While it was a warm and wonderful Christmas week, our joy was tempered by the sudden closing on December 23 of the Wagamama Cafe, one of the original artisanal coffee and food establishments to open on King West in downtown Toronto. The Wagamama Café hugged the northwest corner of King at Tecumseth one block west of Bathurst. When it opened in 2000, there were few coffee shops in the area and condominiums were either on the drawing board or merely a developer’s dream. It was the first gourmet coffee, tea and pastry shop in the neighbourhood and soon became the place to go for a great cup of coffee, a cup of imported loose leaf tea, homemade soups, hearty salads and generous sandwiches on fresh baked bread and both Japanese and Canadian sweets. As the years went by, it became the ideal location for a business meeting, job interview, coffee klatch or a place to focus and get some serious work done whether it was reviewing a legal contract, editing a book or poring over the design of a new space or property. “Wags”, as it was affectionately known, attracted a diverse, eclectic and sometimes well known clientele including many of the writers and artists occupying the lofts and studios as well as business people from the corporate offices in the neighbourhood. It also became a daily hangout for the many residents of the Summit and other condominiums that were built and populated on King West throughout the first decade of the millennium.
Miwa Yamada was the baker and creative force behind the Wagamama translated as selfish one in Japanese. She and her loyal team were anything but and had the best customer service and recognition in the neighbourhood. Whether it was to celebrate, confront, converse, collaborate or commiserate, the Wagamama was the place to go. A hot bowl of soup, a thick sandwich, a colourful salad or a large cookie, chewy brownie or delicious slice of cheesecake could cure whatever was ailing you. Unfortunately, Miwa passed away in October 2014 and with her, the Wagamama’s creative energy and spirit.
The Wagamama Café gave me so much in the many years that I spent there: a tutoring student, a coaching client, several friends and acquaintances and, most importantly, the love of my life.
I want to thank John, Miwa, Reiko, Lisa, Christine and the staff who worked there as well as the people whom I met there over the years. You gave me and so many others the priceless gifts of many wonderful times and lasting memories.