The Arcadi family business was literally founded at home.
Displaced by the equipment manufacturer for whom she worked, following a corporate takeover in the early-1970s, mom decided to go out on her own.
Two hemming machines were purchased, and a sign was placed at the doorway of 15 Perth Ave. – Toronto Hockey Repair was born.
Fiorenzo, 52, was merely a teenager when his mother Brunina launched her business mending worn-out gloves and pads, but in a short time, he hopped on board for good.
“I went to all the retailers telling them we can repair hockey equipment for them,” said Fiorenzo, the manager of the Bloor Street West shop, just east of High Park. “In 1981 we moved [out of the house] to Bloor and Lansdowne, and that was our first store.”
Toronto Hockey Repair is now a well-known operation across the Greater Toronto Area for new and used hockey equipment, custom manufacturing and repair.
Although Brunina, 79, is no longer stitching the leather in the back room beyond the family kitchen, the retail outlet maintains the charm of a neighborhood relic.
Skates, sticks and protective gear fill nearly every nook and cranny of the cluttered 4,000 square-foot space, where the Arcadi’s relocated their operation seven years back.
There is now a section of the store specifically catering to goaltenders, dubbed Goalie Heaven, where you can locate a pair of custom designed and crafted pads stamped with the family name.
“A guy came in and wanted us to make a pair of goalie pads,” said Fiorenzo, describing the humble back story of the family’s foray into manufacturing. “We took everything apart [from a pad], we took the measurements and subsequently made the pads for him.
“It was word of mouth. We started making more and more pads, and finally we are at a point where we are making 120 a year.”
In addition to managing the store, Fiorenzo stuffs and finishes the pads himself, ameliorating each piece of equipment with the Arcadi touch.
The made-to-order portion accounts for roughly 15 per cent of Toronto Hockey Repair’s business.
Customers know best
Creaky floors, unpolished aesthetics and affectionate customer service – the hallmarks of the around-the-corner hardware store or comic book shop of a bygone era.
Its shallow basement houses both the storage facility for second-hand equipment, and the workshop for custom manufacturing.
The homely atmosphere permeates a comforting feel, like a place your father used to tell you about, but no longer exists.
“I think the consumer likes the family business, but it’s a dying art,” Fiorenzo said. “We’re an old-type hockey store, we go back into the past to a certain extent. People like that.
“I hope they like it.”
He doesn’t buy the notion that chains and larger retail operators gain an automatic leg up on price point, bludgeoning the little guys into submission, and foreclosure.
Any longtime customer of Toronto Hockey Repair knows the Arcadi’s will match any price, if not, they’ll flat out beat it.
Plus the ability to trade in outgrown equipment can alleviate a portion of the financial burden of purchasing the latest gear.
“It’s good for the hockey family, because it reduces the cost of equipment,” Fiorenzo said. “We’re seeing more and more families get into the trade-in value. It’s tough economic times out there, and it’s not easy keeping a kid in hockey.”
Fiorenzo’s brother, Jim, who handles the finances and chips-in wherever needed, as upstanding family members are wont to do, joined the store full time in 1993.
Jim believes the loyalty received from the store’s clientele can be directly attributed to the warm welcomes, and expertise provided by ownership and staff.
“If you go to a box store, you aren’t going to get the same level of customer service as we hand out,” Jim said. “They’ll be able to take whatever is on the shelf and give it to you, but we make sure everything fits properly.
“We have to separate ourselves from the big box stores, and the biggest difference is the customer service.”
Boiling it down to the core, Toronto Hockey Repair aims to find clients the right match, no matter their needs.
Whether it is dissecting the nuances of a player’s particular foot shape before fitting them for a skate, or developing a unique pad alteration to suit the specifications of a meticulous goalie, the Arcadi family and their staff are there to please.
In over 40 years, so much has changed, yet in another way, everything has stayed the same.
Mom’s dedicated workmanship has been passed along a generation, and the Arcadi’s remain community stalwarts in the realm of equipment outfitting and repair.
Their mantra is just as it was behind a pair of stitching machines in the house on Perth Avenue, four decades past.
What can they help you with?