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Pusateri’s in Yorkville was a big deal in 2003. It’s leaving, part of the hood’s ‘crazy transformation’

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When the Yorkville location of Pusateri’s opened back in 2003 – complete with valet service and the finest products – it was a very big deal. This was a time before burrata was on every menu in every resto, writes Shinan Govani.

Arrivederci, Pusateri’s.

That was the requiem in the air when I arranged to meet Craig Patterson in Yorkville this week, inside the deluxe grocery. Just days prior, he had actually broken the story on his site Retail Insider that the store was closing soon after more than 20 years, and it occurred to me we oughta talk. So here we were, playing meet-cute near the quiche, ducking a parade of various late-afternoon customers in the notoriously tight space.

“Crazy transformation happening in the neighbourhood,” Patterson started to say. A word he would return to again and again during our hour-plus chat: transformation, transformation, transformation.

And he would know, being the plucky founder of a site since 2012 that has become indispensable for retail voyeurs and real-estate hounds, not to mention close watchers of the mighty Bloor-Yorkville nabe.

In this tony postal code of shoppers, tourists and gourmands, the end of Pusateri’s seemed to me seismic — even in an area where there have been umpteen changes. It had apparently declined to renew its lease at the corner of Bay and Yorkville (although the quintessentially Toronto grocer will continue in its other locations, including an upcoming new store in Little Italy, all the culmination of something that started as a wee produce market when Salvatore and Rosaria Pusateri immigrated to Canada from Sicily in 1957).

When the Yorkville location opened back in 2003 — complete with valet service and the finest products — it was a very big deal, as I reminded Patterson. This was a time before burrata was on every menu in every resto and mainstream gluttons were only just starting to clue into the lure of San Marzano tomatoes. The store itself: often a who’s who of Toronto and celebrities filming in the city (and often bunking in the area). I remember seeing Daniel Craig here! Julianne Moore! Will Ferrell! Jamie Oliver once showed up. Claire Danes and her husband, Hugh Dancy, ambled through its aisles, baby in tow.

The endurance of this Pusateri’s outlasted a bitter family feud over the food empire (look it up!), but it also remained a totem of a rapidly changing area. When it appeared, after all, the Hazelton Hotel down the street was still several years away from opening. Likewise, the Four Seasons was still in its original location (near Avenue Road, before it picked up and relocated further east).

When Pusateri’s made its debut, the famous Coffee Mill was still going (the last holdover of the more bohemian beginnings of Yorkville, where Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, Margaret Atwood would hang!). Spots like Maison de la Presse — a fabulous magazine and newspaper store, where you could get publications from around the world — were still clinging on. Fact: it would be years and years before big brands would start moving into Yorkville proper: the flagship Chanel store, for instance; later, Christian Louboutin, Versace and Brunello Cucinelli.

Of course, this was all long before the arrival of Eataly a block away, a stadium-sized food emporium that may just have hastened the departure of this particular Pusateri’s.

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Pusateri’s started as a wee produce market when Salvatore Pusateri, pictured, and wife Rosaria immigrated to Canada from Sicily in 1957.

Let’s walk, I motioned to Patterson, taking the opportunity to poke him some more about the hood. The only constant in Bloor-Yorkville, as in life? Change.

“Loro Piana is taking that space. Ten thousand square feet,” he said, referring to the quintessentially stealth wealth brand that is going into 111 Bloor St. W. (where the Dolce & Gabbana once stood). Across the way, we noticed the sun beating down on the towering sign that had just gone up for the new Saint Laurent boutique. Set to open in April, it is expected to be one of the largest in the world.

The Gucci store, a few storefronts down, is reportedly expanding, with a new men’s-focused addition going in the space where St. John Knits stood. A Ferragamo store bowed in the fall on the same stretch, a first for Bloor Street. As did a Bonpoint — a precocious children’s clothing shop — plus a timely Rolex boutique at 101 Bloor St. W., which, to my eye, is possibly the most handsome new addition (a wraparound exterior designed by Partisans architects). The old Club Monaco is now a new Brooks Brothers, by the way.

Some long-awaited news, too, on the 100 Bloor West front. Sitting empty for some time — since Pottery Barn left — the heritage building where the ghosts of movies past still linger (it was a beloved theatre at one point), will house a new Burberry, Patterson informed. The British brand is leaving its current space down the block.

Walking toward Yonge Street, we paid our respects to many of the mid-range brands that have bolted Bloor Street since the pandemic. Gone is the once-bustling corner GAP store, as are Zara and H&M. Lululemon, however, is coming back with a vengeance: a supersized store on the way to the iconic northwest corner of Yonge and Bloor. Spring!

This, of course, is the corner where there has been much flux: the closings of Hudson’s Bay and Nordstrom Rack, amidst two pyramid-like towers propping up, including The One on the southwest corner, which will also house a new Andaz hotel. And maybe a long-rumoured Apple store? According to Patterson, it is still the spec.

Diligent about following developments, with a wide network of sources, including brokers, Mr. Retail Insider is evidently a jukebox of information. The Harry Rosen flagship on the strip, for instance? A matter of when, not if: that it moves from its long-standing location, he says. That is because two large condos are going up on both sides of that part of Bloor and his Spidey sense is that the iconic men’s store (having just lost its founder) will probably move deep into Yorkville.

The opening that has Patterson most personally excited, palpably so? The confirmation of a Mandy’s Salads, the super popular Montreal-based brand, moving in near “The Rock” off Cumberland. The leafy crowd will eat it up, he believes.

You win some … you lose some? Like climate change and/or the stock market, Bloor-Yorkville is clearly anything but static.

*****
Credit belongs to : www.thestar.com

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