Rosemary & Thyme to close

Jun 26, 2012

The familiar strains of “Scarborough Fair” are playing in the background as I sit down with Rosemary & Thyme owner Rosemary McIntosh to talk about why she’s closing her tea room on Kingston Road at Kildonan.

We take a seat in the Victorian armchairs in a comfy nook of the tea room, and as I look at the charming pastel green decor and local artwork hanging on the walls, I can’t help but wonder why I haven’t been here before.

As it turns out, people like me are part of the problem — people who are not consistent enough in our support of local business.


Not enough business growth

Although McIntosh has a small loyal clientele, she says has no choice but to find a new location for her tea room because the business simply hasn’t grown enough since she opened almost five years ago.

One of the reasons is Birch Cliff’s car culture and the lack of walk-in traffic on Kingston Road:

“More people need to walk around and see what’s in the neighbourhood instead of just jumping in their cars and driving somewhere else.” McIntosh says.  “I kept going because I was hoping I would entice more businesses to move into the area.  I thought if I hang in here, maybe more people would be encouraged to open up businesses.  In five years I’ve seen no change.”

Kingston Road problems

Businesses seem to close more than they open in Birch Cliff, and everybody knows the shortage of viable retail on our main street is one of the neighbourhood’s biggest problems.  Case in point — across the street from Rosemary & Thyme is a car dealership that’s been vacant for two years.

McIntosh says she was driving along the Danforth recently, admiring the beautiful flower planters, and wondering why Birch Cliff can’t have something similar.  The answer might lie in part with the lack of a Business Improvement Association in our neighbourhood that can band together and get things done.

Improvements on the way

But there is reason for optimism.   In 2013, construction is scheduled to begin on makeover of Kingston Road between Warden and Birchmount Road.  This will include a complete overhaul of the street (including repaving!), the sidewalks and much needed streetscaping improvements.  There has been extensive consultation with the community on the Kingston Road Revitalization Study since it was launched in 2005, and further details should be available in the fall.

Ward 36 City Councillor Gary Crawford says revitlizing Kingston Road has been a priority and he’s pleased that change is in the works:

“I’m really excited to finally see some substantial change to that part of Kingston Road that will kick start some positive changes to the entire community, street and businesses.”

On the menu at Rosemary and Thyme Tea Room

A Birch Cliff resident for 27 years, McIntosh opened Rosemary & Thyme tea room in October 2007 because she felt there was a need:  “When my daughters were young, I’d walk around looking for somewhere nice to go, and there was nowhere to go”, McIntosh says.

Rosemary & Thyme serves 30 different varieties of tea but also brews a good cup of java for those who prefer coffee over tea. The busiest time of day is lunch when the menu features a daily homemade soup and nine different sandwiches.  From Thursday to Saturday, there’s a “special”, which is often a grilled sandwich or a featured salad.

Ironically McIntosh says getting more business now that everyone knows she’s closing on July 28th.

McIntosh is looking at affordable storefronts in higher traffic areas but has not ruled out opening in a new Birch Cliff location with more walk-by traffic.  We can only hope.


Written by Hedy Korbee, a journalist who lives in Birch Cliff


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  1. Louise Abbott

    I am sad to hear about Rosemary and Thyme. I took my mother there several times and we loved it. I am, however, guilty of not walking my own neighbourhood. When I have wandered around I feel there isn’t much to see and many of the “store fronts’ seem to be apartments and not retailers. It’s a bit of a catch 22 as there isn’t much to entice us to wander but when there is we don’t offer the business enough support. If I do walk I usually walk towards Victoria Park and beyond to do my shopping. Although, good business practice is important too. I did try to frequent the Prana Cafe on Kingston at Birchcliff but was always finding they were closed at odd hours. Plus, when I did go in I waited for ever for a simple coffee or a sandwich. This was frustratng so I just stopped going. They were a perfect example of a business that, I believe, could have built their business a little better. Initially everyone was raving about the Prana food and coffee but soon everyone was complaining that the hours were erratc and that the wait was way too long. With Rosemary and Thyme I often found it difficult to get a table when I wanted to grab some lunch as the dining room is very small. I understand that starting out is difficult but people get discouraged and will only try a few times to frequent a place. Vi Pei at Birchcliff seems to be doing a fine job of building a business even though parking is a crazy issue in that plaza. I want our section of Kingston Rd. to improve. And I really want to help it happen. We have an amazing community and I want to see it grow. I personally promise any small business that opens in the area. I will make an effort to walk by and show my support.

    • mary auchterlonie

      I will miss Rosemary and Thyme very much! I have moved away from the area, but always come back to meet with friends, and have a great lunch and cup of tea(vanilla chai is the best)! Rosemary, her daughters, her mom and staff are always so wonderful to see and chat with. I always feel extremely welcome and happy being there.
      I have never had a problem getting a seat…I guess I have good timing, and also making a reservation is a bonus.
      When I lived in the “hood”, I went there once every 2 weeks…so worth the short walk, good food (shortbread mmmmmm), and friendly atmosphere!
      My fingers are crossed that they will find a better location, and in Birch Cliff village. As it sits, I have 3 lunches planned there in July!
      Rosemary and Thyme is worth “the drive” to Birch Cliff or short stroll in the neighbourhood.

    • charlene walton

      I am in the planning stages of opening a store in the neighbourhood! So these comments are extremely encouraging in a time when retail can be risky. Maybe the timing will be in line with the revitalization plan! I look forward to sharing more as i get closer to being ready! watch for “Sparrow and Toad” an urban and eclectic destination for your home and custom boutique amps for your guitars!

      • admin

        Fantastic to hear about the possibility of a new store in Birch Cliff Charlene! Please keep us up to date on your progress — fingers crossed for “Sparrow and Toad”.

  2. admin

    I made the same promise myself today Louise – local businesses need our support.

  3. I am very sad to hear that Rosemary and Thyme is closing. It has been a consistent, reliable, service offering in Birch Cliff for several years The lunches are fabulous; my favourite is the toasted apple, cheddar sandwich! and delicious shortbread. Rosemary, her mom, daughters and staff, all make for a warm and friendly experience. I will definitely be dropping by several times before the end of the month. Hopefully Rosemary will find a place in the neighbourhood or nearby so we can continue to enjoy their yummy lunches within walking distance of home!

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