Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Main St. Mystery Store with No Customers

Photo: Aramic store on Main St., 2009 (Ignore the date on the photo; the date stamp on my camera wasn't working.)

What do you do if you have a store with no customers? You expand.

That's what happened at Aramic, a men's wear store that opened on Main St. near National about three years ago. I walked by there everyday and only once saw a customer. I saw a man standing at the cash register.

The locals had been joking about this store since it opened, more about the type of merchandise than the fact that there were no customers buying it. We used to look through the window and laugh about the rows and rows of "pimp shoes" they were selling. Flashy shoes that west coast Canadians just don't wear.

The clothes were odd too. Dress suits, often in a safari style. No sign of the gore-tex rain gear that might actually sell here in the rain forest.

After being in business for about a year and a half, the owners, possibly encouraged by the one customer who had shown up, expanded.

Yes they opened a women's wear store next door. The women's wear outlet has been operating for about a year and a half now. They have odd clothes for women, dated styles, often leaniing toward garish. Nobody will be embarrassing themselves in these clothes any time soon though. I've yet to notice a customer.

There are signs of life in the stores though. Clothes on manequins are changed regularly. Once there was a car accident outside and I saw a staff person standing in the window, looking out at the police and firemen working.

You can bet the locals have been speculating. Maybe these stores are fronts for selling something else. Downtown Eastsiders put up for years with grocery stores with dated merchandise on the shelves while the real thing was sold from under the counter, although the City did start cracking down. If somebody wanted to launder money, buying a cheap load of dated clothing and setting up a web site and storefronts would seem to be one way of going about it.

I'm not saying that's what's going on in these stores with no customers. Maybe they do a good business over the internet. They do have a professional looking website where you can fill up your virtual shopping cart and pay by credit card.

I don't know. But I can't help wondering every time I walk by.


truepeers said...

What about the Italian delicatessen a few blocks up Main on the East side which has had the same stock in the window for it seems like decades?

reliable sources said...


I can't picture the place you're talking about. I know there is an Italian store in Chinatown on the East side of Main St. that never seems to have customers and has had dusty merchandise in the windows for decades. They carry olive oil amongst other things. But that's not a delicatessen.

truepeers said...

Yeah, that's the place I mean - not sure what they sell, if anything; i've just seen it from the outside and wonder what's going on... but as they say in the movies, "Forget it Giaccamo, it's Chinatown"

Anonymous said...

I always thought an internet cafe would be an ideal business to front as a money/drugs operation. All they sell is time, no inventory to speak of and people can hang for hours getting high and playing WOW.

Anonymous said...

the italian store you're talking about is Tosi's. It's been at that location since the '30s, when this was still the Italian part of town. Most of his business is wholesale - he imports cheese, olive oil, etc, from Italy - so he doesn't rely on walk-in customers and you have to ring a bell to go in.

reliable sources said...


Thanks for the feedback on Tosi's.

A guy at Carnegie was planning to go up north to live in the bush and was looking for supplies and went into that store. He talked to the man working in there and liked him. After that he was encouraging his pals to drop in there to buy olive oil. He said something about having to knock or ring a bell to get in.

Black Ice said...

Man, I love that store. I work nightshift in the DTES and sometime I walk down to MacDonalds on Main for my break. My co-workers and I have past a lot of time speculating about that place as we walk by.

reliable sources said...

When I walked by that store today, I noticed something I'd never seen there before: a rack of clothes outside on the sidewalk. I wondered if blog exposure had prompted them to start appearing more like a functioning store.

In the last couple of months, they have also started to sell what they call "AfriCouture" or "African Collectables", basically traditional African garb and knicknacks.

truepeers said...

I went by the store a couple of days ago; it was closed but i saw a bailiff breaking the lock!!

reliable sources said...


Thanks for passing that along.

I thought it looked closed over the past week or two as I walked by. I peered in the window and some of the merchandise seemed to have been moved to the side.

And one or two of the mannequins were still wearing halter-top dresses as though there hadn't been much updating for winter.

But it's interesting that the bailiff had to break the lock.