The ongoing LRT construction along Eglinton Avenue and a potentially staggering rent increase could force Mabel’s Fables bookstore in midtown Toronto to close its doors.
Eleanor LeFave has owned the store for 31 years, but she doesn’t own the building and she says the new landlord is proposing a 70 per cent rent increase.
When CTV News Toronto asked if she can survive a rent hike like that, LeFave’s answer was simple: “no.”
She says that as an independent retailer she feels like a sitting duck and calls her current challenge a double whammy.
“We’re dealing with lower sales because of the construction and expectations by a new owner that they would like to have more rent.”
But LeFave and the community that surrounds her store on Mount Pleasant Road, just south of Eglinton Avenue, aren’t giving up. A petition has been started by the local city councillor Josh Matlow, who wants to find a way to keep the doors open.
Shortly after it was started, more than 2,000 people had signed it.
Matlow is hopeful, but says that the community’s efforts are not anti-business.
“We’re not saying growth or no growth. We’re saying any growth needs to incorporate the things we love about our main streets including our independent book stores.”
LeFave is encouraged by the support, but is quick to point out that her situation is far from unique. She’s worried about what it could mean to the face of neighbourhoods and main streets across the city.
“We have to take control of what we want our city to be like. (Or) we’re going to have a lot of empty storefronts.”
On Saturday afternoon, the store was holding a reading of Robert Munch’s classic “The Paper Bag Princess.” The second floor was packed with parents and young children wearing paper crowns, listening to the story of how a princess saved a prince from a nasty dragon.
The parents want to help save the store from the new landlord, but know it’ll take more than buying a few more books to help succeed.
Natasha Golding has been bringing her eight-year-old daughter Amelia to the store since she was in a stroller.
“Nobody wants to lose the place. So it’s really nice to see the positive effort it is making to get the word out, and try and save our store.”
Dan Miles has two young daughters, and wants to keep bringing them to Mabel’s Fables.
“Everyone is supporting her and hopefully we can pull through and make the store stay here for the neighbourhood and for the kids.”