A major change is on the horizon for downtown Stoney Creek.
A stretch of storefronts, covering nearly an entire city block on the north side of King Street East, is expected to succumb to the wrecking ball in the coming months to make way for development of an eight-story mixed-use building.
Several of the locations are already empty, with some carrying signs indicating an out-of-town developer eviction, and others noting that they have all moved to a new community.
Some businesses still survive – however, their remaining days on the high street are numbered.
Take the long-running Picture Palace, a custom art and framing store that has been operating in the community for over four decades. In the storefront, owner Joanne Wynhofen displayed a sign thanking residents for their patronage over the years.
Set to close on July 31, Wynhofen told the Spectator that she plans to move the business to her home in Burlington. If that doesn’t work within a year, she will try to move the store to the community.
“I love it here,” said Wynhofen, who was emotional at her departure. “The people are great, my clients are fabulous. They made my life perfect.
Downtown Stoney Creek is one of more than a dozen Business Improvement Areas (BIAs) that dot the city. Stretching from Lake Avenue to New Mountain Road, it’s one of the smallest in Hamilton, said general manager Tracy MacKinnon.
It’s one of many commercial districts – not all neighborhoods have ZACs – that have seen change amid the pandemic and perhaps now a return to pre-pandemic buzz as life in the city transitions to a new normal.
The Spectator visited downtown Stoney Creek earlier this week and spoke with a handful of small business owners to get their thoughts on how the pandemic has affected the area and what changes they will see in the months and years to come.
Sandy Pavao, owner of Cake Empire, told The Spectator that she credits moving to the neighborhood in the spring of 2020 as one of the main reasons her shop has managed to survive for the past two and a half years.
The location has better visibility and more foot traffic than its last location on Highway 8 — but it’s always been a “long, rough road,” she noted.
“As the pandemic unfolds, I feel like I’m finally seeing the full potential of this place,” Pavao said.
The bakery is one of a handful of businesses that have opened on the street since the pandemic began, according to MacKinnon.
Some of these new companies include Bleach Please Hair Studio, La Sana Yoga, Bosphorus Donair, MDP Accounting Firm, Safari Children’s Dentistry and The Lucky Gem.
MacKinnon noted that the number of new businesses opening in the community has been limited by the limited amount of retail space available.
“We’ve had a lot of businesses wanting to move here, but there just isn’t the space,” she said.
The planned development will have dedicated retail space on the ground floor, which Wynhofen fears will be unaffordable for small businesses to rent.
However, Pavao and MacKinnon have expressed enthusiasm for the residential part of the development, which they hope will result in support for surrounding local businesses.
“I think in the long run it will be a good thing,” Pavao said.
And with summer in full swing, foot traffic is starting to “pick up,” said Yagmur Kara, whose family owns Bosphorus Donair, located inside their Mediterranean grocery store, Bosphorus Market.
The BIA held its annual Strawberry Folk Fest in June, Jazz in the Creek returned earlier this month, and a Pumpkin Festival is planned for the fall. There is also a weekly farmer’s market.
“Events definitely help us attract customers,” Kara said. “But it’s not as busy as expected.”
The Spectator’s Shopping List
When The Spectator visited downtown Stoney Creek earlier this month, we got a taste of what you can find at a handful of stores on the Strip. Here are some important points.
Comics 1 Books
At Comic 1 Books, you can find graphic novels detailing adventures from Spider-Man and Batman to Hellboy and the Fantastic Four. The comic shop also sells specialty books, collectibles and back issues, as well as posters, clothing and toys.
Trinity Botanical Shop
At Trinity Botanical Boutique, customers can purchase incense, natural food products, tarot cards, supplements as well as tea, crystals, essential oils and natural cleansing products. The boutique also has an online store and offers other services through the Trinity Natural Health Centre.
At Cake Empire, customers can pick up cupcakes, scones and sugar cookies as well as ice cream and coffee. The shop also offers personalized cakes and gifts for parties such as weddings, birthdays and baby showers.