A walk through this upscale, east-end outdoor shopping centre reinvigorates the senses while offering chic choices for the home.
In 1955, the quiet corner of Don Mills Road and Lawrence Avenue East became home to what was then a brand-spanking- new retail concept—the open-air mall.
Suburban families flocked to the convenient little cluster of stores, which included a Dominion grocery story, a Koffler’s Drug Store (the forerunner of Shoppers Drug Mart), a Brewer’s Retail and a dozen or so other retailers. Consumers responded enthusiastically—a decade later the number of shops had swelled to 65 and included the first suburban Eaton’s.
In the ’70s, strip malls began to disappear—for lots of reasons. By the ’80s, they were considered retail dinosaurs. But the upscale Shops at Don Mills, which opened in April of 2009, has seen the concept re-invented in a thoughtfully designed outdoor mall that includes high-end chain and independent retailers, as well as spa, financial, dentistry and optometry services.
Shoppers walk from store to store outdoors. Arguably, that’s more pleasant in the temperate months than in the dead of winter but, at any time of year, it’s a refreshing change from the sometimes claustrophobic feel of power centres.
While the mix of retailers may be weighted toward fashion, home decor retailers are beginning to emerge. Notably, there are two Canadian chains with roots in Quebec that present different—but distinctly beautiful—takes on design.
The newest location of Artemano opened last fall. Founded in Quebec and now making its way across Canada, it specializes in contemporary exotic-wood furniture and decor.
Not only is the store a great spot to find unusual and one-of-a-kind pieces, it’s an oasis of calm serenity, with soft lighting and flickering tea lights casting shadows on lovely room vignettes. Go often—stock changes frequently, and there’s always something new to see. Keep your eye out for sales; when they have them, they’re terrific.
Structube, which opened its doors in Montreal in 1974, focuses on well-made but wonderfully affordable contemporary and transitional design. The Don Mills location launched in 2014 and carries everything from bed linens, furniture and art to tableware and accessories. As with Artemano, pieces are hand-picked from around the globe.
Both offer online sales.
If all that fresh air stimulates your appetite, drop by Linda Modern Thai, which prides itself on rebooted takes on classic Thai cuisine. Chef is not afraid to mix culinary influences in such menu items as Eggs Benedict with Panang curry and smoked duck breast. There’s also a location of the popular Joey’s chain, serving a signature menu inspired by international cuisines.
Shops at Don Mills offers visitors more than just a chance to spend money. An outdoor rink and skate rental operate when weather permits and, in warmer months, entertainment and fitness events are held on its well-groomed green and public spaces.
Child-free cinephiles can take advantage of the adult-only VIP program at the Cineplex, which offers valet parking and plush seating. You can also enjoy appetizers and entrees—and an alcoholic beverage—while watching a movie.