Toronto Life - August 31, 2011

Introducing: Blackbird Vintage, a treasure trove of conversation pieces in the Distillery District

Blackbird Vintage has all sorts of old treasures (Image: Caroline Aksich)

Paula DiRenzo never planned on opening a boutique in the Distillery District; after shuttering her Bedford Park store, Fleur de Terre, in January, she wasn’t planning on opening anything at all. But everything changed when a shop owner in the Distillery District told her that Building 57 (her long-time favourite Distillery space, an ex–glass-blowing studio) was free. After the offer was made, DiRenzo knew two things: that there was something serendipitous about the tip that made it impossible to ignore, and that this new store was not going to be a reincarnation of her uptown boutique. Take a photo tour of Blackbird Vintage in a gallery after the jump.

The place: DiRenzo’s beloved Building 57 is a rectangular room with worn brick walls and an impressively high ceiling—perfect for displaying DiRenzo’s collection of vintage signage, chemistry beakers, 20th-century apothecary jars ($95) and taxidermy animals.

The stuff: It’s hard to classify what kind of store Blackbird Vintage is; it isn’t necessarily a furniture store, nor an antique or curio shop—it’s all of the above. The store has everything from vintage 1940s globes (starting at $100) to replica turn-of-the-century toothbrushes and books by Edgar Allan Poe. When we asked DiRenzo what the focus of Blackbird Vintage was, she explained that she, “[loves] to sell things that aid in keeping memories, but also [loves] to buy people’s memories.” She sells shadow boxes ($120–135) for the nostalgic, and for those who want to buy memories she recommends an assortment of vintage trophies ($40 and up).


The shoppers: Camera-strapped tourists hailing from across the globe are awed by the glamorous industrial era baubles. Although they might not be able to fit an antique Argentinian candy display in their carry-on, more than one tourist has probably considered the ramifications of smuggling a taxidermy pheasant ($195) home. DiRenzo expects a less international, more theatre-going crowd come winter.


Our favourite things: We couldn’t get over the fact that the 1930s-era movie projector ($295), complete with 10 period films, still worked. We also loved a brand-new Biko kaleidoscope necklace ($159) that really embraced the old-meets-new feeling of DiRenzo’s new Distillery digs.