354 Yonge St., 2nd Floor
Blink and you’ll miss it. The entrance to this shop is almost as hard to find as that of the Leaky Cauldron (though we don’t think a spell protects it). A door on the ground level of this Yonge Street shop leads you up a narrow creaky staircase, the walls covered in posters and artwork decaying with age. There are two doors at the top, though only one opens–arrows point you to the right one (on the left), but it’s easy to get confused. The store seems to have been converted from an old, and complicated apartment. One room, dedicated to D&D, Warmachine (and similar) toys is basically a closet, accessible only by edging around a counter, and climbing through a portal that would be at home on a submarine.
So yeah, it’s kind of weird. But don’t let that keep you from coming in.
Hairy T specializes in trades and good customer service. Every time we’ve gone there, we’ve been immediately greeted by one of their friendly staff members and/or cats. (We met two, one named Squeak, the other named Juggernaut. Cats, that is). The staff, both young and old, seem comfortable with a diverse clientele, and catering to different customer needs. They’re ready with recommendations and more than willing to help you find what you’re looking for. If you’re left wanting, Hairy T staff will take down your contact info, and get in touch when they’ve got your heart’s desire in stock.
Hairy T is not necessarily a monthly comics shop. Their selection of big two and indie monthlies is limited. Their selection of trades and manga, however, is much better. We both found trades at the Hairy T that had escaped us in other shops. In addition to mainstream books, they also offer local comics, indie and literary graphic novels, and erotica (Yaoi and Yuri doujinshi, and Western comics). We suspect someone at the store is a regular con attendant, because some books, particularly local stuff, is signed by the creators.
Regular customers can purchase a membership, which affords discounts on everything from comics to apparel, to board games, valid at all three locations* (details on their website). Their regular sales are advertised online, and well in advance.
That’s the upside of the store. The downside is that it’s not at all accessible. In addition to it being located in an upstairs unit, the store’s awkward, crowded layout may make it intimidating and confusing for new comics readers, and casual shoppers. Shoppers with mobility aids such as canes or crutches, may have trouble with both the steep stairs and the narrow aisles. Low lighting, stuffed shelves and an unintuitive layout may make Hairy T a visually frustrating experience.
The diversity of its staff and clientele (it’s no dudebro oasis), and its connections to the community, make Hairy T feel like a real part of downtown Toronto. We recommend Hairy T to downtown trade waiters and manga readers, and to folks doing the Yonge St. retail crawl.
* Reviews of Hairy T North, and Hairy T West are on the way!