Alternative grocery store Food For Thought was a source for local veggies, spices, flours, and imported groceries for many, but the destruction of its former home by fire is taking its toll on a segment of the St. John’s community. The September 4th fire destroyed three attached buildings at Bates Hill on Duckworth Street, including the Oxfam building (where Food For Thought was located), an apartment building which housed George Street food vendor carts on the ground floor, and what was supposed to be a future location for Our Pleasure sexual health store.
Food For Thought owner Nancy Maher isn’t sure whether her business has a future. She says she is still wading through insurance forms and won’t make a decision about what to do until the end of the year.
The store started from nothing, 15 years ago, she says.
“Oxfam had a room which was being semi-used, and at the time I asked Bill Hynd [of Oxfam] if I could have a retail store there and pay them rent.
“It worked. At that time, we didn’t have a health food store in St. John’s and I thought, I’ll do this until someone bigger comes along.”
Food For Thought became a welcome addition to the community, in a downtown location.
“It was fun watching the store fill up as people said ‘I’d like this or that,’” she says. “I loved my customers.”
Maher says the fire changed all that in the blink of an eye.
“I had put a note on the window the day before to say I’d be in after ten the next morning. The next day, after the fire—when some walls were still standing but the building had been deemed unsafe—I could still see my note on the window. It took me a long time to get over that.”
There’s a new addition to the sushi scene in St. John’s. Sakura Sushi, located in Churchill Square, held their grand opening in September. They are open 11am to 9pm, Monday through Saturday, and from 3 to 9pm on Sundays. Serving fresh sushi, sashimi, and sake, they say they’re already drawing a mainly young crowd as well as employees from local businesses for lunch.
Elsewhere in town we spotted a sign at Stavanger Drive announcing “Sun Sushi, Opening Soon” but we weren’t able to get any more information.
In addition to Value Village—which puts its Halloween display up sometime around the beginning of summer—St. John’s has plenty of other businesses getting their spook on this season.
Spirit Halloween at 22 O’Leary Avenue is ready to rock your style for the dark night.
Halloween Alley, in the Hamlyn Road Plaza, offers costumes to scare and entice.
And speaking of enticing, Rosie the Rebel Boutique at 254 Water Street can turn you into a pinup girl for a night. Rosie has a big section dedicated to Halloween, from sailor girl suits to superheroes.
Freak Lunchbox on Water Street has a few props you might want to check out, eyeballs and fake vampire teeth.
And don’t forget Kijiji. You never know when you’ll come across a ghoul or an alien or a new idea you hadn’t thought of yet.
Also! Model Citizens!
Know another good place to find costumes? Let people know at thescope.ca
Wed, Aug 28, 2013
Just as the leaves are changing colour and the evenings are getting darker, some vacant downtown storefronts are starting to brighten up. In the former location of the recently departed Pepper Mill is Tavola (178 Water Street), which is serving Italian specialities like handmade pasta, bacalao croquettes, and Italian donuts.
Going west to Bulgaria (or just down Water Street) is Black Sea Restaurant & Bar (193 Water Street, formerly the Fat Duck). For the menu, chef Gregory Bersinski is focusing on the flavours found around the Black Sea—Mediterranean dishes like kebabs, bouillabaisse, and baklava.
Also entering the field of “fine dining in a relaxed atmosphere” is the much-loved Hungry Heart Cafe, now open for dinner. They’ve expanded their hours and menu to include seafood and pasta entrées.
Speaking of expanding, Canadian franchise The Works has now opened its latest location at 36 George Street (formerly MexiCali Rosa’s). Not to be confused with the MUN gym of the same name, the gourmet burger chain is serving up deluxe burgers like the Sk8r Boy (peanut butter, jack cheese, and strip bacon) and the Crappy Tire (pineapple ring, sweet-and-spicy sauce, and brie).
Fri, Jul 5, 2013
Sylvia Plath said that “you should wear your heart on your skin in this life.”
If that’s the case, Laura Casey’s heart pumps tattoo ink.
Casey, who returned to the province three months ago after years in Ontario and the Okanagan, has just opened Lady Lo’s Custom Tattoos (267 Duckworth Street), an independent tattoo shop and studio space.
In this case, “independent” means Casey is the only employee, running the show solo.
“I’m the operator, secretary, cleaner. Just me,” laughs Casey. “That’s all I can mentally handle right now.”
Casey has always been interested in tattooing, and actually tried to get an apprenticeship back when she was just 17. “Which was a tad young,” she laughs, “considering I couldn’t even get a tattoo without parental consent at the time.”
Years later she eventually did get her internship at Art Therapy tattoo studio in BC, and she’s been working as an artist for seven years now.
The idea of her own tattoo shop was a recent inspiration, one that struck Casey while she was dropping off resumes for waitressing gigs. The old Conservation Corps building, out of use for the past several years, provided the ground for the idea to grow. When she and her husband saw the location was available, they saw the possibility.
Freshly renovated, the space matches the creative, fun vibe of Casey’s work.
“There’s a good humour about it. Easy going.” says Casey. “It’s a mellow atmosphere, but clinical. Clean, not cluttery.”
Along with Casey’s workroom, the space includes a large common area, and two rooms that will soon be available for additional artists, including possibly those that use more traditional canvases
Fri, Jul 5, 2013
In the kitchen at the Reluctant Chef (281 Duckworth Street), chef Damien Gibbons is preparing an avocado lime cream for the tacos for the night’s “Ode to Summer” menu.
“I never really knew what I wanted to do,” says Gibbons, who has been developing and serving a brand new menu every week since he started a month and a half ago. “I always knew it was something in the arts, and I see the cooking that way.”
The tie between cooking and art is particularly strong for Gibbons, who experiences synesthesia, the condition where the stimulation of one sense (in his case, taste) can stimulate another sense (sight, particularly colour).
“I always just thought I was kinda weird,” says Gibbons. “Whenever I taste things, a colour comes to mind.”
The ability leads him to some unique flavour combinations.
“The flavour of avocado—especially raw avocado—is grey, like grey of a man’s suit,” he says. “You have to add something to the suit to make it work, like a bright pair of socks. So I usually pair avocado with something that tastes bright.”
“Recently, I was doing a dish with squid ink, which looks black, but gives me a real aquamarine colour feeling,” says Gibbons. “So, I mixed it with the dark forest green I get from asparagus.”
“It’s like painting,” he says.
As a chef from Lumsden, Gibbons spends a lot of his time thinking about how to translate Newfoundland food into upscale dining.
“The ingredients here are so nice, but when your Nan cooks a roast in a pot of water with onions, that’s technically ‘braising’, sure, but it’s not done with any real technique,” says Gibbons. “You can take the old ways, put a modern twist on it, and turn it into something beautiful.”
Wed, May 29, 2013
The wares on offer at a new retail store opening on Water will be junk in name only. Proving that irony is more than a five-letter word, Junk will offer high-end men’s fashions and hip housewares.
Co-owner Frank Fagan says the idea behind Junk has been kicking around his and his husband David Ford’s heads for five years. “We decided that we were kinda sick of not being able to buy men’s clothes in St. John’s,” Fagan says. “The modern housewares [and] kinda cool aesthetics that we liked, it always seems like we were buying while we were traveling and we thought, well, you know, between the two of us, surely to god we can do something here.”
Junk is vying to fill the oft-bemoaned vacuum created by other upmarket men’s clothing retailers like Melon, which had a brief run from January 2007 to April 2008. The store will carry clothing from True Religion, Fred Perry, Ben Sherman, and Diesel, all of which command a hefty price tag.
Fagan is confident that there are consumers in St. John’s who are willing to drop $385 on a pair of True Religion jeans. “We’re very cognizant that our demographic is out there, and they have money and they’re looking for somewhere to spend it.”
In addition to high-end men’s clothing, Junk will purvey slick modern housewares imported from the US and Europe. These will include brilliant, whimsical products from it-designer Todd Oldham, and ultra-modern “urban cabin” swag by IZOLA. The store’s owners hope that the shared focus on housewares and apparel will strike a symbiotic balance, allowing Junk to retail a well-curated selection of goods that is updated every few weeks.
“The housewares support the clothes, the clothes support the housewares. There’s sort of something for everything and for everyone,” Fagan says.
Junk is opening at 302 Water Street.
Wed, May 29, 2013
The number of coffeeshops vying for the lucrative downtown dollar is set to increase by one in June. Second Cup, Canada’s largest chain of specialty coffee retailers, is opening a location at 336 Water Street, in the space formerly occupied by Melendy’s.
This will be the third Second Cup location to hit the metro area. It’ll join the stand-alone location on Stavanger Drive, and its much-older sister location, which has been operating in the Avalon Mall for over 30 years.
The opening of the Water Street location means that within the downtown area, in a perimeter roughly delineated by Harvey/Military Road, Ordnance Street, Water Street, and Barters Hill, there will be eleven shops dedicated to selling specialty coffees (plus two Tim Horton’s locations).
It remains to be seen if the downtown market can support yet another specialty coffee shop, or if, like a cup of boot-polish-black coffee, it has reached a point of supersaturation.
“I think we have a superior product,” says franchise owner Rhonda Decker, who also owns the Avalon Mall location. “I think, you know, there’s not many people out there that can match it.” Decker cites Second Cup’s scrupulous devotion to serving quality arabica coffee from ethical sources as the key to the company’s superiority.
But, speaking objectively, if the new Second Cup has a true tactical edge on the numerous competitors in the downtown market, it’s going to be the shop’s hours operation. Decker says the new location will stay open until 11pm. 11! As anyone who’s ever tried to push out a paper in comfortable surroundings can attest, those nocturnal hours of coffee shop time make all the difference in the world.
To gild the temporal lilly, the Water Street location will also feature wi-fi, ensuring that the vacuum of downtown office-space-for-the-officeless will be filled at long last.
Barring any hiccups in construction or shipping, the new Second Cup will open its doors on June 14.
Thu, May 2, 2013
When Storefront reporter Lauren Power showed interest in checking out some of the businesses in his square, Winston Churchill was tickled pink.
Have small business news? Know a strip mall or area you’d like to see covered? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Tue, Mar 26, 2013
After five and a half years, Britannia Teas and Gifts has closed the doors of its location at 199 Water Street.
In the end, owner Kelly Jones says the rising cost of doing business put the squeeze on the small storefront. But, says Jones, even though the shop is at the end of its brick-and-mortar existence, it doesn’t mean tea time is over in St. John’s—for her shop or other small businesses downtown.
“Small business thrives downtown,” says Jones. “I believe boutique shopping downtown is exceptional. Service and quality are excellent. Bricks and mortar is no longer for me, but I don’t think that it wouldn’t be good for someone else. There are issues downtown, but there are different issues elsewhere.”
Parking is one of the issues that plagued Britannia Teas and other downtown business, along with anybody that’s ever tried to get a parking space below Queen’s Road.
“It would be great if there was a direct bus that made only a few stops,” says Jones. “There was a shuttle bus downtown a couple of summers ago, but no one knew about it.” [Buddy the Bus, 2009-2009, R.I.P.]
Jones is upbeat when discussing the prospect of competition created when bigger businesses come to town, like DavidsTeas at the Avalon Mall.
“I think competition is good,” says Jones. “It lets your current customers see how you compare. It keeps you on your toes. We didn’t lose any business, in fact we gained many new customers. Many people who shop at the malls don’t often shop downtown, but when they learn about a new product and discovered there was a local business, they’ll come and see what you have on offer.”
Britannia Teas and Gifts online store at www.britanniateas.ca is scheduled to be up and running in April.
Fri, Mar 1, 2013
Storefront detective Lauren Power took his Deerstalker and pipe on the road to scope out businesses at this strip mall in the East End.
Higher-end shopping is getting a boost with the arrival of three new stores in St. John’s.
Opened in late November, FOUND Consignment Boutique (1 Waterford Bridge Road, formerly Contemporary Florist) is dealing in higher-end ladies’ clothing, shoes, boots, coats and accessories.
“We accept items daily by appointment so there is something new every single day at Found,” says owner Karin Smith. “It’s the best part about consignment shopping. You could stop in every day and find something new and unique. We carry everything from high end denim and yoga wear (like Lululemon) up to designer dresses, shoes and handbags. We also have a great selection of winter coats right now.”
FOUND operates on consignment, meaning clothes are not donated, but rather sold on an individual’s behalf. “Consignment shopping is savvy. You’re shopping brands that you might not normally find locally here in St. John’s. As well, you’re getting new or very gently loved designer and better brand clothing at fraction of the original retail price.”
Also new is Clothes Minded (655 Topsail Road), a retail-resale shop, with a focus on higher-end brands for women and men. Their Facebook page provides a preview of what’s in store.
Finally, Melanie Lyne, the higher-end division of Canadian women’s wear boutique chain, Laura, has opened a location in the Avalon Mall, in the spot formerly occupied by Lindor.
Pew pew! Greg Leaman isn’t just a student entrepreneur and design wunderkind. He’s a laser enthusiast.
Leaman was introduced to laser engravers during a high school co-op placement at a design firm. After purchasing a laser to call his very own, Leaman opened his own business, Engravable Designs Inc.
Along with his signature wood business cards, Leaman’s Engravable Designs Inc. offers a variety of lasered products, from woodcut prints and anti-microbial iPhone cases, to bamboo cufflinks and wood collar stays (for the sartorialist on your Christmas list).
“I try to work really hard to give each client a unique-to-them one-of-a-kind product,” Leaman says of his custom design work. “I’m always open to tackling new projects, especially where the client sort of has an idea about what they want and let me run with it from there.”
Engravable Designs Inc. can be found at engravables.ca
Beer lovers: If Bud Light Lime isn’t cutting it for you, your salvation is here.
Tom Beckett and Mike Buhler, founders of Newfoundland’s Artisanal and Craft Beer Club, have made it their goal to expand the selection of beer available in the province. Beerthief — named after local hardcore band Schizoid’s 1987 single — has begun facilitating orders of previously unavailable brews through the NLC.
“I went to my friend Tom Beckett… he managed the Belbin’s cheese club and we came up with the plan of a beer-of-the-month club,” says Buhler. “It took almost two years to get it going through the NLC but we’re up and running and are just putting in the order for the second offering to the NLC right now.”
Here’s how it works: With each semi-monthly microbrew offering, the club gathers orders. “We place the order with the NLC who place their order with the brewery,” says Buhler. “When it arrives, we notify the members by e-mail to pick it up and pay the NLC. They then enjoy the beer!”
The offerings, which are available with no membership fee and or shipping cost, have attracted hundreds of new and longtime beer fans.
Along with the beer orders, the team will also be holding beer tastings, the first of which will be held on December 7 at the Howley Estates NLC. Liam McKenna, brewmaster at YellowBelly, will be in attendance to discuss the YellowBelly beer available for tasting, while Buhler, a Level One Cicerone (beer sommelier) will lead the tasting of the four beer from Dieu du Ciel of Saint Jerome, Québec.
Dieu du Ciel was recently named 3rd best brew pub in Canada by vacay.ca, with 4th place going to Yellowbelly.
Details on how to order and future events can currently be found at the Beerthief Facebook page.
Wed, Oct 31, 2012
Getting drunk on booze you brewed yourself is a pretty empowering experience. You, madam/sir, are a self-sufficient human being! You don’t need anyone but yourself to knock your brain cells into a stupor! And it turns out that now brewing your own beer is possible even if you have zero interest in hops or yeast or any of that weird nonsense.
For the past month people in town have been able to go to their local convenience store and pick up “the world’s easiest beer making kit,” Mister Beer’s Bottle Brew, a 2 litre plastic bottle of unfermented beer with a tiny vial of yeast and a second pressure cap. Open it, pour in the yeast, put on the pressure cap, leave it at room temperature, and in two weeks you have beer. Like, 2 litres of pretty damn good beer, considering the 8 bucks you paid for it. Plus you get that hard-won empowered feeling I mentioned earlier.
“We’ve had many requests to sell in Newfoundland and recently we were able to find a distributor,” Paul Timoteo, President of Mister Beer Inc., told us. “Mr. Beer has been well received in Newfoundland, and we are looking forward to increasing our presence there.”
We weren’t able to snag a complete list of where to find it at press time, but bottles have been spotted at a number of Marie’s Mini Mart convenience stores around town.
We couldn’t call ourselves real journalists without actually trying Mister Beer. We brewed up a batch of Pilsner and a batch of Cerveza. Here’s how it went.
The results were good. Really, really good. Consensus at the staff tasting meeting was along the lines of “gimme some more!” Of the two we tried, the Cerveza was a little more popular than the Pilsner at first, but after everyone was a few samples in it was all popular.