With a cigar shop behind him and a streetcar stop at his toes, some could say the 7-foot-tall mahogany wooden chief guarding the corner of Queen and Bathurst finally caught the ride he was waiting for.
Adorned in a headdress, red skirt and green sash, and gazing out at the Big Bop's loading door, the hand-carved chief pegged outside Westside Tobacco at 578 Queen St. W. disappeared from the bustling street corner when the cigar shop closed its doors this April after the owner David Peck passed away.
"It was right here," said Sarah Silverthorne, a 27-year-old actress and artist who lives above the former cigar shop, pointing to a bare piece of concrete beside her front door. All that is left are four silver clips forming a square where the chief was once clamped to the ground. "It was a staple of Queen Street," she says. "And behind the staple was a lovely man named David who you could find at any time, either behind his counter or outside, standing beside the Indian statue, smoking a cigar with one or many of his friends."
The storefront has since been closed. "R.I.P. Dave we all miss & love you," is scrawled in marker in several spots on the front door, which is locked and draped with Kraft paper.
It was once a tradition to keep a wooden chief or Indian outside of a cigar shop (it started as an advertising tool in the 18th century). Before Westside opened in 2001, the shop was formerly New York Cigar. Mr. Peck bought the banged-up chief that came with the store, but one night last fall, it was stolen. Soon after, Mr. Peck snagged a new chief for $700 from John Trifoli, a wooden Indian importer and wholesaler of Just Cigars n Things. While many cigar-shop owners keep them indoors so they're not vandalized, the chief of Westside was the outdoorsy type - and an insomniac. When Mr. Peck was open until 2 a.m., catering to the club crowd, the chief was his sidekick. And when Mr. Peck would retire, the chief would go with him. Every night, the store owner would unclamp the 250-pound chief from the sidewalk and haul him inside.
The chief finally caught his ride - to Oakville.
After Mr. Peck died, a family member handed back the chief to Mr. Trifoli, who resold it this May to the owners of Havana Castle, a cigar shop in downtown Oakville.
It had a discount price tag of $300 because it was second-hand. "We were looking for a deal," said A.J. Razek, Havana Castle's manager.
Now Westside's chief looks north; he's traded his view of the Big Bop for a Tim Hortons, "with the lake behind him," says Mr. Razek.