Archives: hamilton stores

the upholstery man

I had the great pleasure a short while ago of meeting a very interesting man.

His upholstery shop was closing after over half a century of service in Hamilton.  I was fortunate enough to take a peak at his old shop and to spend some time hearing his stories.

During my visits he showed me some of the most beautiful hand painted and embroidered spools of fabric purchased from back in the heydays of New York City -the designer’s name hand painted onto the end of the fabric on each bolt.  He was selling the bolts for only $30-50 each -they must’ve been a pretty penny back in the day. When I went to visit him for a second day he had mentioned that just after I had left some folks from the textile museum stopped in to take photos of the fabric and do some documentation.  He said he felt a bit like a movie star! I had wished that we weren’t in the process of purging and decluttering our home otherwise I would have taken at least 1-2 bolts off his hands without a doubt.

He seemed to be 80+ years old but with his wits and humour still abound.  He knew very well how to price the items he was selling. There were some great antique pieces that needed to be gone by the end of the week. An old medicine cabinet, wooden farm chairs, and wooden trunk plus many other pieces being over 100+ years old (and priced at over $100).  He was sure to sell to some real antique buyers -no garage sale steals to be had here. And those pieces did sell.

I really felt like I could’ve visited the shop everyday that it was to remain open (there were only 5 days left until everything had to be out). I felt quite enchanted with the store’s history as well as the life of the shop owner.  The last day I visited was to pick up the least antique like thing in the shop.  Steve and I bought a shelf unit that would fit our record collection perfectly as well as our newly purchased TV (first TV purchase ever!).  While Steve went to get the dolly from our house to wheel the shelf back home I chatted with the upholsterer.  I felt a kind of sadness for shops similar to this one with such history rooted in Hamilton -all the stories he had and people he’d met throughout his life in the city that would soon be lost or never told.  I wanted to hear about everything: how the city had changed, how and why he ended up in Hamilton… I intended on coming back every day that week, but for some reason didn’t make it back.  The store is now empty and closed.

I hope one day that I run into the upholsterer again…

the ‘other’ side of downtown

The boundaries of what I consider downtown Hamilton are somewhat arbitrary. Downtown for me is often defined by the radius of wherever I can walk 15 to 20 minutes from my neighbourhood.

This usually means walking 15-20 minutes toward the core, as into Gore Park, Jackson Square, the Farmers Market, and James Street North. I do venture east on King Street on occasion to pick up some German delicacies from Denninger’s or to peek into J.H. Gordon Books. But for the most part I find that I rarely continue to walk east past the infamous steel Downtown Hamilton archway at King and Wellington. The gateway so boldly implies that wherever you were just east of Wellington, you weren’t downtown.

On foot I don’t often explore beyond this imaginary boundary unless it’s through the Stinson neighbourhood side streets (a more picturesque and relaxing route for walking). Travelling outside the designated “downtown” area more often than not calls for transportation by car, bus or if I’m feeling dangerous and daring by bicycle — whatever mode of transport that offers the quickest way to travel through the main thoroughfares such as Main or King Streets.

There’s no need to stop, to dawdle, or look at storefronts (what storefronts?). Just keep on keeping on; this isn’t downtown and there’s not much going on. Right?

As I drive from east to west on King along some of the roughest patches of road in the city, bumping along the potholes, I sometimes sneak quick-second glances at the old buildings and seemingly abandoned storefronts. I imagine a time when this “dejected” part of downtown was considered part of the whole, when it must’ve hustled and bustled like the rest of King Street once did.

There’s a part of me that is intrigued by this “other” downtown side of King East, similar to how much of Hamilton pulls at my heartstrings. I’m a nostalgic optimist who gets caught up in daily fantasies about Hamilton’s past and potential future. What can I say?

On a recent hot and dry summer afternoon I decided to get to know King Street East on a more intimate level. I took a long walk way down King East — waaaaay past Wellington and its Downtown Hamilton sign.

An almost immediate and obvious observation was the street broadening to accommodate the four and five lanes of car traffic. It felt like I was in a different world. As the traffic moved with the timed traffic lights I felt the ebbing and flowing of the one-way King Street traffic blowing by me, and then leaving eerie ghost-town-like gaps of four-lane emptiness.

But as I walked, I could tell that once there was a time when this leg of King Street was alive and thriving. Its buildings have the height and stature of a proper downtown cityscape. There are storefronts and neighbourhoods north and south that have some real character and charm.

For a little extra read on the Carlton Tavern (it’s for sale) click here.  Paul Wilson writes about the soon to close Tavern.

This whole strip of King feels like it was lost in some bizarre time warp from the ’60s and ’70s — perhaps that’s when businesses started to falter and pack up for the ‘burbs?

Having grown up in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I was reminded of Sesame Street — or New York in that era: slightly gritty, with that rusty kind of soft-focused haze that all things filmed during that time have. There were lots of automotive and used car dealerships with those old shiny tinsel banners (see my post on that here), closed up and abandoned storefronts with For Sale or For Rent signs.

I did pass by a few places that seem to hold it down on King East, like the classy Newman’s Menswear established in 1927, Rebel’s Rock Irish Pub, plus a few other restaurants and eateries. I noted a music therapy practice called Fermata that stood out and was looking fresh and new.

King East does have signs of life. The people I passed were friendly, said their hellos and waved as I snapped my photos. I do believe it has the potential to one day become something more than just buildings most people speed by in their cars. Maybe one day the storefronts will again start to cater to the surrounding neighbourhoods by providing practical stores and destinations found in other thriving communities — say a bakery, a deli, a library, a doctor’s office or a mom-and-pop grocery store.

On my way back west on King, I sat for a moment in the shade by the fountain in the parkette (a miniature Gore Park) across from the First Place building at Wellington. I had a great view of the two different and divided worlds of King East.

I wondered if and when these two seemingly opposite “downtown” city spaces would ever merge into one.

I hope that the bravery to set up new shops and try out new things continues along King East as it has in many other arteries of the city like James North, Locke, Ottawa and Concession streets. It is a nice chunk of city that needs just a little love and appreciation.


This post was originally printed in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, August 4th 2012 -you can find it here.

j.h. gordon books

Like much of downtown Hamilton, King Street has seen its fair share of vacant buildings and lacklustre storefronts.  So I was happy to see another store opening up that I would potentially see myself regularly popping into.  It seems like stores like Julie Gordon’s bookstore -J.H. Gordon Books- is just one of the many places deciding to set up shop on King.  Newish stores like Accoutrements, MODify Your Closet have opened on King in the past year or two bringing some new life to the street while fitting in nicely among other established stores that have stood the test of time such as Dennigers Foods of the World, Tundra Leather and least I forget Rock’N Tees -how long has this shop been around for?!

I don’t remember how or when exactly I first stumbled across Julie Gordon’s blog, but I remember being thrilled as I read through it that a neighbourhood bookstore was soon to be opening up on King Street East. Yay!

It is with great perseverance and determination that Julie has finally got her gorgeous bookshop.  People don’t often know the behind the scenes work it takes to get a new business up and running in this city; the red tape, renos, permits… the list could go on and on.  Now that the wheels are finally in motion and the store is open it seems like all her hard work has paid off and was worth it all in the end -the place looks great!

Kristin (from I Heart Hamilton) and I were in the neighbourhood checking out Apple Berry Café (next door), and being the book lovers that we both are, we couldn’t resist taking a peak in. Everything is beautifully arranged with a refined curatorial selection of choice books from History, to Sci-Fi to classics and even rare antique books.  Julie mentioned in the next little while that she would be expanding her collection of Graphic Novels, which I was super excited about.  In the mean time I picked up a few books myself for some summer reading, and made a mental note that the selection was fabulously ripe for future gift buying for all those book lovers in my life too.

Julie is as passionate about literature as she is about Hamilton.  As a result she has already started to build a community of likeminded literary enthusiasts that frequent the shop for different bookish occasions.  Stop by her store some time to chat books with Julie or to see what types of literary events she has in store for the neighbourhood.

Welcome to King Street Julie!

You can check out Kristin’s blog post about our mini tour of King St. here.

*J.H. Gordon Books, 314 King St. East, 905.522,1862


apple berry café with i heart hamilton

A little while ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kristin from I Heart Hamilton.  Both of us, being explorers of Hamilton, decided to collaborate in our meanderings and check out a few of the new places popping up on King St. East together.

So happy to see revitalizing changes going on along this strip of King Street!

Our first priority was to stop for a bite to eat.  Kristin, knowing all things Hamilton, got me caught up with the word on the street that a new Caribbean lunch spot had just opened up.

In the space where the old Barbarossa Moroccan tea house used to be now stands the brand new Apple Berry Café.  It’s a down to earth kind of place that’s got the right prices for healthy, fresh lunches and snacks on the go or to eat in house.  Kristin and I were in no hurry so we sat back in a window-seat booth ordered our lunches and chatted with owner Opal Osiol.

Opal is just about the happiest woman on King Street!  You can tell she loves what she does mostly because she does everything with a gorgeous smile. When chatting with Opal she mentioned that for years she lived in Hamilton just down the street from King but had just recently moved to Oakville. When she saw the space on King Street become available and the opportunity to open up Apple Berry she couldn’t turn it down despite now having to commute into the city. Funny how things sometimes work out, isn’t it?

You can tell that the business for Opal is really a labour of love. She’s committed to making all her dishes fresh and from scratch. While we waited for our lunches Opal squeezed up two fresh lemonades.  They were super refreshing on a hot summer day and they were priced so reasonably too -$1 each!

The menu is pretty extensive.  Ranging from breakfast, baked goods and sandwiches to full lunches with sides.  It’s kinda a secret but Opal even mentioned that although not on the menu on some days (if they have all the ingredients) her daughter, who works along side Opal, would cook up roti too (you just have to ask)!

I went for a lunch combo of pan fried fish with lemon and butter.  With the combo you can pick a side of either home baked macaroni and cheese (which looked awesome), rice pilaf or rice with beans.  I opted for rice with beans.  For a meal including a drink and taxes, everything was under $10!

While Kristin and I were there we saw a bunch of people picking up their pre-ordered lunches to go and we saw Julie Gordon from J.H. Gordon Books next door stopping by for a freshly made smoothie.  Apple Berry already seems like a great neighbourhood fixture, and even if you’re not from the neighbourhood you should stop by for a bite to eat. There are some good things going on over there on King East.  While you’re there stop in and visit Julie at her bookstore too.

Apple Berry’s does local neighbourhood delivery service for lunches on the go to anywhere in short walking distances.  Or if you’re in a hurry and have a limited lunch hour you could always order your lunch in advance and swing by to pick up too. Apple Berry’s is open from 9:30am Mon-Wed 5:30pm  (Thurs-Fri 9:30am until 7:30pm).  Friday, July 27th is there Grand Opening! Stop by for some free menu sampling and say hi to Opal.

It has been great over the past few months to be meeting up with some of the other fabulous people that are just as much in love with Hamilton as I am. Had a great time with Kristin exploring, and I feel honoured being included on one of I Heart Hamilton’s tour stops. Thanks Kristin!

Check out I Heart Hamilton’s post here.

*Apple Berry’s Café, 312 King St. East, 905.962.8488


treat yo’self

I can count on my one hand the number of manicures and pedicures I’ve had in my life (that’s not many). However, now that I’m entering into the last trimester of my pregnancy I’ve self-declared that I deserve a little pampering.  When you can’t bend down anymore to take care of your own feet and your hands swell and hurt, sometimes you’ve just gotta get someone else to step in and sometimes you’ve just got to treat yo’self.

Enter the Ten Spot.

When I was still living in Queen West in Toronto I remember when the Ten Spot Beauty Bar opened up on Queen. I unfortunately never took the chance to go before I moved to Hamilton. But funny how sometimes things come around full cirlce; Kristen Wood owner of the Ten Spot and a relatively new Hamiltonian resident herself has just opened a Ten Spot here in Hamilton on James St. North! Not yet even a week since its opening I’ve upped my life total of mani/pedis by having visited the beauty bar on multiple occasions (already)! Making up for lost time? I know -so overindulgent! But I can’t stop myself. I think that I could get used to this pampered life-style. The staff are super friendly, and I always leave feeling like a rock star with the nails and funky colours to match.

Kristen has created her own fab line of lacquers and polishes called Get Nailed.  With the Get Nailed product line also comes microbeads.  Being such a manicure novice I had no idea what this was.  The ladies at the Ten Spot happily busted some of the microbeads out and showed me what it was all about.

My fav was the black microbeads on the black Get Nailed polish -so black caviar shiny!

Click here for the complete DIY guide to doing your own microbeaded nails.

I should mention that the Ten Spot is not limited to just manicures and pedicures but their services also include their acclaimed waxes; bikini: Brazilian, Cracker Jack, and the other usual hairy culprits.  And gentlemen services are not just for ladies only, but also include a whole menu of men’s services too; The Hand Job -man-icure for men, The Foot Job -pedicure for men, the Manzillian, Mankini etc.

The Ten Spot is a fun and sassy new addition to James North!  Congrats on your opening in Hamilton!

*The Ten-Spot, 146 James St. North, 289.309.1010

summer time

So much to do! So much going on!

I love summer! I also love that I have the summer off this year, and that there is so much to do locally in the city to fill up my days.

Just this week I sat on the rooftop of Jackson square and ate my schnitzel sandwich from the market; in the breeze, with the sun, and the beautiful sound of Terra Lightfoot‘s voice singing CCR and Fleetwood Mac covers carrying through the open air. Sigh.

Two young ladies "rushing" the stage.

The next day I headed to Gore Park for their grand opening of the new designated pedestrian area and their Summer Promenade’s first of several weekly events. So nice to see pedestrians taking over that space and seeing crowds of people gathering and hanging out at Gore Park.  The Gore Park Promenade event with vendors, and live music runs Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays 11am-5:30pm until September 15th.

Image by Jason Leach taken from Raise the Hammer

Last night I joined the Stinson neighbourhood in Bishop’s Park for their weekly Thursday evening concerts: Songs From the Bishop, running from July 5th to August 23rd. It was such a nice and laid back community event, it just made me love where we live more than ever.

I feel like I say this every month… but tonight’s art crawl is going to be an awesome one! There’s a craft show being put on by the newly open Mint Studio in the Sonic Unyon building (3rd floor).

Blush’s pink trailer coming all the way from Guelph selling gorgeous and delicate women’s clothing in partnership with Beaux Mondes.

The Sweet Ice Snow Cone ladies will be out selling their refreshing treats.  Check out their promo video it is so adorably sweet!

The AGH’s new Design Annex will be open for its very first art crawl.

Dr. Disc will be celebrating its 21st birthday with bands like The Rest, New Hands, The Dirty Nil, and Greg Preston & The Great Machine playing on their rooftop. Plus after Dr. Disc’s Raise the Roof event there’s an after party at The Casbah.  That’s a super packed crawl!

On Saturday there’s also the Farm Crawl!

It seems like everyday there’s something to do, and some place to check out.

concession street

Concession Street is included in my view of Hamilton’s downtown cityscape; I don’t need a car to get there but instead can opt for a healthy stair climb up to this little urban strip.  I have to be honest in that I don’t get up there as much as I would like to.  From time to time I’ll make my way up for a delicious brunch at Papa Leo’s.  I still have plans for some further Concession Street explorations to check out the bowling alley, and stop by their weekend farmer’s market.

I do have hopes for a continued revitalization of Concession Street and see it becoming like a mini-Locke or Ottawa Street on the mountain brow.  I love to see the pockets of redevelopment in other places in the city besides just James North and Locke Streets.  Concession Street here we come!  Can someone please open up a milk-bar and a coffee shop?  That way when I climb those stairs I can be rewarded with a delicious ice-cream and coffee treat!

On a recent visit to Concession Street I noticed a store called The Garage Sale Place.  Although, not a new antique store (it’s been open for 15+ years) it was my first time happening into the store.  It has all sorts of interesting gems to rummage through from old dressers, wardrobes and tables, to pachinko machines, mirrors, and picture frames all for some pretty bargain prices.

The Garage Sale Place, antiques, Concession St., Hamilton, Ontario

The Garage Sale Place, Concession St., Hamilton, antiques

We picked up this mid-century basket chair for just $10!  It does need a bit of refurbishing but for $10 you can’t really ever go wrong.  It will fit nicely into the ever evolving nursery room that we’re currently putting together.  I see this chair perhaps under a sheep skin rug.

midcentury basket chair, antique thrift find, concession street, Hamilton


*The Garage Sale Place, 596 Concession St. 905.387.6337



If you have the slightest itch towards craftiness, and sewing then you need to make your way down to Needlework on James Street North.  It carries beautiful fabrics, patterns, crafty books, sewing and embroidery supplies.

I love that there is now a sewing place downtown, and that I no longer have to get in a car to grab some fabric, or a button.  Not to mention if you don’t have a sewing machine or if you just want a different sewing/work environment you can pay by the hour to use their in-store machines.

On top of it being just about the prettiest store ever -high tin gold ceilings, bright and airy, and filled with creative inspiration one would usually only dreams of- it also offers fabulous classes. Next month’s workshops sound amazing; a leather moccasin making class umm hello!? Awesome!

Over the weekend I attended my very first ever introductory embroidery class at Needlework.  Our talented instructor for the day Kate Jackson taught us some basic embroidery stitches to get us novice embroiders on our way to creating our own masterpieces.

The samples below are from Kate Jackson (our instructor), Kate Hunter (partner of Needlework & avid embroiderist), and someone who I know is on their way to becoming a fantastic embroiderer -today was her first time and look at her stitches!

Next month Kate Jackson will be back to teach two more classes: Machine Embroidery, and Hand Embroidered Monograms.  I’m especially interested in going to the Monograms class.  I think that embroidered lettering is so gorgeous.  My goal is to one day have the alphabet from A-Z in a variety of fanciful embroidered stitches.

It was great to meet Liz Simpson (partner of Needlework) and all the lovely folks that came to last Saturday’s class.  I hope everyone enjoyed continuing their projects for the day in the comforts of a shady and breezy garden patio stitching away.

For another sneak peak at Liz and Kate’s store check out Beaux Mondes’ post here.

*Needlework, 174 James St. North, 905.667.5663, Open Tues-F 11-6, Sat 11-5, Sun 11-4

spring crawl

This month’s artcrawl is going to be a good one!  SO many things going on;  Steve and our talented friend Jamie Lawson both have their solo openings tomorrow night, there’ll be the super-fabulous vintage dress sale that White Elephant is hosting, and CBC Hamilton will finally have their official doors open for the crawl too (yay)!

Some sneak peaks…

Steve Newberry, artist, b contemporary, straits

Steve’s show is called Straits, and is amazing!  It features new 2D and 3D works using mixed media, metal, and routered wood.  His show will be up at b contemporary gallery at 226 James St. North until June 2nd.

Up on the 3rd floor of 126 James St.  North, be sure to check out Jamie Lawson’s exhibit Albedo in Sylvia Nickerson’s Open Studio.  His work is looking fab, and he will also have some prints for sale to adorn your lovely walls.

To get your one of a kind 1940′s-60′s vintage dress you must check out White Elephant’s Dreaming of Dresses -vintage dress sale!  They’ve got the combined super-power forces of Ottawa’s Victoire, Hamilton’s Peacock Chic, and Toronto’s Love in the Afternoon to put on the best vintage dress sale you’ve ever seen!

White Elephant, Dreaming of Dresses, Vintage Dress sale, Hamilton, James St. north

With the quickly warming weather this art crawl is sure to be a busy one.  I heard that last month the count was 6000 people!  Well done.  If you do plan to stop by the crawl it runs form 7-11pm and please remember to bring a non perishable good to Cannon & James North (specifically baby formula and baby food)!  Help your community!



One thing I love about Hamilton… are people who love Hamilton too.

When I was taking a French night class a little while back for an assignment we were asked to think of someone we admire to discuss for our next class as a conversation piece.  People talked about Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr, their mother or their fathers.  I came to the next class and launched into how much I admire local Hamiltonian Matt Jelly.  I had just moved to Hamilton and was inspired by Matt’s love and passion for this city.  I admired his civic involvement and take-action mentality to get things done and create change.  I like people who do what they say, and while they’re at it get other people motivated to do the same.

I live downtown, and close to the “International Village”, where I usually  rarely make it past Dennigers heading east on King.  I have always thought of King Street as a place with a lot of potential but just a little empty or dare I say vacant?  More recently I have happily noticed new stores popping up in the neighbourhood like MODify Your Closet and Accoutrements.  What pushed me further along east on King was that I really wanted  to check out Matt Jelly’s recent art exhibition of Hamilton maps at Freeway Coffee House.  So off I headed east on King past my usual landmark destination.

On my walk to Freeway I discovered so many new places like Tundra Leather -a one stop shop for all things related to leather and working with leather (tools and all!).  It’s been open since 1963!  How had I never noticed this gem? There’s a new bookshop (J.H. Gordon Books) that’s being primed to open too.

AND then there’s Freeway Coffee House.  What an awesome space!  They serve local Hamilton roasted Red Hill Coffee, they host events and parties, and they have huge windows that stretch nearly the entire length of the vast space between floor to ceiling overlooking the parkette across the street.

I loved Matt Jelly’s Hamilton map exhibit.  I enjoy seeing and experiencing things that I have a direct connection to.  So of course my favourite map was my neighbourhood’s map.

I had a friend that told me that when she was younger she’d always giggle and say “cooties” instead of “Cootes”.  Haha Cooties Paradise.

Matt’s exhibit is showing at Freeway Coffee House until May 11th.  If you’ve never been to Freeway or that neck of King Street go and check it out. Grab a coffee at Freeway check out Jelly’s maps, and then head over to J. H. Gordon Books, which is scheduled to open this month.

*Freeway Coffee House, 333 King St. East

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