By ALAN SHACKLETON
An era will come to an end in the Beach in the next few weeks as Seagull Classics on Queen Street East will be closing its doors.
The announcement by the Smith family that they will be closing comes shortly after the death last month of June Smith, 93, who was a longtime Beach resident and familiar presence at the store.
For decades, June would welcome customers to the shop that had been on Queen Street East since the early 1980s.
Seagull was started as a store and renovation company by her sons Peter, Steven and Bruce in 1980 and was first located on Kingston Road. It then moved to Queen Street East in 1984.
Running Seagull was always a family affair said June’s daughter Jennifer Jones.
“It’s a real family business,” said Jennifer, and June’s presence at the store was always extremely strong.
“Mom was there all the time,” said Peter.
“Mom worked all those years here up until just a few months before she died,” said Jennifer. “We worked as a family. She had Alzheimer’s and there was always one of us with her in the apartment or the store.”
June will be remembered by many as she would often sit out on a chair on Queen in front of the store saying hello to the many people she knew and customers coming into the store.
“She loved it here, greeting everyone,” said Peter.
June was more than just a friendly face at Seagull, though. She played an important role in the businesses operation, said Jennifer and Peter who run the store with brother Bruce.
“She was very involved in the running of the store,” said Jennifer.
“She was going to trade shows and looking for items for the store up until her late 80s,” said Peter. “She was telling us what would be good to put in the store.”
Along with the wide variety of items for sale at Seagull, many people would come in just to chat with June.
“A lot of customers would come in for a chat with her. She collected some interesting people from around the neighbourhood, and she was so friendly and caring. People felt very comfortable with her,” said Jennifer.
June grew up in the west end of Toronto, but called the Beach home for more than 55 years.
She worked as a nurse at Women’s College Hospital before meeting her husband Lawrence. They were married in 1952 and moved to the East End in 1966 after first living in Don Mills. First they were on Beaufort Road for 17 years, then moved to Benlamond and then in an apartment (from 1995 on) above the store in the Queen Street East building owned by the family.
Lawrence Smith died in 2008. He worked at, then became the owner of, Central Dental Company for many years. Lawrence and June had five children – Jennifer, Peter, Bruce, Joe and Steven.
Jennifer said many customers came in to offer condolences after June’s death.
“We’re just amazed at how much love we have been given. Everybody saying how much mom meant to them and that they will miss her seeing her outside waving,” said Jennifer.
When Seagull first moved to Queen Street East it took over the space that had been home to Edison’s Fish and Chips. About three of four years later, Seagull expanded into the neighbouring storefront as well.
However, with June’s death, Peter and Jennifer and the rest of the family have decided it is time for Seagull to end its long run in the Beach.
“We’ve got a buyer for the whole building,” said Peter.
“The building is being sold and we’re ready to retire and move on to the next chapter after 40 years,” said Jennifer. “We don’t know what the future plans are for the building.”
She said they are aiming to be closed by the end of October, but they may stretch a little bit into November.
Everyone is invited to pop around for some final purchases and to say goodbye.
“People say they will miss us,” said Jennifer. “It’s quite amazing to know we have furnished so many homes in the Beach.”
Seagull has also had an impact on generations of Beachers. “Younger people come in and say they would shop here with their mom and dad, and now they are bringing their own kids,” said Peter.
“We are amazed at how many people have come in,” said Jennifer.
“I never realized we meant so much to the people,” said Peter.
Jennifer said being part of Seagull was not only a family affair, it was a lot of fun for everyone including her mom. “We loved getting the float together for the Easter Parade, and loved being part of the community,” she said.
Both Jennifer and brother Bruce still live in the Beach area. Peter is in Jackson’s Point, Steve is in California and Joe in Uxbridge. They all grew up in the community, attending local schools including Williamson Road, Glen Ames, Malvern Collegiate, and Danforth Collegiate and Technical Institute.
Since the move to Queen Street, it has mostly been Jennifer, Peter and Bruce involved in Seagull.
Jennifer said it’s popularity among customer grew for a number of reasons including the unique items they stocked and the friendly vibe. “We also had a lot of Canadian and custom-made items and that was a big draw,” she said.
Among those custom items are the Beach specialty items they sell, including maps, clothing and accessories.
“The Beach-specific merchandise is actually huge,” said Jennifer. “I could not tell you how many of the Beach sweatshirts we have sold. The Beach pillows were also very popular.”
Customers coming in over the final few weeks of Seagull will also be given a free poster of the Beach and its businesses from about 1990 that was designed by local artist Jennifer Cline.
“We just always tried to find different items you would not get everywhere else,” said Jennifer.
To the community for its decades of support, and especially after June’s death, Jennifer wanted to say thank you.
“I want to say how grateful we are for all the continued love and support for our mom. It has filled our hearts with happiness. People were dropping in with cards and to speak with us,” she said. “We are going to miss everyone so much, but it is time to go.”
“Thanks for the support, that’s what’s kept us going,” said Peter.
“It’s been fun. We’ve had a lot of good times and it has been really nice to be able to spend so much time with our mom. That has made it really special,” said Jennifer.