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The State of… Lower Princess (Part 1 of 3)

Princess Street, lower Princess, downtown core, vacant stores, opening soon, Kingston, OntarioWith this week’s announcement that Downtown Kingston Sports is set to close up shop after 112 years of dutiful service, the Limestone City’s core is set to lose another iconic fixture.  In this case, high taxes, the recession, as well as competition from big box outlets and online competitors, are to blame.  While this sad story is truly unique, empty storefronts have become all too common in the past few years.  With that in mind, Kingstonist set out to document vacancies, as well as recent relocations and additions in a multi-part series that will focus on various sections of the downtown.  In this premier episode, we’ll travel from the very bottom of Princess Street to the Division Street intersection.

Recent Closures and Vacancies

  • S&R Department Store, 27 Princess Street: a 3-storey department store that sold everything from sporting goods to clothes, hardware, and toys.  The elevator made its last stop in the Summer of ’09.
  • Ben and Jerry’s, 66 Princess Street: hard to believe that this popular purveyor of frozen treats closed, but we also love what took its place.  Plus, you can always get their flavours at grocery and corner stores.
  • The Jungle (Old Location), 123 Princess Street: not overly sure why they decided to relocate, but the new location has a tarp-like sign, which looks a bit less charming than the original location.
  • Chameleon Nation, 112 Princess Street: this art gallery abruptly closed their doors after being evicted by the landlord, DTZ.  DTZ went on to post a notice in the store window, which cited months of owed rent.
  • Downtown Kingston Sports, 121 Princess Street: 2-storeys of sporting goods, Vespas, and an unrivalled bike shop that will be sorely missed.  Be sure to check out their going out of business sale tomorrow.
  • The Book Shop, 122 Princess: how can the little guy compete with the likes of Chapters/Indigo/Coles, and online giants such as Amazon?  Kingston has other independent book shops, but for how long?
  • Fabricland, 124 Princess Street: seamstresses and quilters nearly had a coronary when this place closed, but thankfully they still maintain a location in a stripmall on Gardiners and Bath.
  • Copy Express, 127 Princess Street: Who doesn’t own a printer/scanner/fax machine these days?  Otherwise, doesn’t Staples have this market covered with their 24-hour Copy Centre?
  • 501 Arcade, 173 and 175 Princess Street: from steamed hot dogs to Mortal Kombat and Time Crisis, I honestly couldn’t count all the quarters I gladly spent here.  Home gaming systems killed the arcade star.
  • The Dollar Club, 185 Princess Street: we have more than enough discount stores in this city.
  • The Body Shop, 238 Princess Street: hair, skin, bath and fragrances galore.  A surprising closure, but they’ve remained in Kingston with their other location at the Cataraqui Town Centre.
  • Quizinos Sub Shop, 269 Princess Street: with the novelty of toasted subs on the decline, this distributor simply couldn’t cut the mustard.  Quizinos still remains strong with locations in two box-like strip malls.
  • 297, 297 Princess Street: say it with me now, I will not pay $200 for a pair of jeans.
  • The Carriage Way, 324 Princess Street: a DIY haven selling beads, and other jewelry components.
  • Canada Computers (Old Location), 350 Princess Street: relocated to a much larger location, which is less than a block away.  That was about 2 years ago, and nothing has moved in to take its place.
  • Laundromat (Name Unknown), 349 Princess Street: this store front has been vacant for so long I had to really think about what used to be there.  In any case, I guess we have enough laundromats downtown.
  • Chumleighs (Old Location), 346 Princess Street: as charming as their original, downtown location was, I honestly prefer their new spot.  It’s the mecca for used CDs, DVDs and games and gaming systems.
  • Cyclepath, 354 Princess Street: In light of Downtown Kingston Sports’ closure, we’re lucky this place moved and didn’t close entirely.  Nowadays the old location is the temporary home to the Volunteer Police Association.

Recent Additions and Relocations

  • Sima Sushi, 66 Princess Street: in the words of Barnie Gumble, “suck it to my veins.” If you’ve never had sushi, or don’t think you like it, you have to try this place out.  Yummi-ness will make you a believer.
  • Chumleighs (New Location), 103 Princess Street: see above.
  • The Jungle (New Location), 107 Princess Street: see above.
  • Taj Curry House, 125 Princess Street: while the closure of Curry Village was not mentioned above, we’re glad to see another curry resto open up to fill the void.  Newly renovated and now open for business.
  • The Sustainability Centre, 193 Princess Street: the successor to The Card Merchant is a place where you can learn all about Kingston’s sustainable businesses.  Go check out the neat installations inside.
  • Urban Outfitters, 207 Princess Street: although this place isn’t brand new, I’ve included it on the list as it’s presence was more than welcomed.  It filled the long standing void left by the relocation of RBC.
  • La Maison d’Eva, 208 Princess Street: when La Cache filed for bankruptcy protection, it wasn’t long before they pulled out of Kingston.  The new purveyor of brassieres and lacy unmentionables is great, but often empty. Can they outlast the competition coming from the malls, big boxes and online?
  • Silverside, 219 Princess Street: designer Canadian jewellery and trendy sterling-forged fashions.
  • Red Maple, 227 Princess Street: clothing and other items inspired by the Great White North.
  • Vinny’s Italian Sandwiches, 292 Princess Street: just because Quizinos didn’t succeed downtown doesn’t mean this place won’t.  With the popularity of Stuff’d I’m also looking forward to Vinny’s.
  • Laundry, 293 Princess Street: a clothing boutique, specializing in designer brands and designer prices.
  • Masala Foods & Take Out, 320 Princess Street: over the past few years we’ve been cooking more Indian and Pakistani food, so this addition significantly aids our culinary experiments.
  • Studio 330, 330 Princess Street: one of many new yoga studios that’s realigning downtown Kingston.
  • Samatva, 397 Princess Street: reach for the sky as you reach for your toes in yet another new yoga studio.
Interested in learning more about the state of downtown Kingston? Check out part two of this series, which focuses on Downtown Sidestreets in 2009. Want even more? The 2015 edition of this series is now available.
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Harvey Kirkpatrick

Harvey Kirkpatrick is Kingstonist's Co-Founder. His features curiously explore urban planning, what if scenarios, the local food scene and notable Kingstonians. Loves playing tourist and listening to rap music. Learn more about Harvey...

56 thoughts on “The State of… Lower Princess (Part 1 of 3)

  • December 16, 2009 at 7:12 pm
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    Thank GOD we have the $46M+++ LVEC to attract all those “walking wallets” to save our downtown.

    Seriously now, if you are serious about this topic, print who owns the buildings that house these stores. Then we can talk about the real problem in this town.

    Or are you chicken to put the smelly fish on the table, ignoring it like the mainstream media has been ignoring it for 30-years?

  • December 16, 2009 at 7:32 pm
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    Braziers at La Maison d’Eva? Thought that was Dairy Queen’s specialty.

  • December 16, 2009 at 7:48 pm
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    Although not the reason for Alford’s closing (that’s more about inheritance optimization than anything else), the untold reason that the face of Lower Princess has changed so drastically over the past 10 years is PURE GREED by building owners, and continues a century long landlord confidence trick in Kingston. They give start-up businesses a break on initial 3 to 5 year lease (oh, don’t worry, the landlords are still making a profit even at that rate), and then quad- or quintuple the rent for the next 5-year lease. And they don’t care if you go for it or not, cuz they get a tax break if store is left vacant. Neat trick,eh? Welcome to Hidden Kingston!

  • December 16, 2009 at 8:30 pm
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    @Paul S. Chicken? Seriously, do you need me to do everything? Check out the branding on the for rent signs I took pictures of and report back to us. Or maybe you’re chicken. Too funny, but come on now, we all know who owns the downtown.

    @handwashcold I had a hankering for DQ, what can I say. Thanks for the spell check.

  • December 16, 2009 at 9:29 pm
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    I don’t know who owns Kingston. I’m relatively new here, so I would appreciate a little less of the “nudge, nudge, wink, wink” and some straight talking here. If we’re going to have a critical politics, we should probably start by not assuming that we all know the town’s open secrets, shouldn’t we?

    I don’t care which of you it is, but just playing “you say it”… “no, you say it” doesn’t help the rest of us much!

  • December 16, 2009 at 9:48 pm
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    I too have been lamenting the apparant slow death of our downtown core. As a person without vehicle my favourite thing to do in the summers with my youngest son was to tour the downtown stores and shops and simply browse and window shop. It was great. He slept while I tried not to spend money. I have also noticed that with the more stores closing there are more and more panhandlers appearing as well during the summer months. Not a pretty picture for our tourists…I work in a hotel and had a few out of towners mention this very thing a few times this past summer. Hopefully it turns around at some point.

  • December 16, 2009 at 10:35 pm
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    I second Flying Monkey. I’ve lived here for a decade. I know that the Springers, Abramskys etc. hold a great deal of Kingston’s downtown real estate.

    Does anyone want to explain to me why this is considered negative for the downtown? What is it that people want instead? RIOCAN or other REITs, as is the case in most cities?

    I’m not being the slight bit facetious. Can someone explain the history/issues here?

  • December 16, 2009 at 11:12 pm
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    From the for lease signs in the pics of the store front windows my count is:

    (5) Rogers & Trainor
    (4) DTZ
    (2) Springer

  • December 17, 2009 at 9:20 am
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    @Leif Thanks for the tally.

    This begs the question, who owns the properties that are being leased by Rogers & Trainor, and DTZ? Does anyone know where we can find this information online/otherwise? Since the conversation is headed in that direction, it seems appropriate that we identify exactly who’s who before we get bogged down with unfounded accusations.

  • December 17, 2009 at 10:03 am
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    It would be interesting to know who owns the buildings that house businesses that have been there for a very long time (Royal Tavern, Toucan, Turk’s, Amadeus, Vandervoort’s…to name a few) – are they owned by the businesses themselves, or leased?

    Also…is Dansk on its way out? Think I saw something going on there a while back.

    And although it’s not a recent closure – can we have a moment of silence for Lino’s? God, I miss that place. :)

  • December 17, 2009 at 10:34 am
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    @handswashcold. Dansk had been gone for a while now. I think its old location is now host to its second clearance store.

    Also whats with all the new Yoga stores! I think I countedd 5 between Division and King the other day. Sushi and Yoga seem to be the only things in the downtown doing well enough to keep having new businesses pop up every 3 days. Is it really that huge, or will they all be gone in 3 months? I love my Yoga but I can get it at my gym and free at LuLu once a week. Are there really enough people paying to keep all of these locations afloat?

  • December 17, 2009 at 10:39 am
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    Under the new additions, I would also add Red Maple, a Canadiana store right by the movie theatre and Roots. (Disclaimer: I know the owner — first-timer who really wants to make a go of it downtown.)

    @HarveyKirkpatrick Property ownership should be available through the land registry office on Court Street. Any records of sale will have the names of previous and current owners and should be digitally saved and can be printed up for a small fee.

    Just a thought, but maybe we should also be asking why some stores/businesses have been able to stay open downtown? What is it that those businesses have done that failed businesses have not? Any ideas?

  • December 17, 2009 at 11:15 am
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    Great topic and article by the way Harvey.

    I hate to say it, but the reconstruction on Princess might also have a bit of a domino effect. But, it needs to be done.

    I would still vouch for a downtown pedestrian walkway (topic of a previous post) on Princess, but I realize there are some limitations and lots of strong arguments against.

  • December 17, 2009 at 12:54 pm
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    If downtown Kingston goes the way of Belleville (or, heaven forbid, Brantford, which really takes the cake for decrepit downtowns)where a once thriving downtown is replaced by scuzzy discount stores after being killed off by the malls & bigbox outlets I would have to think seriously about relocating. The downtown makes living in the city worthwhile.

  • December 17, 2009 at 3:21 pm
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    I can certainly agree that City Hall and the downtown were supremely arrogant during the whole KROCK center fiasco. As if that wasn’t enough, the sale of Market Square’s name really takes the cake.

    I really hate to see the downtown whither. It’s a real shame. But really, what else could you expect? You can only be arrogant for so long before people push-back and take their patronage elsewhere.

    I think that most folks are better educated and wise to what’s happened than we give them credit-for. Meanwhile the Mayor’s state of feigned denial is getting tiresome. The first step to fixing any problem is acknowledging the problem. Seeing 1500 people at Frontenac games mis-reported and parroted as 2,700 people is just silly. Hello???

    Maybe a wholesale turnover in ownership downtown is no bad thing. Too bad the honest, hard-working, and powerless little retailers get caught in the middle of downtown Kingston’s toxic and self-destructive politics.

  • December 17, 2009 at 3:38 pm
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    I grew up in a small town very close to Brantford, and it’s downtown was indeed embarassingly decrepit. But now that Wilfred Laurier has set up a satellite campus there, and the City has invested some money in a rink/fountain/town centre type thingie, it is turning a new leaf.

    Lucky (although sometimes we don’t realize it) we have Queen’s and RMC so near the downtown area, or else it would have gone the way of Brantford and Belleville long ago. The students draw in the hip shops, and the hip shops draw in the wannabe hipster yuppies with money. Quite similar to downtown Waterloo actually.

  • December 17, 2009 at 9:26 pm
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    Maybe i’m overly optimistic, naive, ignorant, whatever. But given we’re in a recession to have this many new stores open I think Kingston is doing well. IMO it’s natural selection in action. For stores like S&R and Downtown Kingston Sports to close is no surprise to me. I’ve been in Downtown Kingston Sports and considering how big their main floor is they didn’t have much for sale. I used to live right across the street and from time to time I’d go in looking for things like hiking shoes, shirts, etc and they had hardly anything to offer compared to say Sport Chek or Trail Head (which is an awesome downtown store btw).

    Out of all the stores that closed I’m most surprised about body shop. The location seemed great, right between Gap, Lulu and all those other trendy clothing stores for young girls. To see a chain like that close with such a prime location really makes you wonder if the rumours of bad landlords has something to do with it.

    @Harvey, you forgot to mention Canada Computers under ‘addition or relocation’

  • December 17, 2009 at 9:34 pm
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    As someone who lives in (and very rarely leaves) the downtown core, it amuses me to read some rather out of touch things said here. How much time a week do most of you spend downtown?

    Downtown Kingston is not really terribly different right now to how it has been at any time over the last 10 years. Small independent businesses come and go. Some have been around a long time and as markets change they close and will eventually be filled again.

    The downtown core isn’t even remotely in any danger of dying. Sure this past year and a half has seen a slightly higher than usual number of shops going under, but there has been no lack of new businesses to replace them. I daresay the only huge blow was the loss of S&R, but lets face facts, everyone enjoyed going there for the novelty it had, but at the end of the day most people still went to Wal-Mart when they needed items that S&R carries.

    As for who owns the buildings? I am curious what point certain people are trying to make by mentioning the well known families who own much of the downtown property…

  • December 17, 2009 at 10:31 pm
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    @Jordan Press Thanks for pointing out that missed addition. I’ve added it.

    @Leif I didn’t add Canada Computers’ new location as the move was some time ago, and no longer considered new. The old location still makes the list as it’s vacant.

    @Ryan Summarizing and reading between the lines of some of the comments above, the point that’s being made is that local land owners could care less about what happens to our downtown. As suggested by DrBOP there may be some initial deals for new start ups, but over the long term, land owners may be taking merchants to the cleaners. It’s shameful because local land owners are publicly celebrated for their token good deeds, but in actuality, they’re ruthlessly squeezing every last dime out of this city.

  • December 17, 2009 at 11:17 pm
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    The old Canada Computers location may no longer be vacant. There appears to be a fair bit of work going on there at the moment.

    You missed a few recent-ish opening. Silverside, Y, Laundry, and Studio 330 have all opened in the last year or two also.

    From what I can tell, which is purely speculation on my part, the majority of businesses that have closed in the last two years have unfortunately for the most part been poorly run or unable to adjust to market changes. Shops like Chameleon Nation were always going to be a very risky venture, I might add.

    The beauty of a downtown like we have is that we get independent stores, owned by people that take a chance and try to make their dream happen. More often than not, tragically, they fail. But some do make it and downtown has a LOT of success stories. Let’s dwell on those, and not start blaming the Springers for everything, because that does become so tedious.

    Might I suggest a weekly focus on some downtown success stories? Interview the owners and do a profile. It would be something positive :) There are so many great places to pick from: Minotaur, Novel Idea, Agent/Blueprint/Three, Sir Gawain, James Brett, Willow, Heel Boy, Walkwel, Chumleighs, 4 colour 8 bit, etc.

  • December 18, 2009 at 8:41 am
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    @Ryan Despite best efforts, some newish businesses may have been excluded. The criteria for including new businesses was based purely on my recollection of how new/old a place was. With respect to those you mentioned, some/all may in fact be newer additions than others I mentioned. To error on the side of caution, I’ve included them. I don’t want any businesses to feel left out, or show favouritism.

    The feature you speak of is something we’ve been trying to kick start as well, and I believe we’ll get there with six questions. Although to date we’ve only done six questions with musicians, we fully plan on focusing the light on local merchants, and others in the future.

  • December 19, 2009 at 8:37 am
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    There clearly are major problems downtown, and the cost of rent is 100% at fault. I know a couple who recently opened a business in Kingston. They have long operated in the area, but had interest in opening up a store within the city. After a long search they settled on something outside the ‘downtown core’ for one reason and one reason only, the cost. They ended up purchasing their own building (which includes an apartment unit above their store) in a very good location for much less than it would have cost to rent downtown.

    I have also had the opportunity to learn about some of the vacancies downtown from previous tenants who said the reason they moved out or closed up shop was rent. Some complained that rent for a store on Princess St (think the Jungle and Copy Express) was running up to and over $2500 at one point, while others mentioned locations on King St between Princess and Brock were renting for similar costs. These prices are astronomical when you consider the poor condition many of these buildings are in. From what I have been told the Jungle’s old location had major water leaks, holes in the floor, and mold problems… who would want to spend a couple thousand a month to rent that with the chance someone could get hurt and take you to court?

    These large, wealthy land-owning families have the luxury of leaving these sites empty and waiting for someone to finally fork out the cash. It may seem inconceivable to us to leave a store empty instead of renting something out for a little less money, but when you own as much property as certain families and businesses do downtown, its just a drop in the bucket.

  • December 19, 2009 at 3:56 pm
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    $2500 for a prime location in a busy area of downtown is hardly “astronomical”. Leasing a business location isn’t the same deal as leasing an apartment and the pricing brackets are much different. Supply and demand, and choosing a location outside the downtown core means you miss out on walk by traffic, which at specific times of the year is HUGE. If your business isn’t one that benefits from walk-by’s, then fair enough, but otherwise you are very much limiting your chances of success by going for the cheaper rent option.

    Quiznos, I have on good authority, was paying $6000. That is a bit more unreasonable, and helps explain why that location is still vacant. Sunrise at the cat centre, also on good authority, is paying over $20k. Compared with the mall, I would have to say that downtown is an absolute steal for leasing prices. Not to mention how vicious the malls owners are (much worse than any downtown landlord) when it comes to getting rid of businesses. Malls will be picky and squeeze you out solely because they are taking the image of the mall into another direction. Hence no more dollar stores at the cat centre, and Coles was squeezed out too, despite wanting to renew.

    Sorry, but I really feel people are making mountains out of mole hills here. It’s not as if there aren’t many option downtown when it comes to picking a location. There is almost always about 10 vacant stores out of the 200+ locations downtown, with rent varying from $1k a month to $25k a month. If the landlord you have asks too much to renew, then while troublesome, moving is an option.

  • December 20, 2009 at 9:41 am
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    $2500 may not sound bad to you, but consider how tiny the stores are at that cost (The Jungle), and the terrible condition many are in. At least in the mall you have parking, maintenance and security. I can’t imagine paying thousands of dollars a month to rent a store that has water leaking in and holes in the floor. Also consider that many of the stores operating downtown need to budget for major revenue decreases in the winter, unlike the mall. If you are a family deciding to start up a business, its very difficult to save up and budget for a place with rent that high knowing a good chunk of the year your business will be slow.

    On a side note I recall the store on the corner of Sydenham and Princess (now the Tea Store) was listed at $6000/month when it was originally put up for rent. That is astronomical considering the size. Sure you get frontage, but come on.

  • December 23, 2009 at 9:43 am
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    Thanks to all of you for all of this information. I live about an hour from Kingston and it is our “big city destination” for shopping etc. The vitality of Kingston’s downtown was definitely one of the things that drew us to this area 11 years ago. We despise the township…. it’s too much like the suburban GTA landscape that we chose to leave behind…. and so our trips to Kingston always include shopping downtown. It pains me to see all of the empty storefronts and I appreciate knowing some of the stories behind the closings….

  • December 27, 2009 at 7:54 pm
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    Kingston’s rents are laughable when compared to some of the US college towns…some of you ought to check out Northampton, Mass or Ann Arbor. Kingston is actually a bargain….I suspect most of the stores that went under had a lot to do with bad management or mediocre product and price. It’s easy (and intellectually lazy) for a lot of the people in Kingston to bitch about the greedy downtown landlords than it is to really think that the a lot of the stuff that went under really wouldnt warrant spending money anyway. Most of the independent businesses failing is a much larger issue…has more to do with people choosing big box retail over indy stores…its sad, but most people look at one thing when shopping nowadays..PRICE. I live stateside, and the same thing that is happening to Kingston is happening in places like Burlington VT, Portland, ME and other similar towns. Blaming the landlord is just pointing the finger without really examining what is happening in North America on a larger level.

  • January 18, 2010 at 10:39 pm
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    Two new closings to add –

    Silverside, at 219 Princess ( cursed location), has now closed, citing the poor ecomony.
    Paradiso, at 68 Princess, is currently having a store closing sale.

    :(

    • January 30, 2010 at 5:02 pm
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      I miss the Epicure each and every day we go out for brunch. The service was admittedly slow, and oftentimes terrible, but the atmosphere and the food made it well worth it. The place was constantly packed…still can't figure out why they had to close.

      • January 30, 2010 at 8:01 pm
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        The people that ran Epicure were terrible at managing the place, they really didn't have a clue, and didn't seem to care either. They also treated their staff very unprofessionally and poorly (some friends of mine worked there). And while I did go there to eat quite often, the standard of cleanliness should have seen the place closed for health code violations.

        But it did have its charms, and it is missed very much. There is a great need for a cafe/diner in that area of down town, and if anyone would open one, it's bound to be a success. The only thing you need to make sure of is to enforce a time limit on how long people can sit at a table while people are waiting. Otherwise you will get students tying up tables for 5 hours while sipping a single coffee, a la Starbucks.

        I like what they did with the Boutique that has opened there though. It's gorgeous inside now. I hope it lasts.

  • January 30, 2010 at 8:08 pm
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    Vinny's Fine Italian Sandwiches finally opened yesterday. I went in and tried a veal sandwich. $7-8 gets you a sandwich comparable in size to a subway footlong. The meat inside was excellent, and there was a generous amount of it too. it was very tasty, well worth checking out!

    Finally something to fill the hole in that block that Quizno's left, and I can stop eating McDonalds on my work break.

  • January 31, 2010 at 7:14 pm
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    I also tried Vinny's. I had the steak sandwich. NO minute steakk or choped steak here. I will be returning.
    Very good

  • February 8, 2010 at 3:18 pm
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    Another devastating loss announced over the weekend. Modern Furniture, a place that my wife and I have given a lot of business over the years, are looking to sell. If no one comes forward, I suspect that they will close outright. Forget the big box stores, these guys have a far superior product, are willing to negotiate, and don't hover over you while you browse. Again, a sad loss if it comes to that.

    • February 10, 2010 at 3:26 am
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      I work across the road from Modern, and see that they now have paper up over the windows, advertising a "retirement sale". Very unfortunate.

      That is a location that could take over 5 years to see filled again due to the lack of handicapped access, and the difficulty in implementing any.

  • February 20, 2010 at 6:58 pm
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    Two more closings:

    Era Vintage Apparel is now empty
    Syd Silver Formals has brown paper in the window and a for lease sign up.

    Odd that when the economy is finally lifting, there is a huge wave of closures. Too little too late I guess. :(

  • February 21, 2010 at 2:16 pm
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    The old Canada Computers location at 350 Princess is now a new Canada Computers. It operates in conjunction with the "new" location. They seem to use this one for warranty returns and displaying bigger items like computer cases because they have outgrown the other retail location already.

    I finnally got around to trying Masala foods. Their takeout dishes are quite good and at least half the price (~$5) of a freshly made take out from any of the indian restaurants. Just add rice at home and you've got a bargain dinner.

  • April 25, 2010 at 12:24 am
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    I think Ryan and Verona sound the most in touch with reality here. Blaming landlords just sounds a little too easy, while consumer trends and constant big box development has over-retailed a city with little to no population growth. That being said, downtown seems to be coming around. It will always be the stage for independent family businesses. It's up to Kingstonians to decide whether they want them, and up to the businesses to convince them they do……..

    A LOT of locations have leased signs in the window these past few weeks. This is exciting: the old Dollar Store (across from Dollarama), the Copy Express location, old Gameskeeper , the Japan Camera location (rumoured to be a gourmet burger joint from the Chein Noir people), Era (a dance studio is opening), and people are coming in and out of that Second Cup location every day, although the lease sign is still up.

    Let's see how things look in the fall.

  • July 7, 2010 at 4:47 pm
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    If you really want to know who owns the downtown buildings, call the city: (613) 546-0000 If you give them an address, they'll give you the contact info for that address, it's public information. This would be a good project for DARN!

  • July 14, 2010 at 10:42 am
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    We have Chumleighs stores in kingston, belleville and peterborough. Our downtown kingston store does less than half the sales of our belleville store and significantly less sales than our peterborough store. Kingston is a huge city compared to belleville or peterborough but our downtown is less busy. This being said it is important to note that our rent in belleville plus our rent in peterborough together do not add up to half of the rent we pay in downtown kingston. When our lease is up we will be moving our downtown store to ottawa. Landlords need to realize that there are better alternatives to downtown now and tourism is DEAD. At one time downtown kingston was THE place to shop but now it is not even one of the top shopping spots in the city.

  • July 29, 2010 at 11:06 am
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    I've lived in Kingston my entire life (pushing sixty thank you very much) and two comments caught my attention.
    rq stated that, "The students draw in the hip shops, and the hip shops draw in the wannabe hipster yuppies with money." Maybe so but students be they RMC or Queen's are here today, gone tomorrow. When it comes to who really holds the purse strings in Kingston you better believe it's the senior's faction. Compare what most of us pay in rent and what it costs to live in a Retirement CondoFacility especially on Ontario St. 'nough said. The other comment that tweaked my interest was made by RhiannonT who stated, "Also whats with all the new Yoga stores!" I couldn't agree more. Maybe I just miss the days when you could walk into a sweaty old gym and work up a sweat or waltz into a Zellers, a Metropolitan Store (ok half of you have no clue what that is, right?) or a Woolworth's Store and cloth an entire family without breaking the bank. Why does everything have to be a Specialty item or a Designer fashion. Frankly I think that's a major part of the problem. When you cater to one specific group or one specific item you've just put all of your financial eggs in one basket and past experience has proven that just like the students, trends come and trends go. And when the trend is over…what do you have left? In many cases nothing more than empty space.

  • July 29, 2010 at 5:15 pm
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    I ALSO BELIEVE THAT COMMERCIAL LEASE RATES IN THE DOWNTOWN ARE TO BLAME FOR THE MANY VACANCIES. THIS IS SUPPLY AND DEMAND DRIVEN. WITH THE MANY VACANCIES NOW, RATES WILL FALL, BUT THIS TAKES FOREVER.

    IT IS A FACT THAT MANY PROPERTIES ARE CONTROLLED BY A SMALL NUMBER OF OWNERS, WHO PREFER TO KEEP THEIR PROPERTY VACANT RATHER THAN REDUCE LEASE RATES. TAX PENALTIES SHOULD BE LEVIES AGAINST OWNERS WHO KEEP PROPERTIES VACANT FOR UNDUE LENGTH OF TIME.

    A FURTHER KILLER FOR SMALL BUSINESS IS THE ARBITRARY WAY THE CITY TEARS UP STREETS FOR REPAIR, WHICH DRIVES BUSINESS UNDER BY CUTTING OFF VEHICLE AND CAR TRAFFIC FLOW. THE INEFFICIENCY, SHORT ACTUAL WORKING HOURS AND LATE COMPLETION OF CITY WORK DOESN'T HELP. WHY CANT THE CITY OF KINGSTON WORK TWO SHIFTS AND FINISH WORK QUICKLY? I WORK AFTER DARK!

    THE CITY OF KINGSTON DOES NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THAT IT IS FUNDED AT A HIGH RATE BY COMMERCIAL TAX PAYERS, WHOM THEY HARM IN THE DOWNTOWN BY THEIR LETHARGIC WORKING PRACTICES.
    ALL IN ALL, ITS SMALL TOWN MENTALITY. I REFER TO KINGSTON AS THE TOWN THAT CALLS ITSELF A CITY.

    MY FINAL RANT IS THAT IF WE WISH SHOPPERS TO RETURN TO DOWNTOWN, THEN METERED PARKING SHOULD BE ABOLISHED-ALONG WITH THE ENTIRE FINE/FEE/COURT COLLECTION SYSTEM AND EMPLOYEE COSTS THAT IT SUPPORTS. IT IS FAR EASIER NOW TO GO TO A BOX STORE TO SHOP AND THIS IS PLAIN WRONG.

  • July 29, 2010 at 11:46 pm
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    Well, here we are 7 months later, and how many vacancies are there on lower Princess Street now? At least half the places on the original list are now leased and in business or under construction. I have to admit that I expect a lot of the new places probably won't last, but time will tell.

    I would have to estimate that there is currently a total of less than 10 leasable storefronts sitting vacant on lower Princess now, so things have really turned around and it was likely more of a blip due to the economy than the death of downtown Kingston as we know it. Changes occur, but over time things have a way of evening out.

    It would be interesting to see this topic revisited and updated, but it may be prudent to wait until one year after the original article was posted, purely for the sake of comparing apples with apples.

    • July 30, 2010 at 11:24 am
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      While trying to remain cautiously optimistic about the apparent upswing downtown, I can't help but wonder how many of these places will in fact remain open. Case in point, there's a total of 4 new burger/poutine places opening up between Division and Wellington. How can they all survive considering the competition that's already there/established. In any case, downtown Kingston is far from out of the woods, and if the impact of HST and reports of a weak tourist season remain steady into the Fall, there may be additional stores calling it quits before the end of the FY. We'll definitely be re-visiting this topic in the future.

  • July 30, 2010 at 11:22 am
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    "TAX PENALTIES SHOULD BE LEVIES AGAINST OWNERS WHO KEEP PROPERTIES VACANT FOR UNDUE LENGTH OF TIME"

    Maybe its because they CANT rent the space? Kingston's economy isnt exactly stellar….

  • September 12, 2010 at 6:03 pm
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    Very late comment to add to this article but I just couldn't help myself.

    Someone put a VERY official looking sign on the fence surrounding the empty pit at Bagot and Queen. The sign looks like an official Parks Canada sign identifying the site as 'Stagnant Lake' National Park.

  • September 13, 2010 at 12:34 am
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    No one likes to spend forty five minuts trying to park somewhere. Not to mention the dodgeing traffic as you drive down Princess Street in your car because the road is narrow and there's not enough space for a car to be parked and delivery van to be pulled over and you to be driveing it's brutal. Every day now the streets are jammed with traffic and thank goodness for the K-Rock centre that's just another obstacle to dodge as you go over the causeway not just the fact that you have to wait for boats to pass. Very unorganised not well thought out there were much better places to put that venue places where the roads could be expanded for capacity.

  • September 13, 2010 at 10:55 am
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    I don't understand how people spend 45 minutes trying to find parking. In the same amount of time (well, less really) you can park on a side street like Bagot or Bay or Ordnance or North or Sydenham….the choices are endless. And then you can walk to Princess. It takes about 4 minutes to walk to Princess from Ordnance.

    I understand if you are picking up a large item but most places will find a way to help you with that. If not, and you get ticketed, fight it. I know tons of ppl who have stopped to pick something up downtown, been ticketed and with one phone call, were able to get the ticket revoked. We live in a very old town and the narrow streets are a part of that. There's nothing that can be done about it except to tear it all down and start again and I don't think anyone wants to see that happen.

    • September 13, 2010 at 12:43 pm
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      I don't get it either. It takes me 30 min to walk from a block closer then SLC to Princess/division or Ontario. There are a lot of parking options within a much shorter distance then that. People just need to get over they can't park right at the front door of any given destination and won't be able to regardless of how many parking garages get built. The huge crowd for the Princess promenade day, while Princess st parking was removed, proved parking isn't the barrier many perceive it to be.

    • September 13, 2010 at 1:44 pm
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      Agreed! I have a hard time believing anyone has ever spent 45 minutes looking for parking. Even if you don't want to pay a meter you can find free parking and walk to anywhere in downtown in less than 45 minutes. Heck for 45 minutes you could park on Victoria St, Park, College, anything in midtown and walk downtown in like 20 minutes.

      Perhaps people like S.Adams should find alternative modes of transportation if parking is such a problem for them. Bus, taxi, carpool, bike, walk… I have a feeling the complaints from people like this are just about everything in downtown. How is the Krock centre an obstacle when you come from downtown? The roads haven't moved, there is just a building on what was once an empty lot. It's not like you come across the causeway into a maze. Just another person who would have loved to live in the situation Ottawa has where no one goes to their arena because it was built in the middle of nowhere.

  • March 3, 2011 at 3:49 am
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    I agree with Dr. BOP's explanation of the closures of downtown businesses. I'm sick of seeing RTCR signs everywhere, no one can afford the rent.

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