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Although it’s small in size and sells all the basics – eggs, butter, ice cream, and coffee – Tiny’s General Store is neither tiny nor general.
Open since mid-November, on the placid residential corner of Barton and Euclid Avenues (near, but a world away from, Bloor and Bathurst), Tiny’s is owned by Chrys Nguyen. A former menswear buyer for Lost & Found, Nguyen lives nearby and has two step kids who attend Palmerston Junior Public School, just across the street.
“Wouldn’t it be great,” she recalls thinking. “That if instead of going all the way down to Bloor West, with all the traffic, the kids could just cross the street from school to buy their candy?” By candy, Nguyen is referring to an entire shelf, strategically next to the front door, overflowing with classic temptations such as PEZ candies and Haribo gummies.
Understandably, the kids have been succumbing to the temptations. And inevitably, they drag their parents inside, who are often pleasantly surprised to discover that Tiny’s truly isn’t your average neighborhood convenience store. “I think of it as a higher-end curated general store, one that’s still evolving” confesses Nguyen.
Tiny’s does indeed carry all the basic staples. But the free range and organic eggs – “with the best, most yellow yolks ever” – come from Stratford’s Conestoga Farms and the pale butter, hand-churned from fermented cream, hails from Quebec (Chagnon) and PEI (Cows Creamery). The ice cream, with flavours like Laurel and Cranberry, is plant-based and made by Honey’s of Toronto. And the seriously sourced coffee is brewed and served by local purveyors, Sonndr Cafe, who have created an intimate outpost of their nearby Dovercourt headquarters (in addition to coffee, there are sandwiches, muffins and pastries from Petite Thuet).
Nguyen’s fashion cred kicks into high gear when it comes to the beautifully crafted housewares and decorative objects artfully displayed on the store’s uncluttered shelves. These include handmade reversible laboratory glass vases, in soft sherbet hues, made by London-based Block Design and stainless steel coffee and tea-making accessories made by Snow Peak, a venerated 3rd-generation outdoor lifestyle creator that’s Japan’s equivalent to North America’s Patagonia. There’s also hand-wrought pottery in soothing colours, by Toronto’s Jon Pong, who before learning to throw down clay, was smashing food at the Black Hoof and The Drake 150.
More utilitarian, but no less artistic and unusual are heritage gardening tools made by Utah-based Barebones Living and handsome leather leashes and pet collars crafted by Toronto’s Britt Leslie of Apogee Goods. As a curator, Nguyen strikes a nice balance between cult international brands and innovative homegrown start-ups.
When the weather gets warm, Nguyen is planning a sidewalk patio where shoppers can take their coffee and snacks outside and hang for a while. Until then, it’s worth running out of butter or eggs – or fresh Famiglia Baldassare pasta – just for an excuse to check out what’s stocked on Tiny’s ever-evolving shelves.
Tiny’s General Store is located at 80 Barton Avenue and is open Monday to Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and weekends from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.