Downtown St. Catharines: A growing cultural epicenter

Looking back on 2014/15, there have been many additions to the downtown core of St. Catharines. It has grown steadily over this past year, making it a promising area for young businesses, as well a booming centre of arts and culture. The following are some of these notable businesses that have been added to the downtown core and some that will be opening soon.

Christy Mitchell/The Brock Press

Christy Mitchell/The Brock Press

Beechwood Doughnuts
Beechwood Doughnuts, located at 5 James Street, is a true success story for small, downtown businesses. This small doughnut shop opened in mid-January of 2015 and immediately took St. Catharines by storm. Being the first vegan donut shop turned out to be a brilliant enterprise. Add to this the lengthy list of original flavours they bring to the table and you get one tasty treat. The people of St. Catharines are surely glad to have them as part of downtown experience. Since the store’s opening almost three months ago, they have sold out of their product on a regular basis, so much so that they have had to increase the doughnut production and hire more employees to keep up with the demand for their food.


Craft Arts Market
Craft Arts Market is another new addition to St. Catharines’ downtown area. Located at 7 James Street, it provides a helpful service to the local artisans and crafters in the city who are trying to make a living off of their hard work. It’s a fixed location where local artists can sell their handmade crafts to the public. This way they can get their feet off the ground as entrepreneurs and get their name out to build a reputation as having a well made product. Craft Arts Market is self-described as being similar to a travelling market of handmade goods, the difference being that they have a finite location. This is a good thing for local artisans. Not every crafts maker wants to have to go on tour to make a living off of their hard work. So for those who want to be able to stay close to home, Craft Arts Market is available. This is crucially important to the growing culture of downtown St. Catharines. There has been a clear precedent set in St. Catharines that it is a fervent supporter of the arts, no matter what form they take. Handmade crafts are a form of art and they need the support of the city and its people just like any other art form. Craft Arts Market helps provide that support for the local artisans and helps them connect with other supporters such as those who visit the location and buy from the vendors.


MindBomb Records
An exciting addition coming soon to the downtown core of St. Catharines is the record shop, MindBomb Records. The store will be located at 27 James Street and is set to open its doors on Apr. 18, which conveniently coincides with World Record Store Day. The store will be specializing in the sale of vinyl records, primarily newly printed ones but there is a chance that some gently used records will be available as well. On top of that, it will be selling some used CDs and select new CDs. There is also a small stage built into the store to host smaller, more intimate concerts. Mindbomb Records is yet another part of the continued growth of culture in downtown St. Catharines. Chris Charkowy, owner of Mindbomb Records, expressed the need for a return of culture to St. Catharines, for which Mindbomb Record will hold a key role.
“I grew up in time when you could go downtown and there were a few record stores and smaller businesses,” said Charkowy. “I feel like the last decade or so all downtown had to offer was bars and cafes. It’s really exciting to see younger entrepreneurs and smaller businesses opening up and even the bigger projects like the Arts Center and the Meridian Center. I feel like we’re a growing city and there are a lot of people who live here who would rather see it grow than to have to travel, like going to go Toronto, to see a concert or go record shopping. I’m really excited for all the growth.”

Christy Mitchell/The Brock Press

Christy Mitchell/The Brock Press

Performing Arts Centre
The new Performing Arts Centre currently being built downtown is sure to be a great addition to the culture of downtown St. Catharines. The building is being constructed at the corner of Carlisle and St. Paul, adjacent to Brock University’s new Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts (MIWSFPA), which is also under construction. The art centre itself will be a 95,000 square foot complex devoted to academia and culture. It will feature four new state-of-the-art performance venues: Partridge Hall, Cairns Recital Hall, Robertson Theatre and the Film Theatre that will be used for various performances. This is not only a great benefit to the students and the performers who will be using the space but also to the surrounding area. The great convergence of students to the area will surely bring a boom to the economy for the many local businesses operating nearby. Whether it be cafes, pubs, restaurants, nightclubs or storefronts, all have something to gain from a large number of students who are always looking for something new to tickle their fancy. On top of the economic health it can bring downtown, it will also add to the culture of the area. Arts students support the arts because they too wish to be supported, and having so many artist in one area will make the downtown core a cultural center like never before.


Meridian Centre
One of the most exceptional changes to downtown this year is the recent addition of the Meridian Centre located at One Ice Dogs Way. This arena has brought a new life to downtown. Since its completion it has become the host of the Niagara Ice Dogs hockey team and has also been the location for many events such as concerts, charity fashion shows and lacrosse games to name a few. The Meridian Centre has revitalized downtown St. Catharines by creating a new tourist attraction in the downtown core that can draw large groups of people from all around to create new opportunities for the local businesses located nearby. When people come to see their favourite band play, or watch the Ice Dogs play a game, they are drawn to the downtown area and the local businesses therein. Perhaps they would like to celebrate an Ice Dogs victory at one of the many respectable clubs, or maybe they would like to grab a bite to eat before a show at one of the many outstanding restaurants near the arena. The possibilities for discovering new and exciting places to go and enjoy downtown are endless.
The growth of downtown St. Catharines as a cultural epicenter is a truly exciting prospect. Seeing it evolve into a place of art and opportunity for local businesses and artists makes it a part of the city which the community can be proud.

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