Brunswick House Rexall Opens with Exceptional Heritage Preservation [Photos]

Toronto’s iconic 141-year-old Brunswick House, formerly a boisterous bar popular with university students, has been transformed into a flagship Rexall drug store. Many of the building’s heritage elements have been preserved, both inside and out. The 7,469 square foot store is located at 481 Bloor Street West in the Annex neighbourhood. 

The new Rexall’s interiors include many fixtures from its predecessor, including a number of lovely crystal chandeliers and antique tin ceilings. The former keg barrel bar has been modified to create the store’s new checkout counter. The ‘Ye Olde Brunswick House’ sign is now featured prominently on a wall in the store’s food section. The building’s exterior has also been completely restored, including the careful cleaning of exterior brick and limestone. 

According to Derek Tupling, a spokesperson for Rexall, the retailer worked closely with the city’s heritage division, Bloor Annex BIA and the Harbord Village Residents Association throughout the renovation process.

(click above for interactive google map) (click above for interactive google map) 

(click above for interactive google map) 

(looking towards the store's bloor street entrance, from within) (looking towards the store's bloor street entrance, from within) 

(looking towards the store’s bloor street entrance, from within) 

(the iconic 'ye olde brunswick house' sign  is now located in the store's food area) (the iconic 'ye olde brunswick house' sign  is now located in the store's food area) 

(the iconic ‘ye olde brunswick house’ sign  is now located in the store’s food area) 

The story of how The Brunswick became a drug store is somewhat unique. Attila Schwarze, sales representative with The Behar Group, was walking past the building in the summer of 2013 when he spotted the building’s landlord. Mr. Schwarze asked why the large space was closed mid-afternoon during the week. After a brief conversation, the landlord told Mr. Schwarze that the existing tenant’s term was ending in December of 2016, and from that point on The Behar Group worked with Northwest Atlantic’s Michael Calderone to bring in Rexall as a replacement tenant. 

A group of family physicians will also be opening a 2,600 square foot medical clinic with a walk-in and other medical services on the second level of the historical building. 

(one of several restored chandeliers in the new brunswick house rexall) (one of several restored chandeliers in the new brunswick house rexall) 

(one of several restored chandeliers in the new brunswick house rexall) 

(tin ceilings were restored and included in the design of the new store) (tin ceilings were restored and included in the design of the new store) 

(tin ceilings were restored and included in the design of the new store) 

While some may lament the loss of a popular social space, many local residents were happy to see “The Brunny” come to an end. Late night noise, drunken scuffles and crime were all attributed to the former bar. Patrons of the building’s new tenant are likely to be better behaved — though the loss of another social space is of concern to some. 

(the store has various levels, being a modified heritage building) (the store has various levels, being a modified heritage building) 

(the store has various levels, being a modified heritage building) 

Converting heritage buildings to drug stores isn’t unprecedented. In Toronto, the former Runnymede Theatre on Bloor Street West is now a Shoppers Drug Mart, with various heritage elements preserved as part of the store’s design. In Chicago, one of the most magnificent looking drug stores in the world is a Walgreens flagship on Milwaukee Avenue, which opened in late 2012 in a former historic bank building. 

Last week, we reported that Toronto’s current Hard Rock Cafe on Yonge Street will become a Shoppers Drug Mart towards the end of this year. While the new drug store will serve locals and tourists, many are lamenting the loss of a restaurant and patio that has been in operation for close to 40 years. 

The Brunswick House Rexall store is now open to the public, and is hosting its grand opening on April 28. 

Canadian Retail News From Around The Web: March 21, 2017

Article Author

Craig Patterson
Craig Patterson
Now located in Toronto, Craig is a retail analyst and consultant at the Retail Council of Canada. He's also the Director of Applied Research at the University of Alberta School of Retailing in Edmonton. He has studied the Canadian retail landscape for the past 25 years and he holds Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Laws Degrees. He is also President & CEO of Vancouver-based Retail Insider Media Ltd.

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