Downtown Kitchener!

While reading the Record this past weekend it occurred to me that we might have an issue with something in Downtown Kitchener. You don’t notice it right away, but it slowly creeps into your mind the more that you think about things. You really notice it at the corner of King and Queen. Kitchener has an abundance of second hand stores, pawn shops, and pay-day loan stores within minutes of each other. These stores have little or no value to anyone. Their main purpose is to prey on the poor. Buying items for much lower then should be received, or giving you money for more money in the future.

This usually wouldn’t warrant any further discussion, but we just had a great restaurant have to close its doors because of rent increase; and we have a brewery desperately looking for somewhere to set up shop in the downtown. If Kitchener would like to shape up their central area and maintain the momentum that they have going from the tech district, they need to start removing the dragging-down- society retail shops. There is a need for these places, but these should be destination stores. Not in the central part of the city. The reason we have pawn shops and pay day cash loans is mainly because of alcohol and drug habits. By allowing businesses to thrive on the masses, Kitchener will always be doomed to live the cycle of a failing downtown district.

By watching first-hand how much trouble TWB Coop Brewery has had trying to find a way into the downtown, it’s been disheartening. Most businesses would have given up by now. Or would have gone to another city to begin their pursuit. They have been looking for more than a year for a place to call home; to begin to make some profit and build their brand. Zoning by-laws and high rent have come into play as well. TWB’s start up campaign was a huge success. Residents of Kitchener have shown time and time again that if you have a great product, you will succeed. Still nothing, it’s not for a lack of effort on their front. They have looked at multiple places to make this happen. Nothing has panned out as of yet.

Meanwhile, Imbibe was the absolute best place to go for a beer after work. Having multiple craft beer options daily. Laid back staff, and a very chill vibe. They were just starting to get into a groove of having regular customers. I thought they were going to have something special for years to come. The lease for their spot in the Museum was up, and the rent was hiked based on what the going rate was in the area. Another one bites the dust. It’s discouraging to see people with great ideas on how to enhance the downtown have such a difficult time making the dream become a reality. And if they have a sliver of success the rent then gets increased.

I want to support local businesses. But it has to be a business that has a value. Something that gives back as much as it takes from the community. Donates their venues to local events. Stays on top of all things Kitchener. We need the city to take a stand, and look at all angles when it comes to making this city a better place to live. I am personally in a competition with Waterloo. I believe that the city of Kitchener has more character, and can be a great landing spot for people that want to set up shop here. Let’s have a look at these zoning by-laws that are in place. Are they outdated? Maybe if you own a building take a look at the type of place that is going to be moving in to the spot. Will Imbibe increase the value of your property or bring in business for you? Yes, I think it will. Make it work with them so that everybody can be successful. We are almost there. This is already a city that I am proud to live in, but I want it to be a city where I can bring anybody to the downtown area and wow them with a unique experience. Which does not include a pay day loan. It has been a great run over the past five years or so seeing the central area of the city transform into an entertainment district. Let’s keep the ball rolling, and make this a city worth talking about.

Enlightened by Twitter about Downtown Kitchener

I have been enlightened by Twitter. It’s not the way that you would think that it would happen though. I have added everything in the area of KW. Anything from restaurants, social groups, board game cafes, and theaters. Each and every day I can scroll through the Twitter feed and find out what’s happening right around the corner. The internet is a scorched earth sometimes to find correct information. Companies don’t have time to put everything that is going on up on their website constantly. Twitter is a needed tool for local businesses to access as many people as possible in a short time frame.
The other day I found out that there was a produce market that was opening up in Belmont Village for one day. I had no idea that this was even happening until it popped up in my Twitter feed. This seems to be a market that hasn’t quite been discovered by every business. The amount of times that Sara and I have gone to a restaurant because we noticed a $5.00 pint deal at a particular place is astonishing. Downtown Kitchener now advertises $5.00 hump day specials at select businesses downtown. We don’t even look at the websites any longer. There are places that we have never eaten at or didn’t even know existed until we were notified by the hashtag #KWawesome.

I wouldn’t quite say that this is an untapped market, but it’s the only way that advertising works on us. We are the new generation. If you are looking for ways to advertise as a business, and spoiling somebody’s YouTube video is not the answer. You might want to look at Twitter to drum up business. The Boathouse and Imbibe are the best examples in the area for things that seem to work. Word of mouth and social media is practically the only way that these two places have brought in customers. Imbibe unfortunately was forced to close because of rising rental costs at the Museum, but the Boathouse seems to be thriving. If you haven’t been there, check it out. It’s the only outdoor patio that has a view. There is something soothing about sitting by the water and enjoying a pint of beer.

In a city that has historically owned by the Charcoal group we need to help these smaller places. There are more and more places popping up each day in the downtown Kitchener area. Have you heard of La Guanaquita? It’s a brilliant El Salvadorian restaurant above Frankies. It has the best papusas in the city, and offer salsa lessons on certain nights. Want to try something different? Gilt is a sharing restaurant that pushes the boundaries of creative food. They have specials nearly every weekday night. Just want a burger? McCabe’s has one of the best. On Tuesday night they have a half price special for burgers. All of these places are within a 5 minute walk of each other.

When was the last time you went out to Boston Pizza and after the meal was over you said to yourself “That was delicious. That pasta dish was worth every single penny of the $18.95?”

Twitter is the catalyst to everything for me. If there is an advertisement for half price appetizers and $5.00 pints you will have my sights set on you. If you live in this area, add everything KW related to your Twitter feed. You can find things to do, places to go, and stuff to eat within minutes every single day of the week. This city is a difficult city to be bored in while living downtown. Most people think you have to live in Toronto for constant entertainment. I disagree, if we can start to get bigger live music here; which may happen in the near future with the tech district and craft beer boom. This city can thrive. It’s a very exciting time to be in this area. Hope to see everybody out and about. You can catch me enjoying the view from the patio at the Boathouse sometime between the hours of 3-6 on most weekdays.