A funny thing happened on the way to this month’s column.
My editor Jane Auster knew I wanted to write an entire article tearing a strip off Bayview shop owners for having terribly inconsistent hours of operation. Although she was prepared to let me do so, Jane suggested that before I get in front of the computer, I visit Sarah Barr, a new shop owner at 1592 Bayview Ave., who’s opened La Muse, a very attractive women’s clothing store.
When it comes to Bayview, I’m from Missouri, the show-me state. I recently met Sarah over coffee at her store one morning before it opened doubtful it would be worth my time.
Boy, was I wrong!
Full of energy and simultaneously a laid back confidence, Sarah couldn’t say enough about how excited she is to be selling on Bayview.
Having lived in many different places – she came to Toronto two years ago from Ottawa – the long-time fashion retailer looked at many different Toronto neighbourhoods to set up shop: Leslieville, Bloor West Village, The Beach; the list goes on.
She chose Bayview. Bayview reminds Sarah of Westboro Village, the trendy neighbourhood in Ottawa where she owned a women’s clothing store with a partner for 10 years (until selling her share to her partner) that was very eco-friendly – and equally important, very successful. Sarah’s customers came from Toronto and other distant places because of the quality clothing she sold at reasonable prices with top-notch, no BS customer service.
More importantly, she became a very devoted board member of the Westboro Village business improvement area. Living in the neighbourhood, Sarah put her heart and soul into making Westboro the place to shop, have a bite, and enjoy life away from work and all the distractions people face these days.
However, the Trois-Rivières native always wanted to live in Toronto, and when she met that special someone who happened to live here, Sarah jumped at the chance to relocate.
When the fashion veteran, whose grandmother was the seamstress for Governor General Jeanne Sauvé in the 1980s, first toured Bayview she couldn’t believe how much it resembled her old stomping grounds in Westboro Village.
With its locally-owned, independent shops like Badali’s Fruit Market that have been a part of the street for many years, mixed with some national chains, she immediately fell in love with Bayview’s uniqueness. The only missing piece in Sarah’s opinion is more gathering spots for adults such as brewpubs, patios, on-street and rooftop, and other fun places to let down your hair.
She is very much a student of Bayview and still trying to understand what makes it tick. Like most shop owners on Bayview who don’t own their real estate, she faces very steep rent, something she isn’t shy about commenting on.
But Sarah’s euphoric with the reception she’s received both from other shop owners and Leaside residents. Working up to 15 hours a day to keep up with the brisk demand for her product offerings, she’s hoping to hire some talented retail help to lighten her workload.
Not that she’s complaining. When Sarah opened her store in Ottawa, she worked the entire first year by herself until she could afford to hire others. Now 10 years older, she’s obviously wiser, too!
(Trae Zammit, if you’re reading this, you ought to take a walk up the street to La Muse and beg Sarah to join the BIA board. She’s that good.)
Before its establishment in 2015, I argued on several occasions in Leaside Life that Bayview needed to become a BIA.
My case study for what a well-run BIA could be was none other than Westboro, Sarah’s old stomping ground. Someone with this kind of experience, not to mention enthusiasm for life and business, will only make the street stronger in the long run.
If you haven’t been to La Muse already, take the time to visit Sarah and welcome her to the hood. I expect to hear lots of good things about La Muse in the coming weeks, months, and years.
Welcome to Leaside, Sarah Barr, welcome!