The Good Ship Nettle

Nettleship’s Hardware. Photo scoffed from their website.

As you can see by the sign, Nettleship’s Paint and Hardware has occupied this piece of Parliament Street since 1920. The store was begun by Marg Taggart’s father (if you go here, you can mouse over her name and see her picture) . Although today the business is run by her son Don, Marg still continues to put in her hours. One or two daughters are still there as well, or at least they were when E.g. and I were in studying paint chips two years ago. Even Don’s Britanny Spaniel acts as greeter.

Marg shares gladly in the life of her neighbourhood, from little everyday things to bigger events. She participated as a judge in my blog’s “Name the WWF Sea Turtle Stuffy” contest. Jane and Robert tell me that one evening during one of the Cabbagetown community festivals, they saw her dance longer than anyone else in the room. She’s one heckuva septagenarian.

Yesterday evening, I realized with dismay that I would need another roll of packing tape. I headed the two blocks over to Nettleships, only to find that it was twelve minutes past closing.

Not that that mattered. A woman and a little girl pushed open the door just ahead of me. In the back section of the long, narrow store, Marg was chatting with someone. Don was serving a customer at the cash. So in I went.

In I went, and couldn’t find the tape. I’d gotten a roll here the week before, I knew where it was supposed to be; but a combination of the two-hour morning’s walkies to get mattress covers on Mount Pleasant Rd, the 90 minutes it took to disassemble our platform bed, the other hour taking apart the futon sofabed, the lack of supper, and the guilt at being in the store after hours, blinded me. Marg saw my helplessness, and came right over.

No no, we’re still open, she soothed. You’re moving? We’ll miss you, she sighed. New Brunswick? My friend has a daughter in Fredericton, she smiled. By the end of that dollar-sixty-eight transaction, I felt like one of the store’s best shareholders and closest neighbours, and wanted to shake her hand in farewell.

Toronto the Big used to have a nicer nickname: Toronto the Good.  It’s terrific to see a family-run store like Nettleship’s Paint and Hardware still contributing to this city’s kinder, gentler reputation.

7 Responses to The Good Ship Nettle

  1. What a nice encounter. I find, out here in the boondocks where there are no box stores, service seems more personal and friendly.

  2. Sounds like a store run by good people.

  3. Mutual friend Jane says:

    Toronto is also a city of villages; ours is a particularly friendly one.
    Nettleship’s is a TARDIS store; many more things on the inside than the size of the outside would lead you to expect.

  4. Nice story. There are a few shops like that in our neck of the woods, too — although most have been hanging on by a thread since the introduction of the big box chain stores on our island during the past decade. Your story illustrates the real value of shops like these, beyond any goods they have for sale.


  5. lavenderbay says:

    I suppose it’s harder, Barefootheart, to take pride in one’s work when one is such a small component of a big box store.

    You’ve hit the common nail on the head, James!

    I had to look up TARDIS, Jane: “Time and relative dimension in space”; the dimensions of the inside don’t match the dimensions of the outside. Neat term!

    Thanks, Bobbie! Interesting that you echo Barefootheart’s dissatisfaction with big-box stores.

  6. almostgotit says:

    I miss those little neighborhood stores in Toronto. That’s the thing about big cities… they actually turn into nice, small ones as each little neighborhood circulates around its own grocers, banks, and shops. Cute!

  7. lavenderbay says:

    Yes, Almostgotit, there’s a big difference between visiting a place and actually living there. It’s easy for an outsider to see Toronto as a monolithic monster (I’ve done it too) .

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