Midtown’s Marlee Means Business – Community-Minded Businesses Love Marlee Avenue for Many Reasons

If you live in midtown Toronto, you can likely name many neighbourhoods that you frequent because of a specialty store, a fitness studio, a favourite restaurant, a green space, or family and friends who reside there…but what about Marlee Avenue? Do you know where Marlee is? If you do know this street, it’s likely due to the fact that it functions as a relatively quick north-south route between Lawrence Avenue and Eglinton Avenue on the west side of the bumper-to-bumper Allen Road. Marlee Avenue serves as a great escape route out of the city to the 401, or a way into the heart of Toronto – depending on what “Waze” tells you, of course.

Marlee has never been the most attractive strip in Toronto, but what it does offer businesses, in terms of added value, is easy (and free) parking for customers, reasonable rent (especially considering the access to many nearby neighbourhoods and the 401), and the TTC Glencairn subway station in the strip’s backyard. When you look past the concentrated high-rise apartment buildings and laundromats and peek into each of the strip malls and parking lots, you’ll notice that this area is home to some truly fantastic, dynamic and kind businesses and brands in central Toronto. Among the plethora of seemingly unkept buildings, you will find handfuls of vibrant, small, independently owned businesses run by locals with heart.


The three people that grace this issue are thrilled to operate unique Marlee Avenue establishments: a beauty studio, an organic vegan kitchen and a fitness boutique, while contributing to the culture of the neighbourhood and being wonderfully supportive of their community. Beyond their signage, inside their spaces, they run businesses with great commitment and passion that are both helpful and healthful. .

Susan Kirsch of Kirsch Cosmetic Studio -503 Marlee Avenue


Susan Kirsch opened her original beauty studio on Eglinton Avenue West in 1988. She then moved her flourishing business to Marlee Avenue over 10 years ago, adding more physical space to accommodate her growing clientele, and expanding to add an extensive full-service studio. Susan was attracted to Marlee for many reasons: its proximity to the Eglinton neighbourhood, the easy access it offered to those in the city and out, the free and plentiful parking and the 1 minute walk from Glencairn subway station. This was definitely the right place for her small business. In line with her role to help people feel and look beautiful, she transformed her shop into a great looking space indoors and out, complete with a huge, painted mural of flowers on the entire south wall of the building. This highlight of her space has both drawn attention from passers-by and encouraged others to migrate to Marlee with their small businesses. Providing on-location and travelling beauty services, Kirsch considers her studio to be unlike any other in the city–a true destination for Torontonians.

Little Known Fact: Kirsch offers teen make-up lessons! She boosts their confidence and self-esteem by ensuring they understand how to apply makeup well and in good taste, and she helps them understand that less is more, while encouraging them to appreciate their natural beauty.


Isaac Levy of Strolf Fitness- 338 Marlee Avenue


Strolf was founded by Isaac Levy, a Functional Strength and Conditioning Coach to well-known celebrities and professional athletes. Whether your goal is to get in shape and stay in shape, to lose weight and improve nutrition, or to end chronic pain, Levy and his elite team of fitness and medical professionals are committed to their client’s physical excellence by improving strength and endurance, stability and flexibility, balance, symmetry, alignment and nutrition. Every appointment, session or program is individualized and everyone is welcome, whether they are interested in one service, such as orthotics or acupuncture, or a full complement of intensive services. Levy values his location on Marlee Avenue (he used to be just off Eglinton Avenue, west of Bathurst), claiming that although the majority of his clients are from neighbouring areas, some travel from Vaughan, Brampton, Ajax, and Mississauga, and his midtown Toronto address is easily accessible to all.

Little Known Fact:  If you are not satisfied with your progress after 10 sessions at Strolf, they will refund your money in full – no questions asked. Isaac proudly reports that no one has ever exercised his or her right to a refund.


Doug McNish’s Public Kitchen -561 Marlee Avenue


With his hunger and drive to create beautiful and delicious meals, Doug has taken healthy, organic, plant-based cuisine to a whole new level. He calls his Public Kitchen on Marlee his “work home”, although he also lives with his wife and one-year-old son in the neighbourhood. After Doug released his first of three cookbooks, the demand for his food skyrocketed, as he not only serves wholesome dishes, but is also a classically trained chef that creates every recipe with care, love and skill…to rave reviews. Without capital to open a large fine dining restaurant, but with a consulting and teaching practice as busy as his food prep business, Doug was able to afford a space on Marlee and soon moved from renting a shared kitchen, to his own space. From the moment his lease was signed, it only took 3 days for Doug to be set up and creating delicious meals with his doors open to the public–hence the name “Doug McNish’s Public Kitchen”, now open 7 days a week.

Little Known Fact: Doug McNish’s Public Kitchen serves well over 100 different organic, vegan dishes between lunches, brunches, dinners and takeaway items, but his gluten-free Mac and Cheese outsells all else. 


Beyond keeping dollars within local communities, (which is significantly higher when they are spent at local businesses versus corporate ones), small business owners increase community character and strengthen partnerships between neighbouring small business owners and area residents, offering both social and economic relationships. Many owners, such as Kirsch, McNish and Levy, also support local organizations and social causes, creating even more good will within our community. Exploring new areas in our great city, with our heads high and eyes open, requires us to flex our awareness muscles and become more likely to happen upon new small businesses that have the potential to bring about great change in our lives–and the lives of the appreciative entrepreneurs we discover as well.

lisabordennewshotLISA BORDEN loves to shine a light on the good. Learn more about her highly passionate, hyper-focused, common-sense business development + marketing firm at www.bordencom.com

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