast innovative content for diverse ideas and needs. Any event or occasion can be broadcasted live or can be recorded for broadcasting in future.

“The client just has to bring the idea to us and we would execute their vision,” says Athena. Product launches, weddings, branding, concerts, comedy shows and supporting important social causes (such as through The Lost Tapes of the 27 Club) are just a few to name. The HUB will remain until August 2021 with full resumption of live music events beginning September 2021, depending on government guidelines and restrictions.

The Opera House Grill curblane patio- May 2021

The Opera House Grill – May 2021 – curb lane patio as part of CafeTO

In the meantime, while The Grill had been closed for much of the pandemic, the family reopened it to much fanfare for the 2021 patio season – now boasting an outdoor side patio as well as a CafeTO curb lane patio – The Grill is once again a popular spot to watch sports games and check out their popular Trivia Tuesdays ‘Live from Outside of The Opera House’ with plans on adding Comedy Wednesdays, Drag Show Thursdays and Live Paint Nights on weekends – for all types of live entertainment outside until we can back inside.

Athena Ellinas-Towers at the Opera House - The Hub in Toronto

Athena Ellinas-Towers – The Opera House continues to be a family run operation and they’ve grown alongside the Riverside community. Athena has been a member of the Riverside BIA Board of Directors, contributing to the betterment of the neighbourhood she’s been living and working in for more than 30 years. (Photo credit: Karen Lloyd)

Involvement with the BIA

Athena joined the Riverside BIA Board (then called Queen-Broadview Village BIA) around 2000 because she loved then long-time Board member and local business owner Albert Edelstein and his wife Ruth. Also she knew James from the former infamous Dangerous Dan’s Diner who was on the Board at the time, and Steve who was on the Board and who’s family owned 725 Queen E which housed The Blue Moon Bar (that became Boots & Bourbon, and subsequently other venues over the years).

“We just wanted to make the neighbourhood better and activate the Board”, says Athena. She volunteered to the Treasurer at the time. “One of the family members of the former Pari Discount (now Riverside Market) was on the Board, and gave me a shoe box with paperwork to sort and handle” says Athena, “There was no BIA staff at the time, so Board members did it themselves”.

The Future of The Opera House…

Well, certainly this now 112 year-old building has many fresh ideas yet to offer. Without a doubt, this structure stands strong not only from the vigor that it has derived from the electric performances of thousands of performers over the years, but also largely from the zeal and resourcefulness of its owners who are leaving no stone unturned to keep its legend alive.

Check out The Opera House’s website and Instagram page for the latest updates. 

40 years 40 stories graphic

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Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories: Name Change of Queen Broadview Village BIA to Riverside BIA

As part of the ‘Riverside BIA: 40 Years, 40 Stories’ series, we’re sharing the story of the re-naming of the Queen Broadview Village BIA to Riverside BIA. Our thanks go to local historian, author and former BIA Chair Ron Fletcher for sharing anecdotes from the time of the renaming and contributions from local writer Aarti Sharma.  

It was with great pride when our BIA, named Queen Broadview Village Business Improvement Area since its formation in 1980, proclaimed in its summer 2004 newsletter (yes, printed and hand-delivered!):

“In March of this year, the BIA Board of management received responses to the name change questionnaire supporting the change to Riverside from Queen Broadview Village in a two to one majority.” 

This announcement marked both the end and the beginning of a process to revitalize the area.

A hydro pole banner from the 1980s from the Queen Broadview Village BIA (renamed to Riverside BIA in 2004)

A hydro pole banner from the 1980s from the Queen Broadview Village BIA (renamed to Riverside BIA in 2004)

What’s In a Name?

As local historian, author and former BIA Chair Ron Fletcher shared:

“When Stan Jones and I acquired a storefront on Queen Street East in the 1990s, the heritage buildings in the area with their rich red brick patina were very appealing. At the time it was the ‘Queen Broadview Village BIA’ and was one of the very few original business areas in the city that still had an ensemble of old buildings, some by notable architects. Several still had the old tin ceilings.”

“Until 1884, the area was known as Riverside, an unincorporated village with marching bands, sports teams, etc that made it a small but vital community. In that year (1884), a vote was held: should they incorporate, as the village of Parkdale had, or join the city? Toronto promised to build wooden sidewalks to end the muddy street and put in sewers. The City won the day.”

“In our newbie enthusiasm, Stan and I thought the historic name of Riverside might add a fresh appeal – what’s old could be new again. We proposed the idea to the Queen Broadview Village’s Board of Directors, and to our surprise, not only was the idea accepted, but we were elected to the board.”

So, alongside the announcement of the welcoming of the filming of “Cinderella Man” (a historic happening to say the least!), the news of the name change topped the BIA’s newsletter in summer 2004, along with upcoming work by a marketing firm (UP Inc) to help parlay that change into new branding and street presence.

 

The announcement in the Queen Broadview Village Newsletter (Summer 2004) of their official name change to Riverside BIA

The announcement in the Queen Broadview Village Newsletter (Summer 2004) of their official name change to Riverside BIA

 

With the Re-Naming Came a Re-Branding!

The work of renaming was followed by the work of rebranding to bring “an appeal of a compelling destination— an area worth visiting, spending time in and worthy of revisiting”, according to discussions of the Board of management at the time.

With these goals in mind, the BIA set out, with the support of a ‘City of Toronto’s Commercial Research Grant’ to contract a professional marketing firm called UP Inc, to develop and launch a marketing and advertising campaign.

Taking the Board through an exercise for re-branding, the UP Inc team interviewed members and came up with image associations to ‘Riverside’ which conveyed the history but also the meaning of the area, as the area runs along the Don River as well as as a part of South Riverdale, a then already well-known area incorporating the historic Riverside and Leslieville communities. The word ‘District’ was adjoined to ‘Riverside’ as ‘District’ has a historic connotation and it also conveyed a destination (like the nearby popular Distillery District).

Early Riverside District BIA branding was born:

An early rendering of the area’s new name and brand to Riverside District Business Improvement Area in 2004

An early rendering of the area’s new name and brand to Riverside District Business Improvement Area in 2004

Since that time the Riverside BIA brand and look on the street and online has certainly evolved with the times (to become and award-winning!…but that’s another story 😉

The Riverside BIA brand today (since 2018) seen on the street with vibrant blues, purples and pinks on hydro pole wraps along Queen Street East, Toronto

The Riverside BIA brand today (since 2018) seen on the street with vibrant blues, purples and pinks on hydro pole wraps along Queen Street East, Toronto

40 years 40 stories graphic

The ‘Riverside BIA 40 Years, 40 Stories’ Series is part of how we’re celebrating the 40th anniversary of this incredible neighbourhood of community-builders.

FIND THE SERIES HERE AS WE SHARE NEW STORIES EACH WEEK

DO YOU HAVE A STORY OF THE RIVERSIDE BIA? SUBMIT YOUR STORY