Beach businesses nurture mind, body, soul – and fill hungry bellies

Yogis at Afterglow Yoga Studio. PHOTO: Lara O'Keefe

This is part two of two issues of Eye on Business coverage, featuring businesses local to the Beach and surrounding neighbourhoods. Here’s the link to the first installment:

Afterglow Yoga

The sun streams in through the front windows of Afterglow’s Queen Street East location as co-owners, Julie Watson and Elizabeth Doyle Harmer wait behind the counter with large, genuine smiles on their faces, greeting guests as they enter the studio.

Afterglow Studio owners, Elizabeth Doyle Harmer and Julie Watson

Afterglow Yoga was recently named one of the top five yoga studios in Toronto by blogTO, and it’s easy to see why. While some yoga studios can seem uptight or competitive, the vibe of Afterglow Yoga is warm and welcoming.

Watson and Doyle Harmer explained that while they have different backgrounds, they quickly discovered that in many ways their lives were in sync, and it was these similarities that encouraged them to open a new style of yoga studio.

Watson moved back from California with her family three years ago and it was there that she first became inspired to practice this different type of yoga. As it turned out, Doyle Harmer had a similar experience while visiting Costa Rica.

“The style of yoga was just creative and different every time you go [with] fun and music and [it was] positive,” she said.

Shortly after meeting, the two also realized they “had the exact same dream and exact same vision,” explained Watson. After that, “it just fell together super smoothly,” she said. “I wouldn’t say the whole process has been smooth but we both have our strengths and so we really balance each other out so it just flows organically.”

In only six months – they opened in June 2016 – the pair have been able to grow into a successful studio with approximately 15 employees and more than 50 classes scheduled per week. According to Watson and Doyle Harmer, it’s an accomplishment that came to fruition thanks in large part to the location and the community.

“We have the best clients,” said Watson. “Everybody in this community is amazing. People come in here and we’re hugging and saying hello, and we know their history. We’re all a big family.”

Along with running weekly yoga classes which include vinyasa, power and fitness yoga, the two also take pride in running workshops and programs such as Glow Girls – an empowerment group for girls between the ages of nine to twelve years old.

Watson and Doyle Harmer are both moms to young girls and understand the importance of nurturing their self-esteem.

“We both have girls in this age range, so we know it’s sort of essential to their transition through this time but … we had no idea how popular it would be. Both sessions we’ve offered have sold out,” said Watson.

The class focuses not only on yoga, but on empowerment.

“We do gratitude, giving back, goal setting and a lot of kindness and core values. I mean, these are amazing girls so it’s one of our kind of foundational things that we’re quite proud of and happy with,” she said.

As for the adult members, they are currently holding a 30-day challenge which asks participants to commit to taking as many yoga and fitness classes as they can within that time period, as well as making a healthy nutritional choice and a mindfulness habit each day. The goal is to ensure participants are experiencing “total health” – mind, body, and spirit.

“I think that’s part of our belief about what total health is. Yoga has never been just about the physical practice, it’s about training your mind as well and then also what food you put into your body,” said Doyle Harmer.IMG_4517

Afterglow also offers free meditation classes twice a week, served with free oranges and tea. If you’re in the market for some yoga gear, toys or locally sourced jewelry, they have that too. “We want to kind of be a one-stop-shop here, too. You can come here, you can do your class, you can sit, you can have a cup of tea – we always offer free oranges. So you can come and you can hang out and be here but at the same time you can get your yoga clothes, your yoga mats. You can also get your hostess gifts or you can buy yourself a little something,” said Watson.

Like their classes, all of their items are designed with meaning. Shirts and necklaces with messages like ‘Breathe’ or ‘Dream Big’ hang from the walls and are meant to serve as simple yet powerful reminders to take yoga and meditation learnings off the mat and into the real world.

Speaking about the studio as a whole, Watson shares that “I think that’s kind of our thing, too. We want to show people their potential. We want to allow people to accept that they have all these opportunities and that every day is a possibility.”

Afterglow Yoga is located at 2034 Queen St. E and their website is

HearEQ app

A local app developer wants to make it easier for sound engineers and musicians to hone their equalizer skills.

Created by Ten Kettles, HearEQ: Ear training for musicians and engineers is available on the Apple App store and promises to “make equalization work for you, and truly transform your live and recorded sound into something professional and beautiful.”

Ten Kettles, founded in 2013 by teacher, musician and engineer Alex Andrews, creates musically-minded apps with the aim of streamlining and simplifying sound training. Their latest app, Waay, which teaches music theory for songwriting, was featured in Eye on Business last year. Waay was recently updated so that it could be used without an internet connection. Andrews said the idea for HearEQ began when he was playing different venues around the city in 2014. He said a show could be hit or miss depending on sound, which varied wildly from venue to venue.

“For consistency we hired a sound person-in-training to do sound for all of our shows, and I wanted to build a tool to help her with ear training,” he sa id. “That was about the time that Ten Kettles was getting off the ground, so that ended up being how things got started—and the app’s grown a lot since then.” He has recently rewritten the app from scratch to include suggestions from users and modernize its interface. Search for it in the App store (it is not available for Android devices) or find out more at

Blossoming Minds Learning Centre

The Danforth and Coxwell community is welcoming the Blossoming Minds Learning Centre, a new daycare and learning complex, with open arms this month.

Located in the former location of the controversial Cloud 9 cafe – and several of the adjacent storefronts – the opening of a licensed childcare centre is a welcome addition to a neighbourhood with a stated need for more childcare options. The building has been completely renovated to code and every detail has been designed with the child in mind.

Blossoming Minds is a welcome addition to the neighbourhood.

Over the last several months, the community sent letters of support and messages of encouragement to owners Krista Dahlgren and Maggie Moser as they worked to gain permits from the city and get the go-ahead from the province. The outfit received the final check of approval from the ministry of education last month, around six months after taking possession of the building, and is set to offer programs for children up to 10 years old.

The two have devoted their lives to education – Dahlgren as a 20-year early childhood education specialist and program coordinator and Moser as a teacher with a focus on music education – and this was a natural next step for the two family members ready for the next phase in their professional lives. The learning centre is also home to music classes, and the daycare has placed an emphasis on infant care, filling another need the two saw in the neighbourhood.

The program environment is inspired by the Reggio approach to early childhood education. “We believe in facilitating learning through activities and lessons based on the child’s interests, using play-based learning. Music is an integral part of every child’s day, as is demonstrating respect for self, others, and our environment.”

Blossoming Minds Learning Centre is located at 1530 Danforth Ave. Its website is

The Porch Light

Shortly before the end of 2016, Ken Galbraith – who is also one of the owners of Bud’s Coffee on Queen Street East – decided to open another coffee shop with The Beech Tree owner, Helder Cabral.

The Porch Light

Their latest endeavour, The Porch Light is a small but welcoming space where customers can relax and watch the world go by while sipping on gourmet coffee or work remotely while enjoying a delicious pastry from La Bastille Boulangerie Patisserie.

The Porch Light also offers starters, salads, soups, and sandwiches, and perhaps best of all – free and fast wifi. They are so dedicated to ensuring a fast connection, in fact, that they have not one but two separate connections for customers should one be slower than another on any given day.

Taking a new approach to the traditional coffee shop concept, Galbraith and Cabral also decided to transform the space from a simple coffee shop during the day to a wine bar at night offering craft beer, cocktails, and a decent wine selection. The Porch Light is open seven days a week but the wine bar is available Thursday through Saturday nights.

Take a peek at what they are up to on their Instagram page:

Bodega Henriette

Bodega Henriette – a new market and restaurant combination in the Beach Hill neighbourhood – opened in November and has been drawing customers and rave reviews ever since.

Owner Nicole Cheung, who also owns Eulalie’s Corner Store, said that initially she “wasn’t really looking to open anything else but then this corner came up for sale and I thought it would just be a

Nicole Cheung, owner of Bodega Henrietta.
Nicole Cheung, owner of Bodega Henrietta.

terrific neighbourhood.”

The cozy corner location, which is designed with beautiful, warm colours that almost make you feel like you’re in the tropics (until you notice the snow outside, that is) draws part of its inspiration from the Spanish concept of bodega, which is a word commonly used to refer to a small local store carrying items such as fresh produce, milk, eggs and baguettes. The other part of the space operates as a restaurant serving fresh pastries and coffee in the mornings, sandwiches at lunch, and dinner in the evenings, and on weekends brunch is served from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m.

If you happen to be a late riser though, there’s no need to worry about missing out. Bodega Henriette is open late to accommodate night owls too. Hours of operation are 7:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. – midnight on Fridays, 9:00 a.m. – midnight on Saturdays and 9:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m. on Sundays.

“I thought it would be fun to try to offer something that offers day and night groceries. Just a place where people can meet up, relax, and meet their neighbours,” said Cheung. “I think it really improves quality of life when people get out and talk to each other so my hope is that places like this will encourage that.”

Isabella’s Boutique Restaurant

What began as a simple small side business making cakes has quickly turned into a blossoming restaurant concept.

The Noon’s at their Queen Street eatery, Isabella’s Boutique Restaurant.
The Noon’s at their Queen Street eatery, Isabella’s Boutique Restaurant.

Cecilia Noon always loved cooking but it wasn’t until she and her husband David moved to Toronto from Japan in 2015 that she pursued it as more than just a hobby. Her fluffy cotton cakes – a Japanese specialty – gained popularity faster than she had anticipated, and within hours after agreeing to bake one, she said she had a dozen more orders to fill.

“I spent twelve hours baking cakes that day… and I didn’t have any supplies at that time because we had just moved here,” she laughed.

But a strong dedication to her clients pushed her to make it work and it’s that same dedication that led the couple to open Isabella’s Boutique Restaurant – named after their six-year-old daughter – in the Beach this past October.

The restaurant concept is Japanese but the pair hesitate to categorize it as such because when people think of Japanese food, they often think of sushi, David explained. Instead, their menu is a unique array of what David calls, “Japanese comfort food. It’s the type of food you would eat if you were to sit down for a home-cooked meal in Japan.”

Their menu items include a diverse array of options such as Japanese curry, yaki-udon, a stir-fry dish and omurice, a Japanese omelette. They also offer a number of delicious desserts including millie crepe cake, macarons and a variety of fluffy cotton cakes that are gluten and nut free for those who suffer from allergies.

But the food isn’t the only source of comfort at Isabella’s. The Noon’s not only make an effort to chat with each and every customer, and have even vowed to remember everyone by name, you’ll also notice the walls of the restaurant are adorned with the work of local artists.

It’s this warmth and sense of community that makes dining at Isabella’s Boutique Restaurant feel more like you’re sitting down for a meal in their home, rather than a restaurant.

Located on 2328 Queen St. E., the restaurant is open seven days a week 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 9:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Find out more at


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