Always known for its easy-living atmosphere, Don Mills is working hard to become known as a luxury shopping and dining destination.
The north Toronto neighbourhood that runs from Eglinton to York Mills and Leslie to just past the DVP has seen its business community balloon in the past year with the redevelopment of the Don Mills Centre site into the new Shops at Don Mills luxury shopping mall.
Located at Don Mills and Lawrence, the outdoor mall is built in the style of a small town with its own side streets and town square and has seen mid-to-luxury brand retailers like Tommy Hilfiger, Banana Republic and McEwan flocking to its promise of affluent customers looking to shop away from downtown.
At the trendy Joey restaurant (15 O’Neil Rd), the Don Mills neighbourhood is the first Ontario location out of 19 total across Canada for the successful chain of premium casual dining establishments which started in Calgary in 1992. Joey assistant general manager Andrew Nasr says the company picked Don Mills to open their Ontario incursion because they see it as a neighbourhood that has both short-term potential and long-term promise.
“We’re all about opening locations where things will be beneficial 10 years down the road instead of just being a hot area now. My gut tells me this will be a huge destination for people to steer away from downtown and a place where you can get everything you need,” Nasr said.
Ernest Liu co-owns and manages, together with his wife, their restaurant named after her — Linda (11 Karl Fraser Rd). Liu has 19 years of restaurant experience with his other restaurant, Salad King, near Yonge and Dundas and says Don Mills has already brought a steady stream of mid-to-higher level income clients.
“There’s a good cultural mix here and there are a lot more upscale customers here. People dress up for dinner here and their behaviour seems to change compared to downtown,” Liu said.
While Liu says businesses was beyond expectations last summer, the winter has been much tougher as foot traffic has dropped off sharply compared to what he’s used to at his downtown restaurant. He thinks the business community around Don Mills still needs more time to mature before smaller operations will continue rolling in.
“We’re quite happy with the area and we’re meeting our objectives here, but I doubt that many more small business people will come in for now because they would expect a very fast turnaround in a short time and that’s just not the case here yet,” Liu said.
For Nasr, competition is a great thing as long as the customers continue to come through everyone’s doors.
“Competition brings out the best in everybody and the customers here make it easy for us,” Nasr said.