Mable's Fabels Bookstore located on Mount Pleasant Road in Toronto by artist David Crighton

A Nostalgic Stroll Up Yonge Street

When the Subway Detour Turns Into A Walk Down Memory Lane

I was on the subway on my way to a dentist appointment the other day when an announcement came over the PA. The train had to turn back at Bloor Street due to a fire on the tracks at the Summerhill Subway station. My dentist is at St. Clair, probably a half-hour walk, so I decided to hoof it. 

It was a great opportunity for me to remember what popular businesses lined this stretch of Yonge Street that went through some of the most prestigious neighbourhoods in Toronto—Rosedale and Summerhill. Does anyone know the name of the neighbourhood between Avenue Road and Yonge Street, North of Bloor and South of St. Clair?  

Neighbourhood Adventures: Rosedale, Summerhill, and Beyond

The first neighborhood we arrive at is Summerhill. Actually, I lie, the first neighbourhood we come to is Rosedale but it's quite the residential area, well back from the Yonge St. Strip. Summerhill is the area located midway between Bloor St. to the South and St. Clair to the North. The sweetest part of Summerhill is (was) a block of shops on the east side of the street affectionately referred to as the "Five Thieves." This group of high-end gourmet food stores grew up around the main liquor store in Toronto, which everyone referred to back in the day as the CPR liquor store.   

The CPR Liquor Store: A Blast From Toronto's Past

Who remembers the days in Toronto liquor stores when they didn't display the bottles on shelves for you to put in a shopping basket and check out? Yes, folks, Toronto was a DRY city back then. There were only about five liquor stores where you could get your hootch. Here is proof that all the bottles were hidden behind a counter. You had to fill out a chit and take it to the counter, where "the men" would go and find your bottles of booze. Yes, Dad was gone for quite a while when he went for the Christmas booze supply - I remember it well!

Gourmet Heaven: The Five Thieves

Nestled nicely in behind this cute image of The Harvest Wagon, the last shops still standing of the original Five Thieves is the CPR Liquor Store (do they still call it that?)Yes, these shops were very expensive but very yummy, too. Let's face it: If you're a foodie, is anything too expensive? I know from experience because my "foodie" husband used to drive me crazy shopping at these expensive stores. He'd be so excited with his heirloom tomatoes, homemade gnocchi, etc., but these things were a big deal back then. And I got to say, he knew how to cook, and I had it made because he did all the cooking.   

If I'm not mistaken, the only one of these shops that remain is The Harvest Wagon - please correct me if I'm wrong. Also, there's a free Summerhill Poster in it for the first person to tell me the names of all five of the Original Five Thieves in the comments below!

 Exotic Eats and Pool Table Feats at The Ports of Call

On the North Side of the CPR Liquor Store was what was considered an exotic Polynesian restaurant and bar called The Ports of Call. It was pretty tame by today's standards because, believe me, Toronto did NOT have ethnic food back then. It doesn't seem to work with the Polynesion bive but they did have pool tables. I remember a moment of glory that I had at that pool table. I don't know what happened, but a mysterious force took me over. There was nothing I couldn't do with that pool cue, and I managed to keep the table for a couple of hours, taking on MALE after MALE after MALE. That was sweet! 

The Ports of Call Restaurant Toronto back in the day!

Radio Waves: CHUM Radio Memories

Moving up the street on the east side of Yonge below St. Clair was the home of the most listened-to radio station in any BOOMERS life - Chum Radio. Who listened to Larry Solway on their transistor radio? Larry hosted a call-in talk show that promised all kinds of titillating, juicy discussions.  I'd love to hear your stories about Larry's show and it's place in your life! And please share your memories of the Chum Charts published weekly?   



Driving North on Yonge Street through the very popular St. Clair and Yonge area, we're going to carry through to Davisville Avenue, take a right at the next major intersection, and turn left on Mount Pleasant Avenue. As we approach this part of Toronto, we are truly entering the heart of North Toronto. 

Into the Heart of North Toronto 

What are my memories of the places that stood out for me on this street?  

Several great businesses that have left and have served this community for many years. Some have closed and moved to other locations, but their memory lingers on for anyone who spends any time walking the streets. Here are my memories but I would love to hear more about yours! 

The Little Pie Shop (now the Little Party Shoppe). I was so sad when this place closed in the 80's. My Aunt Violet would get the best little lemon tarts here. I used to get them for my family, too until it closed sometime in the 80's. I note that the Little Party Shoppe is run by a daughter of one of the owners of the Pie Shop...didn't know that.

George's Trains was a big spot for train enthusiasts and children and their dads brackets primarily. Its bright yellow sign was always welcome.  

Mable's Fables and George's Trains Coffee Mugs - His and Hers Coffee Set

Next, we have Mables Fables where Eleanor LeFave has created a wonderful world that brings books to children and has brightened many faces, lines, and birthday parties over the years.  This article tells the story of this beloved shop, which, by the way, celebrated its 35th year in business last year. 

The Mount Pleasant Theatre was built in the 1920s and served this community all this time. When last I looked, it was still functioning, but it alas, it also has closed its doors. There was a brief moment when my Uncle, Richard Ballentine, owned it. Dick was an ex-CBCer who won awards for his documentaries on Lester Pearson and Hugh Hefner. He also founded Toronto Calendar magazine, later sold to Robert Fulford because Toronto Life still operates today.  

Let's Share Our Toronto Tales

Please write in with businesses and stories about those businesses that were located in the Summerhill and Mt. Pleasant Road that I have not included here and let's bring them to life in our collective memories.



  • Veronica Romano

    Hi , Enjoyed the article. And yes, I will miss The Rosedale Diner too!
    Here is my answer, fingers crossed: Olliffe Buther Shop, Pisces, Nadege and Terroni.
    Best Regards,
    Veronica Romano

  • John

    Original Five Thieves:
    (1) Harvest Wagon (2) Pisces fish shop (3) All the Best Fine Foods (4) Olliffe and (5) Patachou

  • Joanne

    Don’t forget the Rosedale Diner on the west side of Yonge in the Summerhill strip. When I lived at Davisville and Yonge, I used to go there for a yummy brunch or dinner. It closed recently after a run of 45 years. It was an anchor in that neighbourhood, enjoyed by and, I am sure, remembered by many.

  • Sharon W
    Five Thieves included Pisces fish shop; All the Best Fine Foods for breads, cheeses and prepared meals; Olliffe for meat; and Patachou, a patisserie on the corner

  • Rob Phillips

    Pisces fish shop, All the Best Fine Foods, Olliffe and Patachou round out the Five Thieves

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