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Apr 14, 2008 05:40 AM

McEwan goes to Don Mills


Interesting piece in the Post today about Mark McEwan's future specialty store at the the old Don Mills shopping centre, now Shops at Don Mills. His store will be called -- wait for it -- McEwan's.

Planned to open this fall, 23,000 square feet, prepared foods, etc. If successful, the first of others to follow.

  1. I have been told that the openings may be postponed until spring 2009, by another future tenant.
    Strange, as the retail part of the complex is coming along very quickly.
    Seems that the cold weather hampered the building this winter.

    1. We lost Kellen's, so let's hope that McEwan's gives us the goods. O.K., so they're probably not in the same league, but some of us are still in mourning.

      1. I know what you mean, I miss Kellen's too. There was dependable quality there that was still affordable. With McEwan's, I bet the prices will reflect the "celebrity chef" hype.

            1. re: JamieK

              Thanks. I thought it might have been pushed even further out, but I guess they're on schedule using the timelines erly gave us last year.

                1. re: Eastwind

                  McEwan states in the article that he wants store management on the floor to behave like restaurant management. What does that mean? It's certainly not the Dean & Deluca stores (at least the ones I've been to in SOHO and Rockefeller Plaza in Manhattan) that I know which are much like Pusateri.

                  1. re: syoung

                    I'm confused as to what the store will offer. Is it going to be a gourmet store that offers hard-to-find, exotic foods (such as Echire butter from France, Kobe beef from Japan, Iranian/Russian caviars, quality games and foie gras, ect.)?

                    1. re: Eastwind

                      There was an article in the weekend Globe and Mail last week that had a lot of info on the store, what would be available, what the target market is, etc. It's not available for viewing on the G&M site now, but yopu can read some of it for free from Google's cache:

                2. re: Apprentice

                  Not that I know the man personally, but I've always considered McEwan to be as much businessman as he is chef. I look forward to what a person of his talent and intellect can produce. If I were the competition, I'd be in the store from Day One with clipboard and pen.

                  1. re: Googs

                    wonder hoe the economy will affect this place.. hear it is huge...

                    1. re: OnDaGo

                      Stay the course I say. I hate to speculate, but I'd have to guess he's offering the following:

                      For the well-to-do, but price conscious set he'll be offering make at home goods that are an alternative to the dining out experience. It would round out his risks by getting you when you go out and getting you when you stay in.

                      For the brand-aspirational set that may not get out more than special occasions will allow, he'll be giving Torontonians a chance to experience high end at a lower price tag. It means weekend at home dining will become more exciting.

                      For those that may not be able to get beyond the grocery store, this will be a brand alternative to President's Choice. This will be more like King's Choice. They may not buy their staples there, but they may pop in for an item or two they can tie their apron to.

                      Judging by locale alone, I'd say he's well situated to draw in crowds from the neighbouring Bridle Path and the larger suburban consumer in need or a parking lot. Smart.

                      As to what this works out to specifically, is there anyone who has their finger on the pulse of Toronto foodies as much as he?


                      1. re: Googs

                        I do not know how much of a finger on the pulse he has.. I have heard there are a lot of Bymark staff looking for work elsewhere as they are dead most nights and same at One.. All his places are highend he has not diversified to have mid range places like O&B and others have done...

                        1. re: OnDaGo

                          I wish him well.
                          I also wished David Wood well.
                          I may be bad luck.

                          1. re: garlicandwingnut

                            That was you? Dang, I liked David Wood's stores. I think he did all right out of it, though, having sold before it crashed.

                            Did you know Mr. Wood is currently responsible for the Salt Spring Island Dairy? Nice goat cheeses.

                            1. re: Snarf

                              Yes, and I envy his current location.

                              1. re: Snarf

                                I don't think anyone, to this day, has done high end takeout as well as David Wood did it. I still miss that place. But, like so many people who achieve instant success in an area where they lack relevant experience, I think it went to his head. He also wasn't a very good businessman.

                                His original location, while in Rosedale, was modest. When he opened the second store, near Sporting Life, he apparently had gobs of investor money and spared no expense. Everything in that store was top of the line. Much of it was unnecessary. There was no way that store could ever make a profit and it killed his entire business.

                                I gather he did get out of it, but I doubt very much that he did "all right" in the process. He also had to sell his name. If he was was ever to sell food again in Toronto, it could not be as "David Wood".

                                The new owners killed the quality (and the name) and, of course, didn't last long. The "new" David Wood Food Shop wasn't worth a visit.

                                Wood was so far ahead of his time for Toronto that he had to put a warning - "contains garlic" - on some of his labels (and "does not contain garlic" on others). When something actually contained, oh my, garlic, much of the clientele considered it too low class to eat.

                                I, too, envy the life he chose after Toronto.

                                McEwan has certainly been a good businessman in the past, but times change, eh? I wish him great success, but I won't pay inflated prices for mediocre pap. It's interesting that Wegman's, a price-competitive mass market chain, in a place with few "gourmet" or "foodie" obsessives relative to Toronto, can support these stores (150,000 sq ft, most of it devoted to food) while we can't.

              1. I think McEwan's first and foremost target market is the Pusateri's, Whole Foods, Cumbrae's, Summerhill Market et al crowd. These are his main "consumption audience" that will be his bread and butter, so to speak. Those that shop at Loblaws, Sobeys, and Longo's will also be a secondary target. And then, all those seniors in the area - those "no frills" kinda shoppers, well, they'll just pop in for the free samples and to check it out. But I don't think they'll be buying much.

                Although he uses Dean & DeLuca as an example of what it will be like, the obvious advantage of their stores is that there are multiple locations and also volume. Two critical things that keep your costs down and margins up. I do hope however that he isn't looking at them for customer service because it's usually not that great...

                But, competition is fantastic - especially in the high end gourmet market.

                29 Replies
                1. re: Raquel

                  i am sure he will take a bit out of the 5 thives in rosedale. I have been sort of dissapointed with them lately.

                  1. re: Raquel

                    Bad move that may well sink him. The timing is unfortunate since ANY high-end emporia for whatever is tanking now. It's not the flush who keep this type of business afloat but the wannabes and impecunious who now simply can't afford wretched excess. It's downmarket or death, Mark.

                    1. re: Kagemusha

                      He opened North 44 in the 80's recession - it's still around.
                      Saw him discussing this point on TV recently and he said that he was in for "the long term". He suggested that a good business model will survive vagaries in the economy - but you do need sufficient capital. So he claims he's not worried - he's in for the long-term.
                      And good luck to him.

                      1. re: estufarian

                        The good news is Toronto, and Canada, are in a better position in comparsion to the rest of the world. Doesn't mean they aren't hurting. Mark is a pretty smart businessmen, in addition to being a cook. He wouldn't have a nice Ferrari if he wasn't.

                        A slightly off topic question, but is high-fat butters (such Echire Butter from France) still illegal in Canada. Ontario even outlaws the high-fat butters from France, correct?

                        Beefs such as Kobe beef, straight from Japan, are in the same position, correct?

                        1. re: Eastwind

                          I bought Echire the other day at St. Lawrence Market.

                          1. re: Eastwind

                            Kobe from Japan (ya I know its Wagu and Kobe is a place yadda yadda yadda) is ok to be brought in now but has lost a bit of its appeal as most people who have wanted to try it now have and for the price it is not something you will eat too often.. Pusateris sells it originally for $200/oz now I think it is $160 I heard...

                            I still believe the butters are not able to be brought in due to the Milk board rules...

                            PS a lot of people are loosing their ferraris & houses in this market.. so saying last year he was able to afford things does not mean this year he won't be selling them...

                            1. re: Eastwind

                              The butters are illegal - but you can find them! If you try and bring them in as a returning traveller they'll be confiscated and destroyed. But containerloads seem to have an easier task getting in! Of course, there's no health reason why they can't be imported. It's economic protection for Ontario dairy producers.
                              When I had some Italian burtter confiscated last year I was told it was because of the risk of foot& mouth disease. Italy has NEVER had a case, and Agriculture Canada's own site confirms this. Wish I had a movie of the whole fiasco. Several (at least three) officers (one agricultural, the others customs) placed the butter (250gm) in a large garbage bag, tied it off, and a special dolly (with 'FOR INCINERATION' marked on the side) was wheeled out and the bag placed in it. The dolly was then wheeled off by two people into the depths of Pearson Airport, never to be seen again. I bought the same butter, openly, in Toronto less than a week later!
                              The Japanese Beef (carefully avoiding the word Kobe, as I haven't seen this here for maybe 5 years) is legally imported. The paperwork is time consuming and costly, but the product I've found appears to be legal. However, there are MULIPLE instances of finding such descriptions as "Kobe Beef" on restaurant menus that are clearly farcical. I went to a (previously) fairly reliable wholesale butcher and asked if he had any Wagyu beef. His reply - "No but I have some Kobe - but it's $40 per lb"!
                              I recently saw Kobe sliders and Kobe meatballs on Vancouver menus. All were under $20 and clearly 'fake'.

                              1. re: estufarian

                                Yes, and imagine the surprise of people when they found out how much you paid for Kobe beef in Japan, when they can go to their local Casey's and get a Kobe beef burger for $9.99! "Kobe beef" in Toronto is about the same as purchasing a high end champagne and getting Baby Duck instead.

                                In many cases, a dry-aged prime steak from Cumbrae's is better than a lot of the Canadian or American wagyu I've had, though there have been exceptions.

                                1. re: tjr

                                  But the real stuff IS available at the high end places but you pay for it.. Pusateries, Barbarians etc all have it. Imported from Japan Wagu beef

                                  1. re: OnDaGo

                                    I know that wagyu is available at certain places. I was referring to the ridiculous trend of naming non-Kobe beef as "Kobe beef." There is no Kobe in Toronto, as far as I know, though pretty standard high-grade (A5) wagyu has been/is available.

                                    Advertising generic North American wagyu as Kobe beef is pretty bad.

                            2. re: estufarian

                              He's whistling in the dark. Brave faces and wishful thinking about longevity usually indicate big worries. I wish him well and appreciate his moxy but he's late to the dance for high-end eats+groceries. Blue sky isn't a biz model.

                              1. re: Kagemusha

                                We have nothing in Toronto close to a real Gourmet Market of any size.
                                Nothing close to Wegmans in Buffalo!
                                Nothing close to the food markets in Europe, with prepared foods you actually want to eat, and beautiful produce. .
                                I found Woolworths food court in Capetown more High end when it came to tasty looking, and beautifully presented food than anything here.
                                I like Pusateri's but the prepared foods are pathetic.
                                I don't shop Summerhill, but I understand that the prepared foods are decent, but it is small and limited.
                                Can't wait to see if Toronto finally gets the supermarket a city of our size deserves.
                                Who knows, one day we might have a real Waterfront, as well.
                                Wishful thinking.

                                1. re: erly

                                  I will never forget my experience at Julius Meinl in Vienna. I'm hoping McEwan's might aspire to something like that.

                                  1. re: erly

                                    Problem is no one in TO will pay those kinds of prices, so why rhapsodize about European markets with their stroke-inducing price tags? Unless or until a major player does smart upscale(whose size+buying power can deliver quality AND price), we're stuck with extortionists, poseurs, and the current banalities.

                                    1. re: Kagemusha

                                      I'd rephrase this as, so long as North Americans spend only 10 percent of their disposable income on food (as opposed to over 30 percent in European countries like France and Italy), it is very difficult for high-end fine-food meccas to succeed.

                                      But how I hope that Mr. McEwan will able to give Pusateri's a run for their money and succeed. I have a lot of respect for him and, if anyone can do this, and do it well, it will be him.

                                      1. re: Tatai

                                        He is going more after Whole foods in size and scale.. Pusateris would fit multiple times inside his new store...

                                      2. re: Kagemusha

                                        Stroke-inducing? Have you been to markets in Europe?

                                        1. re: tjr

                                          I wondered about this too. Maybe true in Vienna or London, but the small town markets in Europe are reasonable, with great produce and meats, and their charcuterie is not sky high as if they were Toronto purveyors.

                                          1. re: jayt90

                                            In the UK, I've never seen anything but high prices--regardless of where I looked, whether it was local produce or EU imports. Eire might be the only exception.

                                            1. re: Kagemusha

                                              If you are talking Harrods, yes.
                                              U.K. is the most expensive, especially London.
                                              They were first, but there are dozens of Harrods type markets all over Europe, and the prices are much fairer.
                                              It is the prepared foods, especially that are totally lacking and downright unappetizing, even in the displays in T.O.
                                              We still have not learned the art of display.
                                              I would bet that McEwen, and co. have visited these markets, and include the feast for the eyes along with the feast.

                                              1. re: erly

                                                I thought "European" markets referred to things like the markets in France, or Italy, etc. Europe is a big, diverse place that consists of more than just the UK, Kagemusha, which is well known for being extremely expensive, especially shopping at the high-end stores (and in GBP).

                                                Even in the UK, there are places more reasonably-priced, and if you look at the kinds of markets in France or Italy, it's pretty obvious that we're getting the shaft here. The UK has a lot of excellent stuff as well, but their market is similar to the US/Canada in terms of convenience food.

                                                1. re: tjr

                                                  Right, the UK isn't "Europe." Not again. We're here, though, and we'll see if Mark's still afloat 12 months along. It'll take more than cheerleaders here to accomplish that. Raquel might be kind enough to point to the supposedly abundant research data indicating a surge in comsumption of gourmet prepared foods. Food emporia in NYC are struggling. All his swagger, smarts and panache can't fight gravity.

                                                  1. re: Kagemusha

                                                    We're far more than "cheerleaders" though thank you for suggesting that we invest our money and time in feel good. Fortunately for all of us, McEwan is opening in Toronto, Ontario, Canada not New York, NY, USA. We build our bankers boring here which is just the way I like them. Say who's the hot guy in the bow tie? It's clear that his bank and Cadillac Fairview had to believe in his vision as well.

                                                    As for what’s happening in the grocery sector lately in CANADA, I recalled reading this article dated Feb 5, 2009 when selecting RRSP top-up options:

                                                    I’m guessing, Kagemusha, that you’re not in the marketing dept of your company.

                                                    1. re: Googs

                                                      Oligopoly pays--that's always been the take-home lesson for Canadian investors.Till now. Tell us how your statement for food chain returns looks next year, OK? Good luck.

                                      3. re: erly

                                        It would be great to have something like Summerhill Market in Leslieville, since we have nothing at all, but my experience has been that the deliciousness of their food is overhyped.

                                        Admittedly, they cater to a part of Toronto not known for its culinary adventurousness. Some items are, indeed, stellar, but the beef/mushroom pie, one of their best items, pretty much defines their neighbourhood. Much of their prepared food is just blah. I've been disappointed more often than I've been impressed.

                                        Despite having substantial kitchen facilities, much of their prepared food is brought in. Some of it is identical to items sold at supermarket deli counters. Much of it is, to my palate, bad.

                                        Yes, I sometimes shop there. It's relatively convenient for me and their stock is diverse, extensive, and very well edited (especially given the small size of the store.) However, the prices, even compared to Pusateri's or Cumbrae's, are very high.

                                        1. re: erly

                                          Just a comment on Summerhill Market - their foods WERE good. But I believe Chris Klugman (who I've been following since I discovered him at Karin's restaurant in mid 80's) "disappeared" late last year - and he was responsible (IMO) for the quality prepared foods. Time will tell whether they'll maintain the standards (he's missing from their website, and I can't find another "known" chef who might have replaced him).

                                          1. re: estufarian

                                            So Klugman didn't go to All The Best after all? Perhaps he's focusing (ha!) on his photography -

                                            There was also this mention of him "representing" a new olive oil.

                                          2. re: erly

                                            How can you say the prepared foods at Pusateri's are pathetic? I lived on them for a year. They are great. I think they are high quality.