As you walk up Portland Street from King, you will have a choice of coffice spaces: on your left, Jimmy’s; on your right, Jimmy’s. You can sit in one and look across at the other.
The Jimmy’s on the left, at 100 Portland, is the original. It has multiple storeys and a pocket patio in the front. If you are like me, you will go in, look, see that it is too busy, and come out and cross the street. Every time so far.
The Jimmy’s on the right, at 107 Portland, is the newer of the two. Newer to Jimmy’s, that is. It’s not a new building. And it, too, offers you multiple choices. If you’re lucky and there’s room in the room you want.
Walk up and there’s a small front patio and, trust me, it’s not where you’d sit and work if you’re anything like me. Keep going.
Walk in the front door and you’re at the espresso bar and it’s noisy and chatty and there’s music playing. There are three small tables and a bench. The place has all the modern shiny brightness of a pub in the old part of Cork, which is to say almost none. And that’s why you’re here. But if you’re feeling less social you may not feel like planting at one of those tables.
Walk through the back door of that and you’re in a room that’s like the thorax of an insect: not the front and not the back, but it holds it all together. There are tables on both sides and wall plugs and a big mural of Jimmy Hoffa and one window with no view. It’s a hallway but wider, like some lakes are really just a bit of a river that ate something big.
Out the back door of that and you get to an actual hall, with two washrooms.
Another door. Step down. On your right is a door to a small courtyard. You could sit there. It’s almost as big as the exercise yard for solitary confinement prisoners at the supermax penitentiary. I’m told. It has no table.
Continue through that hallway, past Morrison and Hendrix in blue and black plus some plants, and you enter the true sanctuary, the place where I feel lucky if I can get a seat.
Especially if none of the other people in it are having annoying conversations. Like today.
One couple came down the hall an hour ago, chatting in that self-satisfied couple way, looked in here, declared it too quiet, and went back through the hall. Good. Bugger off.
The stereo, omnipresent in the front two rooms, has no speakers back here. You can still hear it, washing down the hall like the frothy front of the surf, along with the ongoing chat of the baristas (and the banging that all espresso bars have), but it’s over there. You’re back here. The tapping of laptop keys is a more present sound. The chirping of nearby birds is your stereo effect.
This back room has a large four-seater table. It has benches with low tables and padded chairs with no tables. It has bookshelves with old encyclopedias. It has cute old machines like a coin-operated coffee machine and an ancient radio console. Neither is in operation. It has an oriental rug. Next to the hall door is a window onto the pocket courtyard. Opposite is a big window on the alley plus a double backdoor with windows. The sunlight falls at angles and is as present as the front-room noise.
It is, in short, one of the most perfect work spaces I have found in all Toronto coffice-space-dom.
Don’t come here. I don’t want to keep finding it full.
If you do come here, don’t talk. There are two other rooms for that.
The birds around here are smart, by the way. I just saw one hopping around in the back room. It then flapped its wings, flew low through the doorway, into the hall, around the corner and outside, and up to the heavens. Clearly this is a place for birds that know how to be free and in control of their place in the world. And while it was in here, it, too, was quiet.