Surrounding oneself in old things is A Fine Thing
Posted Sep 21, 2022 01:00:00 PM.
Lucas Tomaro likes to surround himself with old things.
Old furniture, old customers and his old antique store, A Fine Thing on Somerset.
A sprawling space the size of a grocery superstore, A Fine Thing is full of old furniture, china, silverware, lighting, toys, you name it.
Standing behind the counter at A Fine Thing, which he co-owns with his partner Leonard Paradis, Tomaro, 59, laughs and calls himself “a mid-century modern”.
“Sometimes I get together with my customers who are my friends and we have a Pinot Grigio and talk about the world and how strange it's getting, especially the Americans,” Tomaro says. “I'm all about the seventies. I buy rotary phones, typewriters, toys. I was there the first time around. I had a muscle car in the '70s, a Pontiac Le Mans. That's my speed.”
With so much furniture and items from my past distracting me, I'm having a hard time walking a straight line. The store is a maze of plush sofas, display cases with jewelry, board games from the 1960s, mom's good china set, technology from the 1950s, a teak dining room set.
With so many antique pieces, this antique warehouse looks like a movie set, which it has been. You might recognize it as the warehouse for a few eerie scenes of a decapitation in the gruesome 2014 film 'Clown'. One of the stars, Peter Stormare, bought some furniture before returning home.
It's a crazy, wonderful place to spend an afternoon. Or in Tomaro's case, a lifetime.
It all began 25 years ago. Tomaro was cheffing in the Market when he met Leonard Paradis, a carpenter who liked to repair furniture. The two struck up an immediate friendship, realized they had a lot in common, and decided to get into the furniture repair business together.
As well as co-owning the business, Tomaro runs the day-to-day operations, runs errands, shops estate sales and other sources of content and helps customers. And he loves it, happier than a pig in you-know-what.
“It was time for a new beginning,” Tomaro says. “I took wood working courses in school and loved it. I also love being in charge. I was that way when I worked in the kitchen. I'm a problem solver. You have a problem? I'll fix it.”
They opened their first store on Richmond at Spadina in 2000, outgrew it after a couple years and moved to their present location in an old warehouse on Somerset.
At the time, antique stores were as common downtown as pot stores are today. Business was good, until the 2000s, when social media and online market sites like Kijiji took over the antique business. Handsome living or dining room sets once worth thousands of dollars were suddenly trading for pennies on the dollar, if at all. A younger generation didn't have the space for an upright piano or china cabinet in the 500 square foot condo. Consequently, the market for antiques went soft, and many dealers went out of business.
Except A Fine Thing.
Tomaro has a theory why his shop held on while other antique shops failed.
“They didn't offer other services,” he says. “They bought furniture and sold it “as-is”. I give the customer a finished product, the upholstery has been done, the springs re-strapped, the woodwork fixed. Customers know what they're buying because we do all the work here. Our furniture is one-of-a-kind, fully restored.”
There have been other challenges in the market since. With the Covid pandemic, furniture shops closed. When they finally reopened, the price of wood in general, and furniture specifically, climbed through the roof, making buying furniture an alarmingly expensive chore. Customers started looking to alternatives.
Business is good. Strong. Regular customers. And mid-century modern is hot now.
“People like antiques because of the way the Victorians made furniture,” Tomaro says. “Good craftsmanship and exotic woods at reasonable prices. It's better here.”