Holy Cow brings globe-trotter style to Leslieville

Holy Cow brings globe-trotter style to Leslieville

Exotic decor and specialty gift boutique Holy Cow is the latest project for restaurateur Aristedes Pasparakis and womenswear designer Alexia von Beck. The long-time partners, globetrotters and treasure hunters opened the shop three months ago, filling it with eclectic art, furniture, jewellery and household items from north Africa and Asia.

(Photo by Denise Dias) 

The store is packed with colourful items—soft towels from Istanbul ($59–$99), leather slippers from Morocco ($50), teak statues from Burma ($1,800) and custom-designed marble tabletops ($1,250–$2,950)—giving shoppers the feeling of browsing a crowded marketplace. It’s a fitting addition to the Leslieville neighbourhood, which is booming with other independent shops like Ethel and Winkel, Eye Spy and Six Shooter. “It’s hard to describe exactly what we sell,” says von Beck, who also owns an eponymous boutique in Rosedale. “We give people a little piece of the entire world.” Many of the items are purchased during the couple’s travels, and von Beck’s eye for fanciful fabrics and colour is evident.

Holy Cow is a spectacular source of unusual gifts and imported luxuries: Whimsical handmade paper stars from India ($10–$16), traditionally used to celebrate Diwali, are piled high in the window, while treats like Turkish apple tea ($5) and bags of Moroccan candies ($3) clutter the counter. Larger-than-life works of art depicting sumo wrestlers ($1,900) adorn the walls, and impressive life-sized, hand-painted animals are scattered throughout the store.

While running a boutique might seem like an odd move for Pasparakis, a cookbook author and former engineering professor who has owned and consulted on a string of Greek restaurants in Vancouver and Toronto in the past 20 years (Ouzeri, the recently shuttered Lambros), but he insists the shift from restaurants to retail was natural: “There was no switch from one career to another. Design, colour and travel have always been important in my work.”

Holy Cow, 1100 Queen St. E. (at Brooklyn Ave.), 416-778-6555.

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