3 min

Signs of life returning to Church Street

Fast food, dry cleaning and banks to occupy long-empty storefronts

Alfred is an organic dry-cleaning service that allows users to leave their soiled clothes in a locker or with their building’s concierge for pickupdry cleaning service. Credit: Rob Salerno

As winter finally makes its retreat, signs of economic life are returning to Church Street, with North of Brooklyn pizza opening its second location in the former Flatirons shop, a 24-hour dry cleaner opening next to Pizza Nova, and deals to open franchises of a major fast food chain and a bank in the vacant spaces once occupied by Yogen Früz, 7-24 Video and Priape, Xtra has learned.

The three latter spaces were sold in January to an investment capital company, according to the spaces’ realtor, Karen Koenig, of CBRE. Koenig says the former Yogen Früz location has been leased to “a well known fast food chain” that does not serve burgers, although she would not offer specifics. She says the location could be open in a matter of months, once renovations are complete.

Koenig also says that the former 7-24 Video and Priape locations may be joined together and that there have been several expressions of interest. She says the landlord is close to a deal with “a major financial institution.”

“The landlord wants someone who’s in it for the long term and can support the types of rents we’re asking,” Koenig says.

The asking price on the units is $75 per square foot per year, which comes to $47,775 per year for the former Yogen Früz, and $427,500 per year for the joined former Priape and 7-24 locations. Koenig says that despite the asking price, which she admits is high for commercial rents, she’s received a lot of interest in the sites.

Originally, Starbucks was planning to move into the 7-24 location, but negotiations broke down over the rental price. Instead, Starbucks is planning a major renovation that will see the Church Street store closed for at least 10 weeks starting March 16. A store manager on duty says that the renovations will improve customer flow and wheelchair accessibility. It is hoped that the renovations will be completed ahead of WorldPride in June.

Meanwhile, the former Flatirons location under Woody’s has been taken over by North of Brooklyn, a Toronto pizzeria opening its second location. Its first location has been open at Queen and Palmerston since August 2012.

“We thought Church has a really nice neighbourhood feel,” says North of Brooklyn co-owner Josh Spatz. “Our first spot was a neighbourhood space.”

Spatz isn’t worried about having to compete with four other pizza joints on the Church strip. “We do a kind of different style pizza than those guys. What we’re doing is thin-crust New York style. What we’re trying to do is offer a really high quality product but in a quick casual environment,” he says.

To start, North of Brooklyn will be open only from noon until 11pm, although Spatz says they may consider expanding to late nights and delivery. They’re also hoping to hire employees from the community.

An opening day is not yet set, but Spatz is hoping to have the doors open before the end of March.

The space next to Pizza Nova, which was the pizzeria’s original home and has sat vacant since Pizza Nova moved next door years ago, will become home to the first public location of the Alfred dry-cleaning service. Alfred is a “24/7” organic dry-cleaning service that allows users to leave their soiled clothes in a locker or with their building’s concierge for pickup. The new location, an unattended storefront with lockers accessible to the public, is a first for the Toronto company, which became active in January.

Alfred founder and CEO Matt Young says that landing the location was a stroke of luck — he knew the owner and was offered “a great deal” on the rent.

“The space we need is very unique. The rents we can afford are not consistent with what people are asking. We were kind of lucky here,” Young says.