August 5, 2020

By BRADLEY ZORGDRAGER

Discover your downtown
Photo by Bradley Zorgdrager

Do you get downtown? Then you should get downtown!
If you don’t get downtown, Mark Garner, executive director of the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Area, hopes that you soon will.
With the upcoming Christmas season, he’s aiming to attract students downtown for a unique shopping experience and then keep them coming back for more.
“You might be going to Toronto, you might be going to Hamilton to try and find that vibe. … We don’t want you to get into the car; we’re just building it downtown.”
Though he noted there are already plenty of “great shops” downtown, Garner hopes to fill the empty retail spaces with the stores the public wants to see.
The BIA is partnering with the City of Kitchener to do a public consultation on what they want downtown. He said the focus is “hipsters” and the post-secondary demographic.
“You guys can determine what this place means to you and what you want it to be.”
But to determine what you want downtown, you first have to experience what it has to offer.
Garner highlighted 10 must-visit stores for the college student: Cafe Pyrus, Encore Records, X-Disc-C, Out of the Past, The Catacombs, Gloss Boutique and Salon, Rarefunk, The New York Pita Co., Civilian Printing and Casablanca Bookshop (see sidebar for more details).
If none of them float your boat, there might be something else for you among the many unique bars, authentic restaurants and diverse stores.
Additionally, the BIA is trying to attract other businesses from different cities to open extensions of their brand here.
“Do I want to bring a Banana Republic downtown? No, it’s not going to sell. But do I want to bring snowboarding shops and that type of stuff? Ya, that’s what we’re going for. That’s what we want,” Garner said.
If you don’t have the extra money to splurge at these stores, you could attend one of the many events downtown.
In addition to the KOI Music Festival, Garner hopes to partner with Chicopee Ski and Summer Resort for a weekend “Snow Jam.” He wants to build a snow hill in a parking lot next to a stage where bands will play on a Friday, before moving the event to Chicopee for the remainder of the weekend.
“Lawyers don’t really like when you truck in 20,000 tonnes of snow and put a railing on it and say, ‘Go for it,’ and blast music. But it’s perfect. Where else can you do that stuff? Nowhere.”
He said this isn’t the only unique feature to a downtown he describes as “authentic, eclectic and organic.”
“Come discover your downtown. There’s places for you. There’s places for me. There’s places for everybody,” said Garner.
Discover your downtown
Photos by Bradley Zorgdrager

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