Step Into History At Stop 14
By Hedy Korbee, Birch Cliff News
A beautiful home decor store has opened in Cliffside, breathing new life into an abandoned heritage building at Kingston Road and Midland Avenue that’s been derelict for well over a decade.
The name of the store is “Stop 14” and it sells vintage home decor with a curated mix of old and new products from across Canada and abroad. The design aesthetic is farmhouse/cottage with a modern twist and the overall vibe is relaxed and cozy.
Owners Tara and Mark Doyle said the community support has been “phenomenal” since the store opened on September 17th.
“The compliments and kind words have been great,” Tara Doyle said. “Everyone raved about how excited they are to have the building brought back, and what an eyesore it’s been for so many decades. I’m just so pleased and grateful to the community for supporting us so much so quickly.”
The building on the triangular property at 171 Midland Avenue is a Scarborough Bluffs landmark.
The name “Stop 14” is a nod to Scarborough’s history, harkening back to the days when residents travelled on radial cars and all the stops were numbered. Stop 14 was at the corner of Kingston and Midland and in 1903 Albert Stinson built the Scarborough Bluffs Refreshment Room to cater to hungry and thirsty passengers.
In 2008, the building was designated as a heritage property.
“This particular building is designated under the Ontario Heritage Act for its unique architectural style and view from the main street where it was one of two focal points, the other being the Halfway House now located in Black Creek Pioneer Village,” said Rick Schofield of the Scarborough Heritage Society. “The wraparound verandah was a welcoming part of what first served as Stinson’s ‘Refreshment Room’ where people could stop and pick up items to take to the bluffs. It later served as a General Store, all the time providing living accommodation for the owners.”
Over the years many have seen the building’s potential, but it was Cliffside residents Tara and Mark Doyle who had the unique combination of vision, determination, and skills to carry out the transformation.
Mark is a general contractor/carpenter and Tara has a background in customer service and a passion for design. Together, they are risk-takers who’ve renovated many houses in the past, but nothing could have prepared them for what they found inside 171 Midland Avenue.
“When it was up for sale, we went in and had a look at it. But the whole building, in the basement, it was almost a foot and a half of water and mud,” Mark said. “The foundations were just about to fall in. And there was no power, no water and no drains into the property. It was basically gutted from the inside out.”
Mark and his team, including sons Ryan and Cian, had to rebuild the structure from the inside because the collar ties that supported the roof had been removed, and the walls had been pushed out by the snow. Construction was expensive and lasted 14 months. The Doyles said it helped that the cost of the building was lowered through power of sale, but in order to afford the renovation they had to accelerate their personal plan to downsize. They sold their family home to generate enough cash flow to purchase and restore 171 Midland Avenue and used the rest of the proceeds to buy a smaller family home.
“It’s an important part of Scarborough’s heritage to bring it back,” Mark said. “And we felt it worked for us as well. I’m not saying we just did it just for that. It worked for Tara’s store and it was a challenge, so it was it was exciting to do something like that.”
Customers at Stop 14 will find a variety of items for every budget, including blankets, pillows, candles, vintage housewares, original art, jams and jellies, and antique furniture. In sourcing her merchandise, Tara said she’s taken great care not to duplicate what’s being sold at other stores in the Bluffs.
“There are other shopkeepers in the area who are doing what I do and I have great relationships and have had for years now. And I’ve made a conscious effort as a new kid on the block to come in and complement them rather than compete. So that’s why I sourced a lot of products outside the province as well,” Tara said.
One of the popular items in the store is a lovely sign that reads “Home is Cliffside”, crafted by a neighbour to the shop who gifted it to the Doyles on opening day. Tara said so many people have asked to purchase the sign that she’s entered into an agreement with the artisan to create more and will soon stock them in the store.
Tara also has plans to utilize the distinctive wraparound verandah as a community hub by creating pop-up Saturdays for local artisans when the weather is nice and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.
The Doyles have nothing but praise for Heritage Toronto, city officials, and others who helped turn their dream into reality.
When they purchased the property, it had 20 outstanding work orders and they turned to Councillor Gary Crawford and his staff for help to navigate the bureaucracy. The cedar shake roof was paid for in part by a grant from the City of Toronto. The Scarborough Historical Society gifted the Doyles three interior doors from another heritage property in exchange for a donation. Their contact at Heritage Toronto had completed his university thesis on planning in Cliffside and was helpful throughout the process. Mark also received a fair bit of assistance from Central Fairbank Lumber store on Gerrard St. E.
Meanwhile, Stop 14 is far busier than Tara and Mark expected and they’re grateful to everyone who has stopped by or slowed down their car to honk and wave.
“Even people walking by are saying ‘Oh, thanks be to God’ that someone did something to the building, ‘you’ve done such great job.’ Other people are saying that they’d never seen the building in a good state because they’ve grown up with it having always been in bad shape. Hopefully, we’ll just keep going with Cliffside and they’ll start restoring a lot of the area,” Mark said.