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Category Archives: Toronto Then and Now

History of Fran’s Restaurant on College Street

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Fran’s restaurant on College Street is the type of eatery that is found in many cities throughout the world. They are not necessarily known as famous gourmet destinations, but rather as places where people seek good food at modest prices. For several decades, Fran’s on College Street is where people grabbed a burger or sandwich with fries prior to a Leaf’s game at the Gardens, or enjoyed a coffee and slice of pie after a hockey game. Late-night inhabitants of the city visited the restaurant after imbibing generously in the bars and pubs on the Yonge-Street strip, in the days when it was Toronto’s entertainment centre. Women often met at Fran’s after shopping at Eaton’s College Street, across the road from the restaurant.

The Eaton’s College Street store is gone, the entertainment district has relocated, and the Leaf’s have departed from the Gardens. However, Fran’s still serves food to the breakfast, lunch and dinner crowds, and remains a destination for those who inhabit Yonge Street during the late-evening and early-morning hours.  

My earliest recollections of Fran’s are from the year 1957, when I worked at the British American Oil Company on the northwest corner of Bay and College. Each workday morning, I journeyed south on the Yonge Subway to the College Station. At that time, the subway had been in service for only three years. Walking west on College Street, I visited Fran’s to purchase two take-out coffees, one for a fellow worker and the other for myself. Visiting Fran’s was a pleasurable morning ritual.

In October of 2016, I revisited the restaurant to relive a few fond memories. On this occasion, the coffee and the clubhouse sandwich with fries, were just as good as ever. Although the dining room had retained its family-style atmosphere, major changes were visible. A street patio and open rooftop deck had been added. Thus, although the eatery had changed, it had also remained the same. Fran’s is still a vital part of the city’s restaurant scene for comfort food.

Fran’s Restaurants were opened by Francis (Fran) Deck, who relocated from Buffalo to Toronto in 1940. His brother Greg remained in Buffalo and managed his own chain of eateries. Fran brought  his experience from Buffalo to Toronto, and opened a restaurant that offered good food and low prices, available 24 hours a day. Along with his wife, Ellen Jane, Fran’s first restaurant was at 21 St. Clair Avenue West, a short distance west of Yonge Street. Containing only 10 seats, it was a small diner that specialized in hamburgers, steaks and wheat cakes. However, it soon became well known for its chili, rice pudding and apple pie. Late-night bottomless cups of coffee and over-sized breakfasts also became highly popular. The famous pianist, Glenn Gould was a regular customer at Fran’s on St. Clair, as he lived nearby.

Fran was reputed to have been the first to use the term “banquet burger,” which was a burger served with bacon and cheese. The term is now employed widely in restaurants throughout North America. He also created his own brand of coffee, which was sold in his establishments.

In 1945, Fran opened another site at 2275 Yonge Street, near Eglinton, another at 1386 Bathurst Street south of Vaughan Road, and the location on College Street near Yonge in 1950. Others were opened in the years ahead, including one in Hamilton and another in Barrie. The head office of the company was on Mt. Pleasant Road, north of Merton Street.

Fran Deck died in an automobile accident in Arizona in 1976. The business was sold to investors, but Joon Kim purchased the College Street site in 1997. The St. Clair and Yonge Street sites have now closed, but the business on College Street remains. In 2004, a Fran’s was opened on the northwest corner of Shuter and Victoria Streets. Fran’s had a booth in the Food Building at the CNE in 2014, when it offered deep-fried rice pudding.

On May 14, 2012, Leonard Cohen was awarded the Glenn Gould Prize in a gala concert in Massey Hall. Afterward, Cohen topped off the evening with a visit to Fran’s.

The source for much of the information for this post was derived from a display in a glass showcase in the entranceway of the College Street restaurant. Other sources were www.timeoout.com, and torontothenandnow.blogspot.com

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                               A Fran’s menu from earlier years.

View of College Street looking west at Yonge Street – June 7, 1981

The camera is pointed west on College Street in 1981, from near the intersection at Yonge Street. The canopy of Fran’s Restaurant is visible in the distance, on the north side of College Street. Toronto Archives, F1526, File 0071, item 0065.

                      View of College Street near Yonge Street – May 31, 1981

View looking east along College Street toward Yonge Street on May 31, 1981, Fran’s Restaurant is on the left-hand (north) side of the street. Toronto Archives, Fonds 1526, File 0071, Item 0073.

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View of Fran’s in October 2016, with rooftop area and a cafe on the sidewalk level.

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               The neon sign on Fran’s, photo taken in October, 2016.

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               Fran’s dining room on College Street in 2016.

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                   Sketch of Fran’s on its 50th anniversary in 1990.

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

Books by the Blog’s Author

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[1]

   To place an order for this book, published by History Press:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in most book stores such as Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shop. It can also be ordered by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb[2]    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It explores 81 theatres and contains over 125 archival photographs, with interesting anecdotes about these grand old theatres and their fascinating histories. Note: an article on this book was published in Toronto Life Magazine, October 2016 issue.

For a link to the article published by |Toronto Life Magazine: torontolife.com/…/photos-old-cinemas-dougtaylortoronto-local-movie-theatres-of-y…

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

Another publication, “Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England) explores 75 of the city’s heritage sites. It contains archival and modern photos that allow readers to compare scenes and discover how they have changed over the decades. Note: a review of this book was published in Spacing Magazine, October 2016. For a link to this review:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

For further information on ordering this book, follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

  

 

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Views of Toronto—Then and Now

                            Toronto: Then and Now®

“Toronto Then and Now,” published by Pavilion Press (London, England), is a coffee-table style book that explores 75 heritage sites in Toronto and illustrates how they have changed throughout the decades. The photos are large, many occupying a full page, and because they are opposite each other, comparisons are easier and more dramatic than in other formats. Each photo is accompanied by a brief text that informs readers of the history of the sites, and includes interesting anecdotes. Most of the archival photos are from the Toronto Archives, and the modern photos were taken by Karl Mondon.

Below are a few of the heritage sites that are featured in the book by Doug Taylor.

4F. . Sept. 1, 1927 Trillium, s0071_it5215[1]    04_Trillium_2935

(Left) Toronto ferry the Trillium in 1934, and (right), the Trillium in 2015. 

6. f0124_fl0003_id0015[1]  06_Terminal_Warehouse_2025

(left) The Terminal Warehouse at Queen’s Quay in 1973, and (right), Queen’s Quay Terminal in 2015

2. entrance to Fort on April 10, 1909  f1548_s0393_it1737[1]    02_Fort_York_1987

(left) The east gate of Fort York in 1909 and (right), the same view of the fort in 2015.

10B. 1927-- s0071_it5795[1]   10_Princes_Gate_1913

         The CNE Princes’ Gates in 1929 and (right), the gates in 2015.

                Fonds 1526, File 47, Item 3   14_CN_Tower_2105

View of the CN Tower, gazing west on Front Street in 1973, and (right,) the same view of the tower in 2015.

72. April 24, 1924. f1231_it0349[1]   DSCN3055

(left) The Church of the Redeemer at Bloor St. and Avenue Rd. in 1924, and (right), the same view in 2015. 

For a link to a review of the book in Spacing Magazine, written by Dylan Reid:

spacing.ca/toronto/2016/09/02/reading-list-toronto-then-and-now/

                        Toronto: Then and Now®

“Toronto Then and Now”— For further information follow the link to Amazon.com  here  or contact the publisher directly by the link below:

http://www.ipgbook.com/toronto–then-and-now—products-9781910904077.php?page_id=21

To view the Home Page for this blog: https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/

For more information about the topics explored on this blog:

https://tayloronhistory.wordpress.com/2016/03/02/tayloronhistory-comcheck-it-out/

Other books by the author of this blog

Toronto’s Theatres and the Golden Age of the Silver Screen,” explores 50 of Toronto’s old theatres and contains over 80 archival photographs of the facades, marquees and interiors of the theatres. It relates anecdotes and stories by the author and others who experienced these grand old movie houses.  

                          cid_E474E4F9-11FC-42C9-AAAD-1B66D852[2]

   To place an order for this book:

https://www.historypress.net/catalogue/bookstore/books/Toronto-Theatres-and-the-Golden-Age-of-the-Silver-Screen/9781626194502 .

Book also available in Chapter/Indigo, the Bell Lightbox and AGO Book Shops, and by phoning University of Toronto Press, Distribution: 416-667-7791 (ISBN 978.1.62619.450.2)

                                 image_thumb6_thumb_thumb_thumb_thumb    

Another book on theatres, published by Dundurn Press, is entitled, “Toronto’s Movie Theatres of Yesteryear—Brought Back to Thrill You Again.” It contains 75 theatres, accompanied by over 125 archival photographs. The text relates interesting anecdotes about these grand old movie houses and their tells about their fascinating histories.

The book is available at local book stores throughout Toronto or for a link to order this book: https://www.dundurn.com/books/Torontos-Local-Movie-Theatres-Yesteryear

 

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