Don’t call it a comeback… Downtown St. Catharines has been here for years.

In the words of LL Cool J “Mama said knock you out”

The Downtown certainly has taken its punches with the pandemic and in many ways been shafted by the corporate office culture of working more from home. But dang, I can’t help by be impressed with the resilience of those that are hanging in there, dusted themselves off and gotten back UP. And in many ways this part 1 of 2 blog is about the future and those brave enough to open business in the Downtown core when many would tell them they shouldn’t.

Signs of new life and investment are on every street corner when you look at it from residential developments to commercial ones.

Here are five new downtown businesses that I’m really excited about and given the amount of buzz they’re getting on social media and the street, I’m not the only one.

Stoke Deli Bar + Bushel & Peck

If you tend to venture north of Welland Avenue along Lake Street, there’s a good chance you’ve stumbled across Bushel & Peck, a chef-inspired food store, and the Stoke Deli Bar takeout window tucked inside. Well, I’m stoked that owners Cait Bermuhler and Jess Mitchell have traded midtown for downtown, bringing some of Niagara’s finest sandwiches and pantry staples with them. They’re now working out of downtown anchor De La Terre Bakery on Geneva Street, using the kitchen space there to meet the demand for their ever-changing sandwich lineup and Fam Jam take-home meals. And if you need to refill your pantry stash of tinned fish or hot honey, they still have you covered like they did at their previous B&P HQ.

Fat Rabbit

The carnivores among us already know Chef Zach Smith from his time at Matty Matheson’s now-defunct Meat + Three in Fort Erie. This man is a meat master and he’s brought those skills to the northern tier and a long-vacant bathroom fixture store near the Five Corners on Geneva Street. Chef Zach gave the space in this tiny strip mall the TLC he gives a side a pork and created Fat Rabbit, a butcher shop within a tapas restaurant that’s open for lunch and dinner. The transformation of this space is incredible and I got to check it out recently with some of my foodie friends. The braised lamb – ridiculously good. The burger – awesome. The St. Augur bleu cheese we sampled was so rich and creamy. And Chef Zach’s cod salad didn’t disappoint, either.

King Street Pantry

This butcher and grocer on the other end of downtown, sandwiched between Someday Books and The Brazen Café, is still a work in progress but things are definitely progressing. Since their last update on social this spring, more changes have happened to the façade of the store, including new windows and doors. Inside, owners Greg Riddell and Maegan Parry are nearing the end of kitchen installation and are hopeful opening will be in the next couple of months.

Downtown is in desperate need of a grocer, especially now that restaurants have phased out the markets and food boutiques they replaced their empty tables with at the height of the pandemic. This place promises to be a nose-to-tail butcher offering ethically farmed meat and produce. Greg and Maegan bring a world of hospitality and culinary experience with them, having worked in the U.K., Australia and New Zealand. Locally, they have experience at Restaurant Pearl Morissette and the RPM Bakehouse. Downtown is in for a real treat.

The former Kaz’s Pub

I’m so excited by what’s happening here. There’s lots of incredible buzz about the transformation this longtime, late night St. Paul Street hangout is undergoing and, in some ways, it seems to be downtown’s best kept/worst kept secret. I don’t want to add to the rumour mill and will respectfully wait for the owner to reveal themselves, but just know, I can’t wait. It will be another Niagara success story.

Delta Bingo

It appears after months, years and half a decade (?) that the Delta Bingo on Queenston St has finally been leased out. No, not the downtown grocery store that everyone dream about (although it is owned by Loblaw’s and use to be one in the ‘70’s.)

But without confirmation, it appears it is going to be repurposed as an Athletic Centre for land dry training for our communities youth in their respective sports. This is me is a major win. And with young kids myself, with any luck we will get to you the facility in no time.

Have any questions? Karl is always UP for a conversation.😊

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