Councillor Josh Matlow

Toronto Star: Busy Yonge and Egs the scene of a sleeper

May 9th, 2014

Vicky Sanderson

Toronto Star


Along with its reputation as one of Toronto's prettiest stores, Au Lit is one of the most comfortable.


Street Numbers

  • Between 2006-11, the population of Ward 22 —59.6 per cent of whom live in apartments of five storeys or more —) is up 8.8 per cent.
  • There have been big jumps in the number of families identifying Tagalo, Serbian, Korean and Spanish as their home language.
  • The ward is well educated: 79 per cent of residents have a post-secondary degree, compared with a city-side average of 58 per cent.
  • Average monthly rent is $1,245.
  • Three words that come to mind when Josh Matlow thinks about Yonge and Eglinton: neighbourhoods, growing, construction.


Condo towers are popping up around Yonge St. and Eglinton Ave. like daffodils after a spring rain. And like daffodils, the crop is spreading, as zoning applications for dozens of other buildings are in the works.


Meanwhile, along a bustling strip south of Eglinton, spots like The Healthy Butcher do an increasingly brisk business selling organic meat, artisanal cheeses and in-house charcuterie to local foodies, while fashionistas flock to boutiques such as Poor Little Rich Girl.


The hubbub isn’t happening only at street level: down below, work is underway on the 19-kilometre Eglinton Crosstown light rail system that will run between Keele St. and Laird Dr. It will make the corner, already a subway entrance, an even busier transportation hub.


The rise of residential and retail space has accelerated since the corner was designated by both the province and the city as a growth node, says Josh Matlow, city councillor for Ward 22.


Intensification, he adds, plays a role in curbing urban sprawl and protecting agriculture and greenbelt space in surrounding areas — two aims Matlow supports. But he cautions that unless growth is planned, the area won’t thrive.


“Yonge and Eglinton has already surpassed its growth targets, and the infrastructure and services have not kept up,” he says. “We need to ensure the area has adequate public transit, hospitals, schools, green spaces, community facilities, grocery stores — all that needs to keep up with the pace of growth if you want a livable neighbourhood.”


As the owner of Au Lit Fine Linens, Joanna Goodman has witnessed first-hand the area’s transformation.


Au Lit (“in bed,” in French) began life in 1981 when Goodman’s mother, Peggy Bryon, opened a boutique in Montreal that sold pure cotton bedding — a departure from the treated polyester that was the norm at the time.


In 1996, she moved the business to Toronto, choosing a spot on Mt. Pleasant Rd. before relocating to 2049 Yonge St. in 2002.


Generally acknowledged by designers and stylists as one of the city’s prettiest shops, it carries luxurious bedding, high-end soaps, coffee-table books (not surprising, perhaps, given that Goodman is a published author) lotions and accessories.


Right now, the store is awash in beautiful vignettes and bedding in the neutral du jour: grey.


“It’s like 50 shades of grey around here,” jokes Goodman. She suspects, however, that a new favourite is picking up steam.


“Right now I am seeing a colour I call bone. It’s not cream, it’s not grey, and it’s not beige. The momentum is there, though. I cannot keep it in stock.”


Almost 20 years after its launch, quality is still key to the Au Lit brand. Much of the product is made in Canada in their own factory, using fabric milled in Italy from Egyptian cotton. They’re also known for their ability to produce custom-orders, which they ship across Canada and into the U.S.


A second-storey outlet, located just south of the store, carries items that don’t sell during annual sales, as well as more affordable lines that Goodman hand picks.


Goodman thinks many of the changes she’s seen along her stretch of Yonge St. have enhanced the neighbourhood.


“Over the past few years, there have been so many restaurants and cafés that have sprung up, especially after the condos began to appear and the neighbourhood was cleaned up a bit,” she says, referring perhaps to the nearby LCBO store that was once home to a “gentleman’s club.”


These days, there’s nightlife of a different sort. “If I am here at night doing the windows, the streets are full; people strolling and window shopping, or walking the dog, or getting ice cream at the gelato shop,” says Goodman.


Inside the store, though, a wider customer base is not just the result of the spate of new condo towers. “People are so much more educated about linens now,” she says. “They come here knowing they can invest in a beautiful set of sheets that will last and give them pleasure for a really long time.”


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