The quest for unique gifts that are actually unique, especially in Toronto, doesn’t have to be an ordeal. In addition to the various shopping malls in the city, a number of new stores—from modern twists on trading posts to über-niche shops—have funky-yet-thoughtful gifts for even the pickiest giftee. These top picks are all Toronto-based, and the majority of products are locally made by either Torontonian or Canadian designers. Stop by these unique boutiques so you can get the most out of your shopping excursion.
The Good Neighbour
This Good Neighbour (not to be confused with the coffee shop in the Junction) gives a funky vibe to a converted house, with jagged-edge lights, light wooden floors, and neatly stacked items. The Good Neighbour is an all-purpose store that sells a curated selection of the most popular items from the Drake General Store, like an Arborist onesie or Mountie thermos, alongside the wall of Herschel backpacks. Other prominent Canadian and Toronto labels give you a variety of options for gifts. You’ll love Fortnight for classy lingerie, Daniel Wellington and Jenny Bird for their jewellery, and Love the Design for photos and custom cards. Upstairs, you’ll find a men’s boutique with a selection of designer brands (Tiger of Sweden and Nobis, to name a few) and an apothecary for his grooming needs. Downstairs, you can find women’s apparel and a selective section of books, toys, and clothes for kids. This homey shop is a nice and welcome addition to the ‘hood.
BYOB Cocktail Emporium
Finding unique gifts for the cocktail connoisseurs or mixologists in your life? You can find all things drink-related at BYOB, one of the coolest stores in Toronto. Owner Kristen Voissey sources difficult-to-find bar tools from Japan—such as fancy cocktail pins and Yarai glass cocktail shakers—at this mad scientist-like lab of bar gadgets. Stock up on ingredients from a range of bitters, shrubs, syrups, floral waters, and garnishes, score DIY kits for beer and wine, and shop a compendium of glassware, from tumblers to goblets. Oenophiles will love the decanters and fun animal-shaped wine stoppers. Flasks and spherical ice cube molds are simple gifts for the stocking, or take it to the next level and buy that absinthe fountain.
Spacing, a magazine devoted to urban development and urban issues, recognized a need for Toronto-centric souvenirs after selling more than 500,000 of its TTC subway buttons. The subterranean Spacing Store is what you wish the subway could be: clean and crisp subway tiles behind the counter, a wall dedicated to TTC subway buttons and magnets, and a reading nook with comfy benches and books on all things Toronto, right near the new entrance on Richmond Street in the 401 Richmond building. If you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, top picks include Nicole Tarasick’s YYZ and Great Lakes printed pillows, a TTC token holder, and the screen-printed skate decks created by students of the alternative school design program, Oasis Skateboard Factory. If you have time, ascend to the rooftop for a photo-worthy view of the CN Tower, an ideal way to end your time at a store which focuses on hometown pride.
North Standard Trading Post
Located in Parkdale’s western edge, North Standard Trading Post brings the “cool” back to Canadian-themed apparel and gifts. You’ll feel the campy vibe as soon as you walk into the store, with Pendleton plaid blankets displayed on wooden blocks and HBC five-point striped wool blankets hanging from hooks. Printmaker Doublenaut has framed illustrated prints of forests, cyclists, and other abstract subjects lining the walls. Doublenaut also made the bear logo on all popular North Standard merchandise. For your pet, you can buy cozy wool dog sweaters by Chilly Dog, or opt for outdoorsy gear with Hunter boots and “Smells like Canada” candles, which include iconic scents like spruce, cabane à sucre, s’mores, and peameal bacon. Let this be the last stop on your trek: It’s a great excuse to discover the many shops and restaurants in this area, such as Cambie across the road and Coriander Girl down the street.