With spring fast approaching, there are many new businesses for Laurier students to check out in downtown Brantford.
The newest addition within the downtown community is the Rose and Thistle Pub, which opened its doors last week.
Through the City of Brantford’s Business Performance Grant Program, the Rose and Thistle’s building recently underwent renovations and opened at 48 Dalhousie Street, the former home of the John Peel Room restaurant, which closed in 2012.
City council called the business proposal an “excellent reuse” of the building, although the pub opened much later then its originally anticipated date of August 2014.
The group that oversees the development of businesses in Brantford’s downtown is Downtown Brantford’s Business Improvement Area (BIA), of which all commercial organizations within the city’s downtown are paying members.
A number of new businesses have opened downtown in 2015, while quite a few are still in the processing of opening.
“Sacred Fire, which is beside the Bell Stage at Harmony Square, is very holistic, with yoga and jewelry – if you can’t find what you’re looking for there I’m not sure anyone has it… it’s very Zen,” said Annette Wawzonek, the executive director of Brantford’s BIA.
“Another new one is the Crawford Collective, which is an art gallery that just opened at 4 King Street.”said Wawzonek, “I believe there’s nine artists displaying and selling their work there. There are paintings, stained glass, jewelry, a whole array of art there.”
Wawzonek also mentioned that a new gallery café called the Starving Artist Café is scheduled to open next month and will be located at 42 Dalhousie Street. Also set to open this April is a new Tim Horton’s restaurant, moving into the former Brown Dog Café site.
Some of the main responsibilities of the BIA include marketing, business recruitment, streetscape improvement and other amenities, seasonal decorations and planning special events. The BIA has also lobbied for various causes in the city including pay-and-display parking and two way traffic. Brantford City Council has the option of appointing members to the BIA’s Board of Management, which currently includes two members of council and Mayor Chris Friel.
There are also many external committees that the BIA’s Board of Management is involved in, such as the Economic Development Advisory Committee, Tourism Advisory Committee, Brantford Heritage Committee, and the Downtown Action Committee.
Wawzonek, who has spent 15 years workingin Brantford and has lived here since she was 12 years old, explained that she has witnessed a revitalization in the city’s downtownafter it was declared “the worst downtown in Canada.”
“I think the first step in that was bringing the casino here, because that was a source of funding that we wouldn’t have had otherwise to bring Laurier here. I always say that it was the casino and Laurier, if those two things didn’t happen then I wouldn’t be sitting here,” Wawzonek said.
Wawzonek also explained that many local businesses still struggle and that there is a considerable lull from May to August when a lot of university students leave the downtown core. Overall, Wawzonek still feels that Brantford is moving in a productive direction in terms of their businesses.
“I think that we have really turned a corner and that we’re growing,” Wawzonek said.