Ikea Popping up in Toronto

I recently wrote about how everyone’s favourite affordable furniture store Ikea had announced plans to expand the number of locations it has in Canada. Well, if you live in the downtown Toronto area and love Ikea, you have a treat in store: an Ikea pop-up cafe is opening on Queen West this week!

It won’t just be a mini store; Ikea is using the occasion to emphasize the fun aspects of their brand. In fact, the pop-up is officially called the Ikea Play Cafe, so be prepared to shop, have fun, and eat. Yes, you can get meatballs, but there will also be such choices as frozen yogurt, chicken and veggie balls, waffles, chips and more!

The fun aspect is equally creative. Do you like pinball? Well, the pop-up offers a giant pinball machine made entirely out of Ikea kitchen products! There is also an inventive tic tac toe game.

Surprisingly, Ikea does not have a downtown location, though they did a similar pop-up store last year on King Street West.

There have been mixed opinions over such retailer experiments. Some consumers like to be able to experience what a retailer has to offer, without having to journey outside the downtown core. However, others who oppose corporate stores feel that pop-ups represent an intrusion that adds nothing to the local culture and hurts traditional, independently-owned firms that rely on regular traffic to keep the doors open. What is your opinion? Do you think these Ikea promotions are fun and helpful or result in a more homogenized and less interesting consumer experience? Press the comment button and let me know!

The site closes on June 27th and the company said they currently have no plans to open a permanent cafe. However, you never know: if enough people come out, you might be able to enjoy that Ikea convenience and ambiance downtown any day of the week!

The Rent Fairness Act 2017: Who Wins and Who Loses?

Rents have soared in much of Canada, including many parts of Ontario. If you lived in a building built before 1991, you were protected by provincial guidelines that limited the amount that rents could be increased each year. If not, you were subject to the whims of landlords and that has meant some major shock: rents sometimes go up hundreds of dollars at a time.

The Ontario government recently responded with the Rent Fairness Act 2017, which extends rent protections to all buildings, no matter what year they were constructed.  This no doubt a relief to those in newer buildings, but will not help tenants whose rents went up prior to the act coming into affect.

So, who are the winners and losers here? Tenants would certainly seem to be in the former category. However, they could also end up being losers in the long run.

Some industry representatives have stated that the new rules will dis-incentivize builders from constructing rental housing. The thought here is that it will take much longer for them to recoup and turn a profit through these controlled rents vs the one-time sale of a condominium.

What are your thoughts on this? I’m of two minds. If you cannot afford a house or a condo, it seems like you are throwing money away by renting an apartment. However, if renting is your only option, apartments are a better choice because condo renters have almost no rights.

Also, if you are retirement age and downsizing, renting is not such a bad option, given the controls that the government has put in place.

As an apartment renter in a fairly expensive Southern Ontario city, I welcome these additional controls, even though I already live in a building that is exempt. Everyone needs a little more peace of mind these days and knowing that your rent will remain manageable helps to deliver that.

 

TIFF and the Bell Lightbox: Heaven for Cinephiles

They are still accepting submissions, so we are quite awhile from getting the final line-up for TIFF 2017. But it’s hard not be excited by the imminent arrival of this celebration of worldwide filmmaking. It really makes September much more interesting and, in a way, helps with the sadness I always feel when summer is wrapping up.

The festival was established in 1976 on a far more modest scale than the internationally recognized behemoth we know today. The initial attendance for that 1976 event was only 35,000; can you believe that?

Today, TIFF all but rivals the Cannes Film Festival in terms of its size, the number of films screened, the number of major movies selected, and the importance of the stars and directors who attend. Many a movie has gotten a major launch in theatres because it was so well-received at TIFF.

However, TIFF differs from Cannes in a number of important ways. Unlike that European festival, TIFF is not really as much of a competition. It also costs notably less for Hollywood companies to launch their films in Toronto vs France.

Like Christmas, TIFF comes but once a year. However, there is always the Bell Lightbox. An official arm of TIFF, the Lightbox is almost always in operation and consistently offers an interesting slate of both new and old films. Projection and sound quality is top notch in each of the screening rooms, and most of the audience are dedicated cinephiles. That is nirvana for those tired of the boors in multiplexes who are always playing with their phones during screenings. At one Lightbox movie I attended, someone pulled out a phone and they were admonished within ten seconds. Yes!

So, be sure to enjoy everything TIFF has to offer, but don’t forget about the Lightbox. Check out the latest TIFF schedule here; I’m particularly excited by the upcoming festival dedicated to French crime thrillers! Alain Delon!

Ikea to Expand in Canada

Perhaps Sweden’s most famous export, Ikea is quite well known in Canada despite have comparatively few stores. If you want to take advantage of their stylish, but affordable furniture, you may have to go for a fairly long drive should you wish to experience the place (and the meatballs) in person.

That is changing. It was announced recently that the company will be expanding by 100%. There are only 12 full size Ikea outlets in the country and the hope is to have 24 by 2025. There are also smaller pick-up and order stores (six to date), and nine collection locations. Read more about it here.

When it comes to practical and affordable furniture, Ikea is hard to beat and a godsend for students or couples on a budget. Though, if like me, you are not great at assembling things, Ikea can be a bit of a nightmare (but that is what friends are for!).

This news got me thinking about my own furnishing goals going forward. I have tried to be stylish and up to date in my choices, but money is far from unlimited, so there has been some compromise. As I get older, functionality has been trumping style and I also don’t worry so much about what other people think.

The one noticeable issue is the “mutt” nature of everything. There is no consistent design motif. A bit of this and a bit of that. However, no one has ever said anything to me about it, so I am just being hard on myself for no reason. At this stage in life, I am thinking more about how to better balance my savings so that I can hopefully retire in my sixties. However, if I can find a job that is creative and rewarding, working into old age would not be so bad at all.

In the meantime, my home furnishings have my own unique creative sense, if nothing else.

Hard to miss that blue and yellow. And soon there will be twice as many of them in Canada.
Hard to miss that blue and yellow. And soon there will be twice as many of them in Canada.