What’s Up, St. Clair?

We talk to long-time resident, business owner and neighbourhood ambassador, Jeremy Gladstone, about what’s going down on the St. Clair strip


// Taking a look back…

As the story goes, a boy named Albert Grainger lived on a farm on the southeast corner of what is now Avenue Road and St. Clair during the mid-1800s. Having no middle name, he chose a name for himself from his favourite book, Uncle Tom’s Cabin. As legend has it, the name he chose, St. Clair, was nailed to a tree and it soon thereafter replaced St. Clair’s original name, Third Concession.

Albert liked his name so much so that he often used it in public, such as when he played with his military band at The Opera House in Toronto.

Years later, in 2004, St. Clair resident Jeremy Gladstone’s former band would play that same venue during a reunion show. The band had reached early success, hitting stages across the country, but the members would all choose to move on to other things, and Jeremy’s work behind the camera captured his focus.

Not only did Jeremy share that same stage but that street corner at Avenue Road and St. Clair would become a big part of his life as well. And little did he know that years later, he’d be an ambassador of sorts of Albert’s street, St. Clair.

// Who is Jeremy Gladstone, anyway?

Jeremy and his wife Robyn moved from downtown to St. Clair 12 years ago.

“I originally gravitated to St. Clair because I thought it had a really nice fusion of neighbourhood charm coupled with all the conveniences of an urban metropolis,” says Gladstone. “I was really connected to it because it had a real sense of community.”

In 2005, a year after that Opera House show, Jeremy decided to get down to business and opened Gladstone Media with a focus on helping brands shine through video, animation and state-of-the-art branding and design.

And while he may have spent long days at the office getting his business off the ground, he was always eager to come back home to his neighbourhood.

The area had a few hotspots at the time, such as Ferro Bar Café and Marcello’s Pizzeria, but many shops remained vacant, waiting to be scooped up.

“I opened Ferro with my brothers in 1993,” says Frank Pronesti, former owner of St. Clair restaurants Ferro and Catch and current owner of The Rushton. “At the time, we took over an existing billiard hall that was generating a modest business but had very little to offer. We initially kept the pool table concept but felt the neighbourhood was missing good food so we decided to open Ferro which really took off from the start thanks to our dedicated following.”

Ferro, 769 St. Clair Avenue West

Jeremy would frequent the restaurant, often offering his two cents much like he naturally did in his day-to-day life. A branding fanatic, Jeremy’s keen interest in helping St. Clair’s businesses thrive would quickly become part of his natural way, and Gladstone Media’s design touches would help launch many St. Clair businesses for years to come.

Roast Fine Foods, 786 St. Clair Avenue West

For Ferro, he created a modern, new logo, menu, website and an engaging video. For others, Jeremy and his team would design inviting spaces, create unique branding and identity materials, and help spread the word through digital and traditional campaigns. Over the years, the St. Clair strip attracted vibrant restaurants and eclectic shops and without fail, Jeremy would get to know each owner personally, get to know their story, their raison d’être.

// You can’t fake passion

Jeremy oozes passion – and in everyday encounters he takes it to the next level. If you have ever met him, you know exactly what I’m talking about.

When Jeremy met Ben Latchford of Roast (one of the strip’s most popular butchers), for example, he was immediately drawn to Ben’s story and his connection to the ‘hood.

“Before I opened Roast, I had been watching the strip change for over 25 years,” says Latchford. “I had lived in the neighbourhood for many years and after working in butcher shops for over 20 years I decided it was time to open up Roast and that St. Clair was the perfect spot.”

Before opening Roast, Ben met Jeremy and a design meeting was arranged. When Ben walked into the meeting, he brought along a photo his mother, a professional photographer, had taken back in the ‘60s of a woman presenting a cooked roast beef to her son.

“That was the feeling I wanted in my shop – an old-school, general store feeling,” says Latchford. “Jeremy took the photo and ran with it, and when he came back two weeks later, he had created branding and design for my store that reflected exactly what I wanted.”

Jeremy just gets it. He understands what businesses need and he makes it happen. And helping this neighbourhood transform from an untapped strip with a few vacant shops to one that’s attracting people from all over the city is yet another thing he’s passionate about.

Another Gladstone Media client, De La Mer, is a neighbourhood fish monger that’s serviced the Leaside, Roncesvalles and Danforth areas for years. Rather than convince his client, owner David Owen, to open up a much-needed fish shop on the strip, Jeremy decided it was time to get behind a business he believed in.

“There were a couple of things that we liked about the neighbourhood,” says Owen. “The wide pedestrian-friendly sidewalks allow for lots of sunshine and encourage people to stroll and there are many families in the ‘hood who are interested in a healthier diet. Furthermore, our existing retail neighbours – Roast, Mabel’s, Baker and Scone, and all the others – give the area a growing retail ‘gravity’ that draws people in.”

Gladstone Media’s previous work with David had helped transform his business and it didn’t take long for him to recognize why partnering with Jeremy made sense.

“We partnered with Jeremy because he wouldn’t leave me alone,” says Owen. “Just joking. Gladstone Media had been our marketing agency for two years when we partnered up and he had shown that he brought real value to the table in terms of building our brand. From a design perspective Gladstone Media, in many ways, is responsible for turning us from a really high quality ‘mom and pop’ shop into a brand that is bigger than any of the owners as an individual.”

Jeremy and David’s partnership is a perfect match and De La Mer is now a staple on the strip. And with more establishments opening up, more people are paying attention.

De La Mer, 728 St. Clair Avenue West

“I really enjoy the fact that everything I could possibly want is within a few blocks,” says Gladstone. “There are some legendary restaurants in the neighbourhood like Ferro and The Rushton – and as it evolves, I now have several other favourites like Pukka, Kay Pacha, Nodo and CocoaLatte. Cano is another great one. Whether I’m getting a coffee from Krave, visiting the Wychwood Barns market, or picking up my meat from Roast, everything is right here in this amazing ‘hood.”

And as new retailers attract people to the area, developers are taking notice.

Jeremy Gladstone is a visionary and cutting edge when it comes to marketing

-Zev Mandelbaum, Principal and Founder, Marlin Spring

“I think there are a handful of developers that realize St. Clair is an extremely versatile street with very unique and diverse pockets,” says Gladstone. “Overall the street possesses a residential community feel with a huge eclectic location offering.”

The Foxbar Collection at Imperial Village, 129 St. Clair Avenue West

One of those developers, Camrost Felcorp Inc., wanted the Gladstone Media team to create an overall brand platform for their master-planned community at Avenue Road and St. Clair, on that very same corner as what was once the Grainger farm.

“We wanted a brand that could be seamlessly integrated into the established and historic neighbourhood and we had a vision to create an elegant identity that felt current and relevant,” says Joseph Feldman, Director of Development, Camrost Felcorp.

The Gladstone Media team helped Camrost achieve that vision with the branding of Imperial Village – which includes the award-wining Imperial Plaza, The Foxbar Collection and 101 St. Clair – and the highly successful development has transformed the corner.

The Stockyards District Residences, 2306 St. Clair Avenue West

Another one of those developers is Marlin Spring. Gladstone Media was brought on board to help launch the Stockyards District Residences at St. Clair west of Keele, which will be launching in late 2018. The highly anticipated project celebrates the notion of authentic urban living – akin to New York’s famous Meatpacking District – and the Gladstone team is credited with creating a brand that is turning the Marlin Spring vision into reality.

“Jeremy Gladstone is a visionary and cutting edge when it comes to marketing,” says Zev Mandelbaum, Principal and Founder, Marlin Spring.

From east to west, there’s a lot to celebrate on St. Clair. Most importantly, though, it’s the good people – the shop owners, the visitors, and the devoted residents – that make the area so unique.

“This community sticks together and everyone supports each other,” says Pronesti. “The residential community is second to none – in my opinion the true hidden gem of this neighbourhood is the people that live and work in it.”

Passionate people like Gladstone.

“I absolutely love what I do and I feel honoured to be able to play a small role in shaping the landscape of the St. Clair strip,” says Gladstone. “There’s something very special about this neighbourhood and I’m happy to just be a part of it.”


Sharon Lassman is a resident of the St. Clair West community and is the founder of Purpose Ink. purposeink.com

 

The Foxbar Collection Rendering by Norm Li

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