The story of Sweeny Todd's - the stylist of Yonge Street
The year was 1978 in Davisville, when David Lake opened up his his own salon: Sweeny Todd’s at 1940 Yonge Street just north of Davisville Ave. This past February, the business celebrated its 40th anniversary as a Davisville institution. Years ago, their location moved to 1978 Yonge, a coincidental nod to their opening year.
Sadly, today marks Sweeny Todd’s last day in business, as the salon is no longer able to keep up with the skyrocketing property tax. Next year, their property tax was set to triple due to a reassessment reflecting the area’s changing potential and demand.
It’s the end of an era for Lake and his staff, and a farewell open house on Friday night gave an opportunity to look back on the decades they’ve been in business. “40 years - we must have done something right,” says Lake, who has always worked to give back to his customers and the neighbourhood.
It’s a place that values meaningful relationships and conversations, with an underlying sense of humour that is evident primarily in the name of the shop.
At first glance, Sweeny Todd’s may seem like a strange name for a hair salon. The story of Sweeney Todd (one extra ‘e’ than the salon’s name) has its origins in Victorian literature, but more recently known for the 1973 play, 1979 Sondheim musical and 2007 movie musical starring Johnny Depp. The story is a gruesome one: Todd is a barber who murders his customers who are then used to make meat pies.
Lake remembers the story of Sweeney Todd as a common way to keep children in line when he was young - “be good or else Sweeney Todd would come and get you.” As an adult looking for a name for his new salon, he liked that it “wasn’t something boring, like ‘Harry’s House of Hair.’”
When asked if he thought the name ever deterred any customers, Lake replied with a laugh: “I hope so!” It’s this sense of humour that has drawn customers to Lake and his team for over four decades. On the wall, pictures from the past are posted along with typewritten letters welcoming other businesses and residents to the neighbourhood. The letters offer a welcome gift or a percentage off a haircut or perm.
The demand for perms may have waned, though the demand for friendly people providing a great customer experience hasn’t. Lake, as well as long-time colleague Emily Knight (who has worked at Sweeny Todd’s for over 35 years), and at least one of their signature blood-red salon chairs will be moving up the street to continue serving their customers who won’t have to walk too much further to 20 Glebe Rd W to get their hair cut.
After 40 years, who would have thought that the first casualty at a place called Sweeny Todd’s would be Sweeny himself.