The city's high-end home-furnishing scene is getting a makeover.
Rosedale institution Ridpath's Furnishings will close this summer after 104 years at its unique, Tudor-style Yonge Street location, the latest in a string of closures that is changing the floorplan of Toronto home design.
Earlier this year, long-time furniture dealers DeBoers and Idomo both announced their final sales, citing the lure of retirement and the changing face of the furniture business.
Ridpath's, which occupied a three-storey building at 906 Yonge St., just across from Canadian Tire near Davenport, will be transformed into two buildings: a 35-storey hotel and 28-storey condominium tower. The existing Ridpath's facade, which has decorative half-timbering familiar to anyone who has seen an English pub, will be partially retained, and rumours are that it will be incorporated into the design of the planned boutique hotel.
The company, which was founded in 1907 by John Ridpath, is no longer family owned; it was sold after his death in the 1950s.
Jack Lochhead, the store's general manager, said the decision to close the store was made in April and is motivated by the current owner's decision to retire.
A closing date has not been established, but will be determined by the speed with which they sell their remaining merchandise.
Mr. Lochhead, who is considering opening a retail business of his own, said the store hadn't experienced a downturn in sales, but acknowledged that the furniture business in Toronto has changed dramatically of late.
Throughout its history, Ridpath's dealt in furniture produced within North America, England and Italy, placing its price point significantly higher than that of retailers who brought in pieces from Asia or dealt in flimsier goods.
"It's definitely a thinner market because the younger generation just wants quick build-it-yourself disposable things. So that mentality has changed," said Mr. Lochhead. "But there's still a good portion of clients out there who understand high end."
But some market watchers say the stores that have recently suffered are not linked by the quality of their goods - Idomo could not be called a high-end retailer - but by their inability to modernize their sales approach.
Christopher Jones, who runs the popular styleNorth design blog said that the shuttered stores were no longer on people's retail radar.
He did not write about the closing of DeBoers on his blog and didn't know that Ridpath's was expected to shut until contacted by The Globe and Mail.
"I just think that the market today is so incredibly competitive that if you're not 100 per cent on your toes and ready to do battle, you're going to lose," he said.
And that fight has less to do with price than it does approach, he said.
The high-end retailer Elte Carpet & Home has recently opened a clearance outlet north of the city and has transformed the second floor of its Ronald Avenue location to appeal to a younger, savvier buyer.
"They're really changing their business in a changing climate, whereas perhaps those other retailers weren't keeping up," he said.
He loved some things in the window of Ridpath's, he said, but could not afford to shop there and described the store as "fussy."
Barrymore's, in contrast, is another Toronto furniture store associated with traditional offerings, but has kept its showroom modern and young, allowing it to remain a destination for younger home owners.
"I think as long as you do what you do extremely well, you can find a place," said Mr. Jones.
DeeDee Eustace, a Toronto architect and interior designer, said she was saddened by the store's closure.
"We, as one of the major cities in Canada, should be able to support all different sectors of furniture design, especially one that's been such a part of our furniture heritage," she said.
But she does not believe the store's demise is symptomatic of changing taste or dwindling budgets.
Her own custom-design business is booming, she said, and her customers are increasingly well-versed in high-end home design.
"They want specific things and they'll pay for it," she said. "The mass-market approach is going away."
But she said that the advent of the Internet has meant that interior designers, architects and even individual consumers no longer need to rely on retailers, but can go directly to suppliers themselves.
"It's a very different world," she said. "So stores that don't produce or manufacture will have a very difficult time surviving."