Cover of First Catalogue

Eaton Hospitality

The second target was made up of those persons, mostly women, who lived near enough to Toronto to spend a day shopping there. Once they had had to make their way on horseback or in carriages, but now steamers and trains made the expedition easy. Eaton's problem was not how to get them to Toronto but how to entice them into his shop, and more especially how to pull them north of the more famous shops on King Street. Catalogues were useful for this purpose, to describe not only what was for sale but also the store's fringe benefits as they were added. Putting himself into the position of such visitors, Eaton decided that they needed a place to rest in town and, the catalogue of 1886-7 announced, one was ready for them:

"Ladies, you come off the train, you are covered with dust, begrimed with smoke, you feel unrefreshed, you don't wish to beg anyone to allow you to make your toilet in their rooms without paying them for it, you possibly have a long day's shopping before you, probably you have a number of parcels, you are getting disgusted. Listen! Get off your train, take a Yonge or a Queen Street car, as it may, and bring your parcels with you straight to Eaton's. Why? During the early part of September our new store will be opened. In the south west corner of the ground floor will be an office expressly for you."

Parcels and overcoats, the article went on, could be left there without charge, a telegram sent, or a telephone call made. Upstairs were waiting and wash rooms. That would draw the buyers -- or would it? There was the nuisance of getting from the waterfront to Queen Street, overcome in 1890 by a free bus service to and from steamers and trains. Then a restaurant was added. So, transported to the store, coats and oddments checked free, grime removed from their faces, and well fed, the ladies could spend hours in the shop.

From A Shopper's View of Canada's Past by G. de T. Glazebrook, Katharine B. Brett, and Judith McErvel, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1969.
Rev 2000-02-18 [Return to Diary]