One Year in Our Little Italy Shop

It’s been a hectic couple of years!

To recap, in 2017, we were cosy in our beloved 250 Carlaw location in Leslieville when we found out our rent was increasing 30%, a bit too substantial for us to maintain. While there were a few other factors in there, with the increase in rent, our cards were dealt. So we began our hunt, and after an exhaustive, lengthy search through Toronto’s commercial real estate market—and there were some crazy places out there—we found our new home at 52 Clinton Street, in Little Italy.

Jon saw the place first, and had THE VISION OF FUTURE WONDER PENS. When we first saw it, it was broken up into multiple units, with multiple floor levels, weirdly shaped, weirdly finished, weirdly angled walls, leaking things everywhere. There were “short cuts” through hallways to different shops fronting on College; there was a desk area with a mountain of cigarette butts next to a No Smoking sign. In Jon’s office, you can still occasionally smell cigarette smoke wafting in through his “window”—a closed up window with metal bars that leads to “no where.” Jon continues his gallant fight in the ongoing saga with the garbage bins out front.

I am much less of a visionary, more of a 250-Carlaw-is-home. But of course home is only what you make it.

With abundant help, some good luck, a few headaches and a lot of keeping our fingers crossed, we broke through some walls and spackled up a few holes. My absolute favourite thing about this new shop is the big sky light in the back, above the pen display.

And it’s been, in May, one year since we opened our new shop here. It’s hard to believe all that happens in a year—time flies. A lot of firsts, both in this new shop, and firsts for us as a shop. We said goodbye to a few of our team and welcomed a few more, we had our first Christmas and our first Christmas tree. We had the Pen Addict come over. We had new brands like Ferris Wheel Press and Opus 88, and our first Safari(s) of the year (the Pastels).

And we love the new shop. It’s a new vibe here, in a much busier area. While there are a few hold-outs that still miss the old shop in Leslieville, most people appreciate how much easier it is to get here, and how it’s closer to more things to do.*

What a ride it’s been. I’m still waiting for it to slow down a little, but in the business world, sometimes it feels like if you slow down you get eaten. Maybe that’s not true. What do I know. Just that I wouldn’t trade it for anything else.

In any case, here are a few photos that document a bit of the transformation of the place over the last year. After a year, it’s certainly home now. There is still that feeling that I get when I walk in before anyone else has arrived, when the kids are running around, and the plants and pens are waking up.

On the right side is approximately where our ink wall is today.
The big skylight above the pen display.
The view from where the pen display is today.

As I’m typing this up, I’m sitting on the fire escape in this now finally beautiful spring weather, with the kids and the dog romping around downstairs and enjoying some crisp cherries. Soon enough one child or the other is going to start crying, dinner prep will call out, or the phone will ring and Jon will need to discuss this terribly urgent order that needs to be placed immediately.

But for now I am basking in the sunshine and the journey.

***

Currently reading: Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend
Currently looking forward to: re-potting some of my indoor plants
Current library fines total: $0.70
Current analogue project: sorting through all of my correspondence and correspondence supplies, in preparation for catching up on much, much overdue letters
Current dinner plans: our first picnic dinner at the park

*There’s a really excellent fried chicken place called PG Clucks on College, just around the corner from us. The chicken is not only excellent, there is not quite the very heavy sensation you sometimes get from other fried chicken places. I in particular like the sandwiches. I have turned into a person where there are now times in my life when literally only a fried chicken sandwich will hit the spot.

4 Comments

  1. Nina Graci

    Congratulations on all you’ve achieved! I was one of your first customers and stepped breathlessly into your tiny first store as though it was a shrine. And it was: a shrine to writing. (smile).

    Just finished My Brilliant Friend. Let me know what you think.

    Thank you too for sharing your exciting life through photos. I look forward to them and your insights.

    Enjoy your sandwich!

    Nina

    • wonderpens

      Thank you! The old shop was certainly a tiny but mighty part of our past.

      I’m enjoying My Brilliant Friend! I’m not done yet, but I think I will go on to at least the second.

      Thank you again for all of your support over the years. We wouldn’t be here without folks like you.

  2. Lisa RR

    Congratulations on the one year anniversary!
    Wonder Pens is a great addition to Toronto.

    (I never made it to the other store locations … the new location is in my range.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *