To be honest, everything about researching this piece felt like a surprise to me.
When I think bakeshop, I think comfort, homey, cozy, safe, all kinds of sturdy, calm adjectives.
But the second location of Tori’s Bakeshop is this crisp, industrial space co-created by complete opposites serving unexpected food in an unheard of part of town. Nothing about it made sense to me, but when I went for a visit, took some notes, snapped these photos and put it all together, it totally worked.
You can’t truly get into the thick of a Queen Street East experience without a pit stop at vegan anthill and community pillar, Tori’s Bakeshop.
Their cozy doors swung open in March 2012 and right from the start they were established as an everything-free haven boasting a roster free of toxins, sugar, eggs, dairy, casein and gluten. It’s a rare feature that’s had swarms of city sweet tooth’s gravitating to it for the last five and a half years, including our main squeeze, Tiffany Pratt. Being an east-sider for ten years means when something incredible pops up, she knows about it. Originally, it was a place to bring clients, take friends and treat family, but after befriending Tori, collaboration became inevitable.
Before Tori’s first Christmas, she asked Tiffany if she’d be keen to host a gingerbread-making workshop. She said yes and on the day of, the scene was absurd. People were pumped in and piling out the door squishing fresh icing between cookie walls and adorning each gingerbread roof with gobs of candy. It was minus a million degrees outside, but nobody cared. Crowds made gingerbread houses inside, crowds made gingerbread houses outside. 80 of ‘em walked out of the bakeshop that day.
After that, Tori hosted Tiffany’s birthday party, they threw a holiday market there and when the shop needed a counter space overhaul a few years ago, Tiffany rejigged the design so Tori’s confections had room to grow. Opportunities were popping up as fast as they were sought after by the pair.
“I’ve always looked for ways to collaborate with Tori. Whether it’s organic, vegan, recycling, doesn’t matter, she’s an amazingly hard worker all about doing things right and to the letter.”
Tiffany explains. “But we are the most unlikely pairing. We’ve known each other for years, so we’ve grown an understanding of each other, but if you were to think of two people, you would never put us together. We’re polar opposites.”
Their unlikely, but successful partnership most recently culminated in their latest project, a second bakeshop location on the corner of Front and Cooperage in the Canary District. From the get-go, this long galley space wasn’t going to serve as a replica or recreation of the original shop, but embody a completely different feel. It needed to take completely cozy and rub it squeaky clean. Tiffany was unintimidated and eager to run Tori’s well-known brand over to the opposite end of the spectrum, but was a bit wide-eyed when she first saw the space in early summer ‘16.
“It was a concrete, industrial, wires-hanging-out-the-ceiling construction site when I first saw it.” Tiffany laughs.
She started with a singular goal in mind: to keep the space bright, light, but textural while striking the perfect counterbalance. With Tori’s space, Tiffany had a natural brand with this very cozy aesthetic in one hand, while in the other, its rebirth into a totally new, stark context. Those two tensions needed to be evident in the design while still being true to Tori.
“If there’s something very slick and modern in the room, I’ll always make sure I’m throwing something opposite beside it so that you’re constantly visually dancing between the two tensions and understanding the design philosophy as you go.”
The first step? Colour.
Knowing Tori isn’t a colour-splashing rainbow child, Tiffany proposed gradients.
“I knew she really loved green, so I pushed her to do lots of green vs. just the same green over and over. So there’s a lot more shades and we’ve entered more of a graphic pattern because I wanted to give a juxtaposition between this industrial graphic pattern with some old touches like old pipes, vintage lights and barn board.” she explains. “All of the trims are over-sized, all of the doors are huge. Everything’s got epic old-school trims and finishes because I was trying to put those refined, homie finishes on a very industrial space.”
Yet once the design plan was done, that naturally lit room with ribbons of green and hefty features you see now was at a standstill.
“We weren’t working with my army. Tori had hired her own contractors, so I was hands off. When it’s not your people, you can’t drive the charge.
So it’s more, ‘Here’s the work. Call me if you need me.’ But you become co-dependent because you just want that contractor to text you or ask you questions all the time. When you have crickets you think, ‘I hope they’re going with the design plans still? I hope they’re still making it? I hope this is still happening and coming to life?’”
The painstaking creation from mood board to ribbon-cutting was nearly a year, a period that highlighted a question Tiffany frequently fields.
“People ask you all the time as a designer, ‘What are you working on? What are you working on? What are you working on?’ And sometimes you’re working on things and you’ve got stuff in the hop, but you don’t know when it’s gonna pop because it’s not always on your time.
But I think that’s with anything creative. You just want to see this thing that you’ve dreamed of come to life. Sometimes you don’t care how much it costs anymore or if you get paid, you just want to see it come to life. And that’s where I was with Tori’s. I didn’t really care about the money, it just came down to, ‘Let’s get this puppy open.’”
In June ’17, Tori’s Canary District doors finally cracked open to invite a new crowd in, one that can revel in their creative partnership in all its beautifully-lit glory.
“I wanted there to be enough texture, enough colour, enough pattern that people would go, ‘This is Tiffany’s work.’ but still be completely true to Tori.”