As I walk past our old storefront at 10 King St. E, which has been empty for over 8 months, I wonder why someone hasn’t opened something new and fresh. Attracting small business retailers to Downtown Kitchener is something I feel very passionate about; I believe new retailers would greatly benefit our existing businesses (and it would be exciting to have more retail buddies in the core).
Slinging groceries is fun, but it’s not easy! Retail is hard and consumer behaviours are changing faster than ever. It seems that having a brick and mortar store is becoming more about experience over product and price. Creative retailers are going above and beyond traditional retail structures, and are pushing into education and entertainment spheres. In this blog post, I want to highlight a few innovative retailers I admire both from afar and just around the corner.
Outside the City:
Needlework Fabric Shop and Creative Workspace, Hamilton
I visited Needlework Fabric Shop and Creative Workspace before Christmas, and was pumped to see people in the shop working on their sewing projects. Needlework is a fabric shop that offers workshops and sew by the hour services. I felt super comfortable browsing their modern and cheerful fabrics, while noticing patterns and projects that were perfect for beginners. In addition to a lovely shop on James Street, they have a well-stocked online store with an up-to-date event and workshop calendar.
The Bookshelf, Guelph
A bookstore, a cinema, and a bar— all under one roof. It’s a community hub, that is centrally located on Quebec Street in Guelph. The bookstore is also conveniently attached to Mijidaa, (a cafe and bistro serving “a modern take on our northern gastronomic history”) allowing restaurant guests to pop in and explore books on the shelf (hello increased foot traffic!). A vibrant business operating since the 1970s, the Bookshelf has revenue streams that complement each other. I bought my first ever Hillside Ticket at the Bookshelf (oh the memories of buying tickets in person). Their website footer sums up their presence really well: “A BOOKSTORE THAT shows movies • A CINEMA THAT serves dinner • A RESTO-BAR THAT launches books”.
The Dirty Apron, Vancouver
I LOVE THIS PLACE!!! It’s a cooking school and lunchtime hot spot with a small retail area featuring great foodie gift items. Plus, they operate a catering business! The Dirty Apron opened when I lived in Vancouver in 2009. I felt so lucky to live down the street and see this place take off. They started with a large retail section, but with growing lunch demand, transitioned this section into available seating. I recommend their crab and shrimp baguette, and if you have a sweet tooth, you have to try the Dirty Twixter! They’re opening a second location in the Vancouver Airport; which means every time I go back to Van City I’ll be able to get my Dirty Apron Fix at YVR! :)
In Downtown Kitchener:
Living Fresh, Kitchener
Right here in our own backyard we have Tina Sharpe, my go-to florist, who runs a boutique + florist + floral school. When I first opened Legacy Greens, Tina shared her wisdom about having diverse revenue models so that your shop is not 100% dependent on foot traffic sales. Check out their 6-Week Floristry 101 Course and their Wedding Florist Workshop.
Golden Mean Wellness Shoppe
Health practitioners, green beauty products, supplements, and a smoothie bar! Seriously, their smoothies are amazingly delicious. My favourite is the Battery Life: banana, peanut butter, coffee, chocolate almond milk deliciousness.
The Golden Mean Wellness Shoppe opened in 2016 and has a team of health practitioners: a Naturopath, Chiropractor, Registered Massage Therapist, Nutritionists, a Clinical Social Worker and a Reiki Practitioner. And, they have a 5 star rating on Google Reviews!
Do you have an idea?
As a small, independent grocery store in downtown Kitchener, Legacy Greens is dependent on foot traffic. However, we also run a produce box subscription program and our events bring new customers into our shop. We especially love collaborating with other people and businesses, and have even hosted a few different pop-ups in our store.
If you have an idea for a retail or food business venture in Downtown Kitchener, I would love to have coffee with you! Please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I have lots to share about my opening years, and would love to be a resource for you as you explore your business idea. :)