November 1st, 2010

Before there was Mjolk, there was a groundbreaking modernist store on Bloor Street West Front Street East called Karelia. It was a store that introduced modern Finnish design to Toronto. You could find high-end pieces by Yrjö Kukkapuro and Eero Aarnio, designers that still haven’t returned back to the Toronto modern retail scene.

The store existed before our time, but we have a lot of customers and former employees of Karelia that come in our store and reminisce about its time as a store.

Let me back track a little — Every Monday on our day off we visit a neighbourhood in the city. Today we trekked over to Leslieville, on Queen St. East. We visited Jake at one of the best stores in the city, Machine Age Modern. After talking obsessively about Tapio Wirkkala he took out an old poster he had from Karelia. He mentioned he had visited Janis Kravis, the owner of Karelia who is still working as an architect in Toronto.

He told me the owner has a whole wall of modernist glass, one of which was signed “Thanks for having me over for dinner – Alvar Aalto” A one of a kind piece created by Aalto to mark the occasion.

Imagine getting Finel coffee percolators for $15.95?

Jake gave us an early wedding gift, which are little mementos from the old Karelia store.

Two stainless steel hearts.

Which come together to form a sculpture. I’m not sure who the designer is but Jake thinks it’s from Sweden, I still need to do some research…

Filed under: Thrifting,Toronto | 12 comments

12 Responses to 'Karelia'

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  1. I want EVERYTHING on that poster! (Actually, I have that Rosti pitcher in red. I found it at a thrift store last year for 99¢.) But everything else. :)


    1 Nov 10 at 5:37 pm

  2. Oh wow, that heart sculpture is so lovely. What a thoughtful gift.


    1 Nov 10 at 5:59 pm

  3. In Vancouver, before there was Inform, there was Karelia! Except it was cheaper. I still have stuff with the Karelia label on the bottom, bought by my mother in the 70s. We were always broke but somehow my mother got Arne Jacobsen kitchen counter stools on sale there, and 40 years later they still look new despite abuse. I was so happy to see this.


    1 Nov 10 at 11:44 pm

  4. Those prices are unreal! Is that an Enzo Mari poster for $22?
    Beautiful gift, also!

    A Merry Mishap

    2 Nov 10 at 1:48 am

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I? from finland and a big fan of Alvar Aalto, this made my day


    2 Nov 10 at 7:25 am

  6. How much was the Kaivo fabric by the yard on that poster?..
    (I just bought some a few months back)
    Also, when was that store/poster from? late 70’s early 80’s?


    2 Nov 10 at 2:09 pm

  7. Tapio Wirkkala! I have been paying attention to his name quite a lot recently, especially after coming across a set of beautiful glass pitcher and tumblers at Atomic. I really like his style.


    2 Nov 10 at 2:13 pm

  8. Martin – The Kaivo fabric was $9.75 per yard, and the poster in from the late 70s.

    I found out the average household income in the 70s was around $8000 per year, so everything is priced accordingly.

    John & Juli

    2 Nov 10 at 3:21 pm

  9. Inflation.. Actually that fabric is about $50 a yard now, so its actually quite a bit cheaper now than then, adjusted for inflation. (based on the average household income being $70,000 in Canada)


    2 Nov 10 at 4:27 pm

  10. Thanks for this. I can’t believe I had forgotten Karelia, but the memories are flooding back. As I recall things were “expensive”, but oh so wonderful! I got a couple of red folding chairs there as well as several small things for the kitchen (which I still have).


    3 Nov 10 at 12:56 pm

  11. Wow, really nice post. Greetings from Finland, also…


    3 Nov 10 at 2:51 pm

  12. i will take two Karusellis please..


    3 Nov 10 at 7:38 pm

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