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Aggie Hogg's Store and Don Library, circa 1925, on Don Mills Road. - North York Historical Society photo courtesy Toronto Public Library Digital Archive
Aggie Hogg's Store and Don Library, circa 1925, on Don Mills Road. - North York Historical Society photo courtesy Toronto Public Library Digital Archive

North York Entrepreneur Aggie Hogg was Ahead of Her Time

Don Mills street named in honour of 19th century business owner, writes Susan Goldenberg

“Aggie Hogg Gardens,” a short interior street alongside the green space in the middle of the Shops at Don Mills at Lawrence Avenue and Don Mills Road, is named in honour of a notable 19th century North York woman who was way ahead of her time.

According to Patricia W. Hart’s “Pioneering in North York”, published in 1968, Aggie Hogg boldly went into the male-dominated business world rather than the then-usual female role of homemaker. She never married.

Born in 1834, Aggie was a daughter of John Hogg, a Scottish immigrant who owned a farm and sawmill where the Shops now are. He gave some of his property for Don Mills’ first school, a log cabin, erected in 1837. He had a general store and was Don Mills’ first postmaster.

Aggie lived apart, in a brick home built on her father’s property; his had been a frame home. Since her father had retired, she decided to copy him and establish her own combined general merchandise store-post office.

Her house was quite large; she used the ground floor for her business. She set aside space for a lending library, the first in Don Mills, with books supplied by the local Literacy Society. She boarded teachers upstairs. This was generous because underpaid teachers only could afford to pay low rents. In her own way, like her father, she was making it possible for people pioneering in North York to get a formal education.

Customers of all ages called her “Aggie,” rather than Miss Hogg, and, according to Hart’s history text, she spoke in a Scottish brogue, greeting children with “Well, aye, aye, how are you the day?” and mothers with “How are the wee ‘uns?”

Idiosyncratically, she often wore both pairs of her glasses one on top of the other. The store had a bell to summon her when she was in the back garden.

Children flocked to Aggie’s for sweeties. Just one penny was enough for numerous caramels with vanilla cream inside, called “bull’s eyes,” or sugar sticks in various colours.

Naughty children stole icing sugar from an open box. To stop this, Aggie substituted look-alike Epsom salts. Eating Epsom salts caused diarrhea. Aggie had no more problems with the children.

Written by Susan Goldenberg.

Originally published on December 31, 2021, on toronto.com.