Straight Ehs

LEN scores high on local designs and Canadian-made goods
By: Katie Yantzi

DSC_9677The Danforth East Community Association’s pop-up shop project has spawned numerous successes, which will be discussed in On the Danforth’s spring issue. Here, former pop-up LEN yields a fascinating trove of design and décor treasure.

I had visited the website for LEN: Democratic Purveyors of Fine Art & Beautiful Things with the intent of finding the store’s address, and was rewarded with this smile-inducing turn of phrase. [pullquote]LEN is in a committed relationship with 698 Coxwell Ave.[/pullquote]The hippest new storefront to grace the Danforth East neighbourhood doesn’t shy away from its committed status, and why should it? LEN has gone from a temporary pop-up shop in December 2012 to opening a permanent store on Coxwell this past May, as well as being named on BlogTO’s 2013 list of “Toronto’s Best New Design Stores.” You may have also spotted them at the Distillery District Christmas Market. Not bad for just one year of business.

DSC_9659Entering the store, I’m greeted by Christal Pshyk, one of the owners, whose passion for art and design is immediately evident as she glides around the shop, pointing out locally made table runners, breadboards, notebooks, cushions and other décor. There are photographs on the walls by Robert Riley, and Danforth native Sara Deacon’s Grade Eh Designs, a series of cloth Canadiana goods with stitched on beavers and antlers.

“We source things out that are either handmade, or local, or interesting; [things that] fit sort of a design philosophy,” Pshyk explains. Basically, she elaborates, if they like it, they sell it. “We know pretty much most of our designers, actually, which is pretty cool.” This is important, as keeping LEN’s stock as unique as possible involves a lot of research, product sourcing and, most importantly, “believing in the product.”

DSC_9664Pshyk and her husband, David Kravinchuk, moved to Toronto from Alberta four years ago and—finding nothing quite like their gifty, artsy shop in the area—considered the possibility of opening something themselves. Being an artist herself, Pshyk’s BFA and arts administration background, along with Kravinchuk’s art gallery experience, seemed the ideal pairing. “It was a really good way to extend my knowledge base and my skills … into something that could also help the neighbourhood and make us a part of the neighbourhood,” says Pshyk, adding that, as a team, the two of them have plenty of shared experience for the endeavour.

DSC_9678Besides choosing handmade, local or interesting items, the duo’s highest priority is serving the Danforth East residents themselves. The area’s high street is changing for the better, Pshyk declares, and being a part of that change is one of the most important things they’re doing. “We really respond to our customers’ requests and needs,” she adds. This takes the form of keeping prices reasonable and stocking durable, kid-friendly products like Duralex for the area’s young families, or all-natural soaps from Wild Prairie. Customers frequently find LEN through Internet searches for local shops selling such specialty products.

DSC_9656Danforth East, admittedly, isn’t quite a “destination” neighbourhood, though Pshyk sincerely hopes it’s on its way. But she is happy to declare that many of her customers aren’t local. So where do they come from? While many wander in off the street, owing to the traffic from nearby Coxwell station, word of mouth has helped, as well as being reviewed on BlogTO. I’m in the shop when Pshyk receives the phone call announcing their store’s nomination to BlogTO’s list. She hangs up the phone, as chipper as ever, and continues to show me around the store.

“We’re really fortunate to be working with Catherine Poitier, who is from Paris,” she says, pointing to some beautiful lace collars. Poitier used to work as a lace-maker for Chanel and Givenchy.

Pshyk and Kravinchuk are excited that people from East York and beyond seem to like what they’re doing. “We even have people from the west end finding us,” says Pshyk, laughing about overcoming the east-west division in the city. Here’s to a long, happy and prosperous relationship for art and design lovers citywide to celebrate.

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