I’ve been worried this year by all the vacant storefronts in the downtown core (haven’t we all?), so it’s nice to see some new businesses moving in.
Sally’s Roti Shop will open soon on Wellington St, between Princess and Queen, and that’s particularly exciting for me, given that my office can’t be more than 100 ft from its front door and one can only eat at Saigon Delights or the Wok–In so many times in any given month. I like the glossy retro signage above the front window (the “est. 1961” is an especially cheeky touch) and in my book there is nothing wrong with the world if you have a good roti within arm’s reach. I’ll be one of the first customers there and I have high hopes.
By way of contrast I can tell you that I probably won’t be one of the first customers at The Dollar Tree when it opens around the corner on Princess St. And I share the dismay of some friends at its arrival. I’ve been trying to figure out exactly why I feel the way I do. The disappointment feels churlish, snobbish even. After all, it’s a big store, paying big taxes, and a lot of downtown shoppers will likely be thrilled.
Some of it has to do with the sense deep within me that the world would be better off without the few tons of plastics and processed foods that will surely line its never-depleted shelves. But again, there are a lot of people out there whose pay cheques might seem to stretch just a little further in the coming weeks, and I’m pleased about that, I really am.
I think the larger part of my unease has to do with the aesthetic blight on the landscape that it represents. I can’t help feeling that this wonderful city’s precious downtown core is diluted rather than enriched by its presence. There’s nothing special about a Dollar Tree, is there? Nothing that makes you nod your head decisively and remark to yourself that you are one lucky son of a gun to live within walking distance of its fluorescent grin. No, it’s just a big depressing store full of cheap shit, and I hope we are able one day soon to evolve beyond the need to welcome those, or celebrate their coming.
On a much more positive note, the On The Wall Street Art Festival is this weekend, down at the unpaved end of Wellington St, and various vital works of art are being applied to the concrete retaining wall as I write this. I walked down there this morning with some friends and our kids. This, it occurred to me more than once, is why I live downtown. It really is an interesting and woefully under-appreciated part of the city too, and I’m grateful every day for those who’ve taken it upon themselves to fight for this greening strip of old industrial land. On Saturday the artists will have finished their work (or perhaps not, and they’ll be working feverishly, which would be just as cool), and there will be dancers and music, and maybe food, and a chance to hang out with a crowd of good people. There’s an Indiegogo campaign too, because artists and performers should get paid.