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  • blogTO notes that the old HMV store in the Dufferin Mall is now a fidget spinner store. This has gone viral.
  • The Broadside Blog's Caitlin Kelly talks about her week in Paris.

  • Centauri Dreams notes one paper examining the complex formation of the dense TRAPPIST-1 system.

  • Far Outliers reports from early 20th century Albania, about how tribal and language and ethnic identities overlap, and not.

  • Language Log notes efforts to promote Cantonese in the face of Mandarin.

  • The LRB Blog wonders if May's electoral defeat might lead to the United Kingdom changing its Brexit trajectory.

  • Marginal Revolution notes that cars have more complex computer programming these days than fighter jets.

  • The Power and the Money's Noel Maurer notes that the counter-cyclical Brazilian fiscal cap still makes no sense.

  • Window on Eurasia argues that Russia is edging towards an acknowledgement of its involvement in the Ukrainian war.

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Bloomberg's Lucas Shaw notes that although Spotify is not yet profitable, it has managed to accumulate quite a few subscribers. Will this be enough to let it last?

Spotify has surpassed 50 million subscribers, extending its lead over rivals Apple Music, SoundCloud and Google as the world’s largest paid music streaming service.

The service, owned by Stockholm-based Spotify Ltd., has been growing at a breakneck pace. The company said it had 30 million subscribers less than a year ago, and 40 million subscribers in September. Apple Inc., owner of the second-largest paid service, said last month its streaming service has more than 20 million customers.

Adding paying customers will help Spotify pitch investors, who expect the company to file for an initial public offering and are looking for signs the company can convert its growing subscriber base into a sustainable business. Spotify, which is unprofitable, generates almost all of its sales from subscriptions, though the music service also has tens of millions of additional users who listen for free, supported by advertising.
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I am glad that, as reported in David Friend's Canadian Press article at the Toronto Star, there might be some kind of music retailer in Canada, at least for a time.

Sunrise Records is placing a major bet on Canadian music sales with plans to move into 70 retail spaces being vacated by HMV Canada.

The Ontario-based music retail chain has negotiated new leases with mall landlords across the country.

Sunrise’s expansion gives the company a quick foothold in the Canadian music scene just as the industry’s largest retailer closes shop. Stores will begin to open this spring after HMV liquidates and removes its signs.

“It’s a good opportunity for us to get a lot more stores open,” Sunrise Records president Doug Putman told The Canadian Press in an interview.

“We think there needs to be a great outlet across Canada to buy music.”
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The strength of discount retailers like Giant Tiger and Dollarama, as described by the CBC's Dianne Buckner, reflects underlying weaknesses in the Canadian economy including falling wages.

Whenever Anna Maria Afable travels from British Columbia to visit her friends in Ontario, she makes a point to stop in at a Giant Tiger store.

"We don't have it in B.C.," says Afable, as she browses through the fashion section at a location in Barrie, Ont, the newest of the discount chain's 200 stores across the country. "When we see a Giant Tiger, we drop by and see the price. They have very good prices, very low, affordable for middle-class people."

Ian Ferguson lives in Barrie and is a Giant Tiger regular. "The prices are awesome," he enthuses.

Shoppers like Afable and Ferguson are driving a boom in discount retail. Giant Tiger — better known in rural and suburban Canada than it is in big cities — will add 10 to 15 stores this year, with more to come. Meanwhile, Costco is midway through a seven-store expansion. And the biggest of them all, Dollarama, is adding 60 to 70 new locations this year to its 1,000-store national network.

"At Christmastime you're going to put gold balls on your Christmas tree. Does it matter if they're Ralph Lauren, or the ones you get from Dollarama?" asks Marvin Ryder, a professor of business at Hamilton's McMaster University. "They both look the same."
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NOW Toronto's Susan G. Cole notes how independent bookstores in Toronto are upset by a grant of money by the Toronto municipal government to a literary festival.

A grant from the Toronto Arts Council to the International Festival of Authors, bestowed last fall, has outraged programmers for the city’s independent bookstores.

“The decision to fund IFOA feels like a nail in the coffin for indie bookstores and shows the Arts Council’s lack of concern for the financial health of independent booksellers,” says Another Story event organizer Anjula Gogia, representing other indie stores and festivals as well, including Pages Unbound and Glad Day Books.

The IFOA’s new program called Toronto Lit Up has received close to $300,000 over three years and is designed to assist publishers in launching new books by Toronto authors.

IFOA director Geoffrey Taylor explains that a committee – comprised of himself, author Dionne Brand, Quill and Quire’s Allison Jones and Hazel Millar, representing the Literary Press Group – has been formed to allocate the monies and is accepting applications from publishers and authors seeking funds for launches.

The problem, according to Gogia, the former programmer for the now shuttered Toronto Women’s Bookstore, is that indie stores could very well be squeezed out of the launch scene that’s so crucial to their businesses. Books sold at launches represent their bread and butter.
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This weekend, Jamie Bradburn contributed a Torontoist Historicist feature looking at how the Eaton Centre, which opened on the 10th of February back in 1977, came to be.

9:10 a.m., February 10, 1977. Chaos reigned on the platforms of Dundas station, which was jammed beyond capacity with people eager to attend the opening of the Eaton Centre. “Passengers got close to hysteria as they were dumped out into dense crowds that couldn’t get through the single open exit fast enough,” the Globe and Mail reported.

Up above, by the entrance to Trinity Square, around 4,500 gathered for the official opening ceremony. A group of trumpeters descended from a balcony, along with 16 costumed representatives of the city’s ethnic communities. Pipers from the Toronto Scottish Regiment led in the official party, then the 48th Highlanders escorted Ontario Lieutenant-Governor Pauline McGibbon, who received the loudest cheers from the crowd. McGibbon, Mayor David Crombie, and other dignitaries cut a red ribbon with scissors presented on blue velvet cushions by Girl Guides. A planned salute to the new mall by the Fort York Guard was scratched when, following a rehearsal, it was felt musket fire would frighten elderly patrons.

The Eaton Centre was still a work in progress. The festivities marked the opening of its first phase, which consisted of an office tower on Dundas Street, Eaton’s new flagship store, and a glass-covered galleria stretching from the store south to Albert Street. The next phase, which would extend the mall to Queen Street, link it to Simpsons, and toss up another office tower, would soon begin with the demolition of Eaton’s old main store.

For Eaton’s executives, the day culminated two decades of controversy surrounding the $250 million complex’s development. A mid-1960s plan aroused public opposition when it proposed demolition of Old City Hall. For a time, the idea was scrapped entirely. There were two years of negotiation with Church of the Holy Trinity before an agreement was reached between the congregation and developers to protect the historic church’s access to sunlight. City Council placed several conditions on its approvals for the project, from timeframes for when construction had to begin to ensuring cars parked in the garage weren’t visible to pedestrians along Yonge Street. There were some councillors who didn’t warm to the Eaton Centre—Elizabeth Eayrs called it “a plastic temple of consumerism,” while John Sewell didn’t want to give the developers too much leeway. ”It’s the old question of who is running this place—Eaton’s or council,” Sewell noted in February 1974.
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The Toronto Star's Isabel Teotonio reports on the closure of two No Frills discount grocery stores in the Toronto area, including one in Parkdale, and how the resulting shortage of inexpensive food is causing all kinds of unneeded strains on budgets and diets.

A small group of people huddled in the parking lot of a closed No Frills wait for a shuttle bus to go grocery shopping.

Among them is Chris Wood, 60, who has bronchitis. He should be in bed, but is standing in the cold because Rocca’s No Frills at Coxwell Ave. and Gerrard St. E. closed for repairs in May.

Wood lives nearby, but is waiting for a free company bus to take him to another No Frills. He has little choice. Local green grocers are too expensive. He doesn’t own a car. And he can’t afford to regularly ride the TTC.

“It’s a hassle,” says Wood, who gets by on about $900 a month from Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). “Being able to shop at a grocery store with lower costs, like No Frills, is quite important for me.”

Two other No Frills stores in the GTA have also recently closed, shedding light on the need for access to affordable and healthy food.

Vi’s No Frills in Parkdale closed in early December for immediate roof repairs — the landlord is hopeful it will reopen in the spring. And Linda’s No Frills in Port Credit, Mississauga, permanently closed in late December when a leasing agreement couldn’t be reached. That site will be redeveloped to include a condo, commercial and office space.
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Spacing Toronto's Chris Bateman looks at the Davisville Centre, a failed effort at a shopping mall to be built above the Davisville subway yard in the 1960s.

When Toronto’s first subway line opened in 1954, much of track north of Bloor Street was located in a shallow, open trench.

The money-saving open cut construction technique was an old one: The Metropolitan Railway, which became the Metropolitan line of the London Underground, used the same method to cut through the centre of London in the 1860s.

While it saved money versus conventional tunnelling, the result for Toronto was a large scar on the east side of Yonge Street from Church Street to Eglinton Avenue.

The most conspicuous outdoor area was in the Yonge and Davisville area, where the TTC built its service yard and train storage area. There, a tangle of tracks radiated out from the subway line, covering an area of approximately 10 acres.

Starting in the 1960s, the TTC began covering up some of the trenches due to safety concerns and noise complaints from neighbours. Between St. Clair and Summerhill stations, the line was hidden beneath a grass-covered deck (look out the window of the train and you can still see the sloped sides of the original cutting.)

Also in 1960, a Montreal-based development firm proposed the first major “air rights” development in Toronto. The Davisville Shopping Centre was to be built on stilts over the Davisville subway yard, covering almost all of the TTC tracks and buildings.
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"Uniqlo Meets Toronto" #toronto #maps #eatoncentre #uniqlo


On one of the walls of the new Uniqlo store in Toronto's Eaton Centre is a map of the city of Toronto, showing the locations of the two Uniqlo stores and Uniqlo's local partners like the Drake General Store in relation to a stylized map of major streets and landmarks.
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The Toronto Star's Lisa Wright reports on how Toronto pawn shop owner Russell Oliver is diversifying beyond gold to high-end goods. I wonder what the mainstreaming of a pawn shop chain says about the economy.

When you think of Toronto’s “Cashman” Russell Oliver, you probably think of gold trinkets, wads of cash and that annoyingly catchy jingle rather than Hermès handbags or Cartier cufflinks.

In fact you probably consider him kooky more than anything — whether covered head to toe in silver spray paint or dressed as the “Loan Arranger” cowboy in his television ads. But Oliver couldn’t care less.

After 40 years in the gold-buying game, the veteran pitchman from those corny commercials is not only in expansion mode, he’s also changed his tune recently with a return to his retail roots at his new store on Yonge St. north of Wellesley.

“It’s like I’ve come full circle,” he says.

In his decades of buying bling like gold chains (Mr. T was both a customer and appeared in an old commercial) watches, coins and even teeth, and then shipping them off to a refinery for profit, Oliver also set aside some of the nearly new trinkets in his safe because “they were just too beautiful” to send to a smelter, he explains.
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I quite like Kate Fane's brief tribute to Honest Ed's.

Everyone in Toronto has an Honest Ed’s story.

Maybe yours begins when you were 19. New to the city and wandering Bloor Street on a Tuesday night, you found yourself blinded by 23,000 lights swirling across a bizarrely anachronistic marquee. You were mesmerized. Later, you’d take your first girlfriend inside on a rainy Sunday afternoon. You keep the Virgin Mary candle and the corny romance novel she bought you in a shoebox in your closet.

Maybe you raised three children in an Annex apartment, and relied on the store for the essentials. If your Friday night shift had ended early enough, and you got a decent sleep, you’d line up at 6 a.m. on Saturday morning to claim the door-crasher special—whatever it was, you never checked. You’d return home weighed down with cotton briefs, Vienna sausages, a 50-cent mop, and feel relieved that for today, the immediate needs were covered.
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Yesterday, the Toronto Star's Laura Beeston reported from Honest Ed's in its final days.

In its last retail gasp, Honest Ed’s finally showed its age.

Before closing for good Saturday, what was left of the once-great titan of the retailing industry in the final week was literally the bottom of the bin: 10-cent dish sponges so old they were turning to dust in their packaging; garish 99-cent tableware; off-brand children’s toothpaste for 77 cents . . .

Toronto’s iconic bargain department store, which held court on the corner of Bathurst St. and Bloor Ave. W. for the past 68 years, was scant; barren even. The west building, with its memorable “Welcome to Yesterday” mirror, was off limits to the public. In the east, white display cases and shelves — once overflowing with thrifty household items — sat mostly empty on the ground floor.

Ed’s eerie emptiness seemed to highlight the limp garland still hanging from stained ceiling tiles and the dust bunnies creeping their way across off-white surfaces.

As many shoppers noted solemnly after their final tour: “It’s sad.”
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Roxy Kirshenbaum's paragraph-long interviews with individually photographed shoppers at Honest Ed's touches on the meaning of the store for so many.

When Honest Ed’s closes up shop for good on December 31, it will do so in traumatic fashion. Not only is the 68-year-old store going out of business, but it and many of its neighbouring shops and restaurants will soon be razed to make way for new apartment towers.

The closure has been years in the making—Ed Mirvish’s passing in 2007 probably made it imminent—and the store has been looking increasingly shabby as business winds down. Even so, many Torontonians aren’t quite ready to let go of the proudly garish landmark, whose blinking marquee has bathed the corner of Bloor and Bathurst in incandescent light for as long as most of them can remember. We dropped by Ed’s (and the Fabricland in the basement of Ed’s, which will be closing with the rest) to ask shoppers to tell us about their most memorable bargains, and how they’re feeling about the place’s demise.
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Derek Flack's blogTO photo essay looking at the end of Honest Ed's is a thoughtful reflection on the end of an institution.

It's closing time at Honest Ed's, the discount institution that's operated on Bloor just west of Bathurst for almost 70 years. Those hoping to get a last look at the iconic retailer before the new year will find a store that's been almost entirely cleared out, save for overpriced bits of ephemera and a variety of near-useless items being offered for pennies.

It's a depressing sight saved only by the customers who have come to pay their last respects. Strolling through the now-empty aisles, you hear various refrains like "it's so sad" and "what a shame" mixed in with revelations like "I can't believe how awful it looks in here."

If there's one thing that's happened since the bulk of the products were sold off and shipped out last weekend, it's that a certain sentimentality regarding the contemporary state of the store has become complicated. Everything here looks as though it belongs in a previous decade, right down to the bin of cassettes being sold off for 99 cents.

Truth be told, the interior of the store was never much to look at, even as its snaking aisles promised a deal or two on some item that you were sure to pay more for somewhere else. The gaudiness just seemed more fitting when there was an array of bins filled to the brim with "fancy panties," "fashion pants," and "men's classic sweaters."

honest eds closingThe last bit of retail activity here is a collision between nostalgia and commerce. You can still buy one of the hand-painted signs, though the quirkiest ones have been snapped up. Small versions will run you $12, which isn't exactly bargain basement pricing considering thousands still remain as the store lives out its final hours.

Still, the pull to own a piece of this place is strong. So many of us remember shopping here at one point in our lives, often because we didn't have much money to spare. There's a shared experience in that economic reality that activates powerful feelings that extend beyond merely personal narratives.
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Jeremy Willard's Daily Xtra article from early this month about Ottawa's Stonewall Wilde's gives me some hope this reconfigured LGBT shop can survive. I certainly think they're doing the sort of thing they need to do for this niche business to survive, in a manner not unlike Toronto's Glad Day.

As of Oct 1, 2016, the book and art store After Stonewall and the sex shop Wilde’s are now one business — Stonewall Wilde’s.

Following a crowdfunding campaign, the former Wilde’s, which was owned by Trevor Prevost was moved into the unoccupied space beneath Michael Deyell’s After Stonewall at 370 Bank St so that the two businesses can collaborate more easily, introduce new products and reduce their overhead costs.

“We are now able to start expanding on products and open up the space for more events,” Prevost says. “I think that connecting with the community more [through events] will increase traffic.”

They also intend to expand stock on both levels. The upper and lower levels have retained much of the character of the businesses on which they are based — upstairs is art, books and gift ideas and downstairs is all things sex. Some of the new stock on the lower level will be leather sex toys and gear (beginning January 2017) and artistic nude shots of men.

Christine Leadman, executive director of the Bank Street Business Improvement Area (BIA), says that with the economy being shaky and folks doing more of their shopping online, businesses in the Village — particularly small and queer-owned ones — are suffering a lot. She hopes Stonewall Wilde’s succeeds and thinks the merger was probably a good move.
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The Toronto Star's Vanessa Lu describes a corner store in Toronto's East York that I hope will set a valuable trend for retail, if perhaps an exhausting one.

Zahra Dhanani never imagined she would become the owner of a convenience store.

She’s been a lawyer, social justice advocate, community activist — and even a DJ, organizing monthly Funk Asia nights.

But since last year, she and Mariko Nguyen-Dhanani, partners in love, life and business, have become the proprietors of a little corner store in East York.

Working 16-hour days for more than 400 days (they’ve just recently hired some part-time staff), the two women have a vision of turning their business at the corner of Lumsden and Westlake Aves., into a community gathering place.

Regulars are already coming in for daily lattes, along with cigarettes, bread and milk, but also unique gifts, local produce in warm weather and handmade goods featuring iconic images of Toronto.
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The Toronto Star's Azzura Lalani notes the expected huge throngs of shoppers even now crowding Yorkdale.

Toronto shoppers arrived early, armed with game plans and strategies to snag the best Boxing Day deals at the Eaton Centre and Yorkdale Shopping Centre.

Visitors at Yorkdale were up 50 per cent more on Boxing Day morning compared to last year, said general manager Claire Santamaria. She expects about 120,000 people will visit the mall by the end of the day. A normal Saturday sees about 75,000.

“Boxing Day is our busiest shopping day of the year and it also has our longest hours,” said Santamaria. “The increase in traffic is really pushed by the fact that we have extra shopping hours in the day.”

At the Eaton Centre, where some stores opened as early as 7 a.m., crowds didn’t pick up until later in the morning.

“I think that the pre-Christmas sales in the week leading up were almost the same — there’s maybe an additional 10 per cent off,” said Lisa Madokoro, 30, who bought a dress she’d been eyeing at Club Monaco that was half price.
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blogTO's Phil Villeneuve shares the good news that HMV is committed to the survival of its Yonge and Dundas space for music, in the broadest sense.

The music industry in Toronto is ever-changing, but 2016 was a particularly difficult year for HMV.

The Eaton Centre location announced its imminent closure when its lease came up for renewal, which was the same story at the Bloor Street store. A company that was once ubiquitous in Toronto is now down to a handful of stores.

It leaves many wondering about the future of 333 Yonge St., the 4,000 square foot flagship store near Yonge and Dundas. It's been around for 30 years and can't help but feel like a bit of a vessel for movie merch and bargain bin pop cultural items.

Nick Williams, the president and CEO of of HMV Canada has a status update about the store and the main message is that it's not going anywhere.

"Every time we have to close a store or move a store we get lots of letters and emails from our core consumers who don’t like that change," he says. "The reality is the problem in some of our downtown markets, the rental markets are so prohibitive for retail in the malls.

"The big landlords and Cadillacs of this world command such high rent that we just get to the point where we can’t afford to pay them anymore. Our business model doesn’t allow us to."
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CBC News' Dianne Buckner looks at how a Toronto company is behind the latest Christmas gift craze.

Quick. Can you name the Canadian toy company that's growing faster than Mattel, Hasbro and Lego?

No need to worry if you can't. But ask any child between three and nine years old and they probably can.

Toronto-based Spin Master is the maker of this year's impossible-to-find Christmas toy, "Hatchimals," a furry little robot that hatches from an egg and responds to its owner's cues.

"We have an advance concept team, and they had the idea that wouldn't it be amazing if you could actually do an unboxing like you see on YouTube, but in real life?" explains co-founder and co-CEO Ronnen Harary. "And what would be more magical than a character that actually comes out of an egg and comes to life?"

As it turns out, the product and its popularity can be linked to YouTube. Amateur reviews of the toy uploaded to the video-sharing website boosted demand worldwide, says Harary. Now parents from London, England, to Fayetteville, Ga., to Corner Brook, N.L., are scouring stores, desperate to find one.
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Toronto Star business reporter Francine Kopun interviews David Mirvish, son of Honest Ed's founder, about his family's memories of this shopping institution.

He was a dreamer and his store was the dream.

After dinner at home, served at precisely 6 p.m. by his wife, after the dishes were cleared, Edwin Mirvish would sit at the table writing slogans — “Honest Ed’s is for the birds, cheap, cheap, cheap” — and as he pushed down on the pen with a new idea it would carve itself into the dining room tabletop.

Forty clowns playing trombones, roller derbies, dance contests, free turkeys for free publicity. People had to line up for those turkeys and the queue snaked through the store, across three floors of tchotchkes, kitchenwares, clothing, boots, toys. Buy low, sell cheap, but to thousands of people.

On weekends the streets around Bloor and Bathurst were choked with so much traffic that drivers would get out of their cars and into fistfights.

The neighbours complained. The store was too brash, too bright, too noisy.

Honest Ed was pulling in $14 million a year — in 1968.

“My father didn’t want to be dependent on one fancy client, he’d rather make a little bit of money from each sale,” said his son David Mirvish, in an interview with the Star ahead of the store’s closing on Dec. 31.

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