Best of the City 2011: Our picks for Toronto’s top services—from beard trimming to doggie fitness

Best of the City 2011: Our picks for Toronto’s top services—from beard trimming to doggie fitness

Best of the City: Help
(Image: Liam Mogan) 

Spray paint removal Beard maintenance Canine workout Bedbug exterminator Personal shopper Tattoo removal Artful mani Cleaver care Bicycle repair tips Sole saviour De-clutter

Spray paint removal
Graffiti Clean
Since Rob Ford took office, more than 4,500 graffiti-removal notices have been issued, leading many property owners to clean up their exteriors in the hopes of dodging the mayor’s heavies. The scrubbers of Graffiti Clean operate out of a trailer tricked out with their own water, hydro and heat sources and offer discreet nighttime services. After testing a patch of the affected area to determine what kind of paint they’re dealing with, they will apply special graffiti-removal chemicals to cleanse any surface, be it porous brick, metal, concrete or wood, and then use absorbent booms and wet vacs to contain the runoff. Company owner Dave Rochester says that graffiti artists have been stepping up their game by tagging elevated and difficult-to-access areas; for that, the company specializes in harness work. The war on graffiti is good for the bottom line: Rochester says his business has spiked 25 per cent since the mayor took on the cause. Treatments start at $90 an hour.

Best of the City: Beard Maintenance
(Image: Liam Mogan) 

Beard Maintenance
Garrison’s by the Park
907 Queen St. W., 416-703-8602
Garrison’s is the newest in a wave of retro-cool cut-and-shave barbershops in the city, and its simplicity is laudable (there are cuts, and there are shaves). If you ask nicely, there are also options for bearded men in need of a little pampering: heavily tattooed barbers Alan Brown and Sydney Woods trim and sculpt, pricing on a beard-by-beard basis. And while this Trinity Bellwoods spot earns a recommendation for the complimentary beer, good music and steady off-colour jokes alone, it’s also worth mentioning the hot towel shave, which might just be the most fun you’ll have being touched north of the neck. From $15.

Canine Workout
Urbandog Fitness and Spa
37 Parliament St., 416-361-1037
Is your chihuahua getting chunky? Your retriever looking a little rotund? A healthy dog is a happy dog, and for nine-to-fivers who don’t have time to give Rover the exercise he needs, Urbandog will improve a pup’s BMI. The Playcare program operates seven days a week and allows for quick stop-ins (a three-hour workout is $20) and all-day stays (up to 13 hours for $39). Dogs roam free in a 4,500-square-foot indoor/outdoor play space that includes splash pools and a jungle gym. The pack is divided into two groups based on size. For owners who suffer from separation anxiety, the entire compound is watchable by webcam.

Bedbug Exterminator
Addison Pest Control
They make your skin a blotch-ridden mess, your furniture a trash heap and your friends run away in horror—and they’re everywhere. Between 2003 and 2010, the number of reported bedbug incidents in Toronto exploded from 46 to an astonishing 2,000. About two years ago, in response to the growing epidemic, Addison Pest Control started specializing in bedbug extermination. They find the bloodsucking fiends using a mass spectrometer, which can detect carbon dioxide, methane and other pheromones that bedbugs produce. They also have access to particle detectors of the more snuggly variety: two German shepherds and a Lab, specially trained to sniff out the parasites. After detection, the team uses a heat-blasting spot treatment (infrared guns and hand-held steamers) to lure the bugs out from hiding, then kills them with a combination of spray insecticides and a biodegradable, crushed silica–based dust insecticide. Finally, they cover the area with a residual spray called permethrin, which will eradicate any remaining bugs that dare to rear their ugly heads. Addison, which has handled almost 1,000 infestations in the past year, offers a full guarantee if the bugs refuse to bugger off. From $200.

Personal Shopper
Holt Renfrew
50 Bloor St. W., 416-960-4535
For 13 years, Marlo Szellos lived and worked as a fashion buyer in Paris, and she now puts that style sensibility to good use as a personal shopper at Holt Renfrew. She will often build full seasonal wardrobes with clients, and the complimentary consultations can be a major blessing when you’re primping for society soirées, weddings and bar or bat mitzvahs. Because no two formal functions are alike, she pulls her selection based on venue, dress code and crowd dynamic. Her approach is soigné with a subtle twist, never off-the-rack rote, although signatures include scarves (not shawls) and eye-catching earrings and cuffs. The Cinderella magic goes down in her own designated glossy shopping suite within the Bloor Street store, which she’s personalized with her curated selection of Frederic Malle fragrances and chic, on-trend accessories. Brides have even been known to bring photos of their dresses, hoping she’ll complete their fashion fairy tale with unexpected footwear or jewellery flourishes.

Best of the City: Tattoo Removal
(Image: Liam Mogan) 

Tattoo Removal
Fading Fast
120 Eglinton Ave. E., 10th floor, 416-322-2922
You’re 34, you work in finance, and you wish like hell your early-’90s Grateful Dead–worshipping self had thought twice about getting a dancing bear permanently inked on your upper arm. The good news: Fading Fast can turn back the clock. The Toronto shop’s laser removal procedure works by directing pulses of intense light at that barbed wire or ex-girlfriend’s name, causing the pigment to fragment into smaller particles that are then naturally erased by the body’s immune system. It isn’t quick (most removals require several sessions) or cheap (even the smallest epidermal artwork costs close to $1,000 to erase), but it works.

Best of the City: Artful Mani
(Image: Liam Mogan) 

Artful mani
Tips Nail Bar
844A Danforth Ave., 416-405-8477
Leeanne Colley’s hands are so steady, she could have been a surgeon. Instead, she’s a nail artist, and her meticulous work on customers’ tiny canvases has earned her a lot of groupies. Her five-year-old salon, Tips Nail Bar, has become a hotbed for manis à la mode, and customers gladly schlep across town for the latest novelty designs. Colley offers nearly 200 shades of polish in brands including Chanel, Deborah Lippmann and YSL. More important than her au courant colours is what she does with them: beyond trendy moon manis, she incorporates matte lacquers into the mix and plays around with funky variations on a classic French, which she has taken to the extreme on the pages of fashion editorials across Canada. Anyone squinting hard enough at the Greta Constantine, Pink Tartan and Lucian Matis fall 2011 runway shows would have seen her designs. And FYI, she’s a stickler for hygiene; leather loungers and stainless basins are her answer to questionable jet bath pedicure chairs. From $18.

Cleaver Care
658 Queen St. W., 647-996-8609
If you value your kitchen knives (and in these Food Network–obsessed times, who doesn’t?), you’ll want to keep them far away from the old guy with the grinding wheel who rings his bell as he drives down your street. And the same goes for so many kitchen stores. But not for Knife. Eugene Ong opened his tiny, second-storey Japanese knife boutique and sharpening service on Queen West last year precisely because there was nowhere else in the city that could give his prized blades the attention they needed: careful hand-sharpening on a series of progressively finer Japanese whetstones. The easygoing five-year veteran of Toronto kitchens treats all comers alike, be they top chefs bearing $500 handmade blades, exhausted line cooks on their day off or eager home cooks with their banged-up wedding registry Henckels. From $8.

Bicycle Repair Tips
Bike Pirates
1292 Bloor St. W.
On an average weekday night, there’s a lineup of cyclists outside Bike Pirates, waiting to fix their own bikes. That’s right—they pay (what they can) to get their hands dirty replacing brakes and de-gunking derailleurs. Taking a bike apart can be anxiety-inducing, which is where the volunteer-run Pirates collective comes in. Most of the volunteers are cyclists who turned into amateur mechanics. Geoff Moore showed up at the space after he was rear-ended by a car two years ago. He was helpfully guided in his repairs, decided to become a volunteer himself and is now one of the friendly grease monkeys convincing newbies that yes, you can do it yourself. To further encourage reluctant fixers, Sundays are reserved for female and trans cyclists, who tend to show up in fewer numbers than wrench-ready guys. The Pirates also collect salvageable wrecks and, every few weeks, sell rebuilt bikes at discount prices.

Sole Saviour
Novelty Shoe Rebuilders
119 Yonge St., 416-364-8878
Novelty Shoe Rebuilders is old—79 years old, to be exact, with a grey-streaked sign so worn it’s barely legible. This is one of the few places in town that stocks the red Vibram rubber specifically to re-sole Louboutins; it can also replace the plantation crepe on the bottom of a pair of Clark’s Wallabees. Seven cobblers (most of whom have worked here for decades) fix up to 1,000 pairs a week; like Novelty, those beloved togs in the back of the closet have got plenty of life in them yet.

Spot On Organizing
Sometimes, the elephant in the room is actually a morass of unopened mail, yellowing newspapers, outgrown baby clothes and broken exercise equipment. “I was about three clients in when I realized de-cluttering isn’t about the stuff,” says Tina Blazer, owner of Spot On. “It’s about the human dramas, like illness and divorce, that lead people to have a hard time purging.” Blazer combines the confidence of a lifetime neatnik—her idea of teenage fun was to organize her mother’s kitchen—with a delicate approach. An average house will take 16 to 20 hours to tackle. Each session has an attainable goal, like getting a vase of flowers onto a table that’s been hidden under junk for a year. $50–$65 an hour.