«RETURN TO 501 Queen Streetcar

Queen W. and Wilson Park Rd.



Jennifer Wells Feature Writer

A lawyer's office does not have to exist in a gargantuan highrise in the city's financial district.

A lawyer's office could, instead, be a diminutive street front in Parkdale, with replica antique pendant lights and a welcoming glass front and a real live lawyer who walks to work from his house just five minutes away.

Sometimes Warren Sheffer walks home for lunch, a regular Atticus Finch who checks in with the commercial neighbours. Coriander Girl next door (flowers, cards, soaps), Poor John's across the way (a café.) His daughter — not Scout, but Ella — attends school in the 'hood. The mailman's name is Ron. Who knows the name of their mailman in this day and age?

The Queen 501 car, wrapped in candy-colour advertising for Vitamin Water, rumbles to the Wilson Park stop outside his door. What is that sound? Not really a rumble. "I was listening for it today," says Sheffer. "There's a bit of a hum to it." The noise might drive some people nuts, he acknowledges. "But I don't mind it at all."

The mail slot in the door, through which Ron slides the mail, is uncovered. Doesn't it get cold in here? Not with that monster radiator near the entranceway. If anything, it gets a bit stuffy in the winter months.

This place is tiny. Sheffer thinks perhaps 250 square feet.

What's the appeal? Nice neighbours. Affordable rent. Proximity to life.

Sheffer's world has revolved around the west end. Growing up in Etobicoke, he sold hot dogs at Exhibition Stadium and later worked as a teller at the old Queen and Roncesvalles branch of the Royal Bank, which is no longer.

He calls Yonge Street "the watershed." Through his adolescent years the Queen car was his connection to downtown, taking dates skating at Nathan Phillips Square, that kind of thing.

He's 42 now.

What about Parkdale's sketchy reputation?

Sheffer once lived a few blocks over, right on Queen, above a convenience store. That was the early '90s. There was more "excitement" then, he says, meaning "what people would construe as the pejorative stuff." Meaning "nefarious activity" in the wee hours.

Sheffer doesn't see as much of that going on. He gets involved, as chair of the Queen West Art Crawl and chair of the Parkdale Community Development Group. He tries to weigh in with the residents' association, which is working on the establishment of a historical society.

Sheffer has beautifully preserved the store front, scripted with his name and that of his partner, Marian Hebb. For years the name Luigi Barber Shop was plainly stamped in simple white letters on the glass above the door. Luigi was a landmark on the strip. The red and white tin street numbers from Luigi's day are still there, minus the first numeral, which adds to the charm of one man's interaction with the street.

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Copyright lawyer Warren Sheffer at his office in Parkdale. The Queen 501 car stops outside his door at the Wilson Park stop.

STEVE RUSSELL/TORONTO STAR

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Lawyer Warren Sheffer chats with neighbour Alison Westlake of Corriander Girl while on a tour of his neighbourhood.

CARLOS OSORIO/TORONTO STAR

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Wonderful story on a really great guy. I've come to know Warren and his family through his mother, Donna, a social activist...so it is no surprise that Warren is so involved in the community around him. Wouldn't it be great if more of the highrise workers became down to earth like Warren...got themselves storefront offices and added to their neighbourhoods.

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