Shops with multiple identities: Creative trend or a sign of the (bad) times?

Shops with multiple identities: Creative trend or a sign of the (bad) times?

Toronto's too busy to do one thing at a time (Photo by jethros_tale)

Nothing is more Torontonian than the ability to multitask. The daily toggle between BlackBerry and iPhone is de rigueur, as is the commute-telecon- ference-breakfast. So entrenched is this poly-purpose tendency that it is emerging as a new trend in the city’s eating and drinking culture. Multi-concept spaces—bars that are also boutiques, cafés that double as galleries and triple as schools—are on the rise. Hogtown boasts an embarrassment of retail riches, which means that shoppers can afford to be choosy—even lazy. “You have to offer more these days,” explains local goldsmith Elena Ginsberg. “People want quality, and they also want to be entertained.” That’s why she’s applying the café-boutique concept to modish bar Unit, which will offer coffee and her Kvell designs, as well as full bar service at night. Starting in late April, Queen West crawlers who stumble in after dark will find that metalworks are on sale until close, and maybe discover that it is dangerous (and fun) to shop for jewellery after a couple of cocktails.

In addition to sheer innovation—Ginsberg notes that “adapting is key”—economics makes the trend timely. “Why pay two rents?” asks Ginsberg, whose set-up puts three businesses under one roof. And it seems that other shops are doing their own cost-benefit analysis. Newcomer Zoots café is already making news for its creative combination of great coffee and clothes. In a room adjacent to the main room, co-owner and leatherworker Melanie Janisse keeps a vintage shop where treasures from her old shop, Melanie’s Closet, can be unearthed. “Coffee brings in money and people, which can support the retail, which is abysmal right now,” she says.

Brad Moore’s new brunch spot, School Bakery and Café, also has a split personality. Lunch moves into happy hour at 3 p.m. sharp. Deejaying and cocktail-making lessons are planned, and there will be parties aplenty to take advantage of what Moore calls “design with nightlife in mind.” Across town there is the fashionable Fuzion, which capitalizes on an early incarnation of convergence: the resto-lounge. But in case DJ tracks and dining weren’t a happening enough mix, the spot is launching a “martinis and manicures” night later this month. We just hope the manicurists aren’t drinking the martinis

[CORRECTION: Thank you to all those participating in the discussion of this piece. Upon we review, we are in agreement with the comments regarding the inaccuracy of the headline of this article. Please note that it has been changed.]