The State of… Downtown Sidestreets (Part 2 of 3)

Downtown Kingston, sidestreets, Brock, Montreal, Wellington, Clergy, Barrie, Kingston, OntarioLast week we revisited a topic that’s near and dear to the hearts of many Kingstonians: the ever-changing landscape of downtown Kingston, specifically lower Princess Street. In our original three part series that was published two years ago, we provided a snapshot of new, relocated and recently closed local businesses.  After publishing last week’s update, we learned more about some of the new tenants in the revitalized Smith Robinson building, as well as an Apple reseller store possibly opening up downtown.  In part two of our updated three-part series, Kingstonist bounces in between downtown side streets including Ontario, King, Brock, Wellington, Bagot, Montreal, Sydenham, Clergy and Barrie to document what’s new, vacant and new again.

Closures and Vacancies

  • Mexicali Rosa’s, 172 Ontario Street: the last remaining half of this long-standing vacancy on a corner that’s swallowed its fair share of Kingston’s most promising restaurants, boutiques and retail start-ups.
  • Brandee’s, 178 Ontario Street: this closure is so recent I’m still not sure if it’s legit.  Brandee’s has seemingly been on a downward trajectory for some time, so closing up shop would not come as a surprise.
  • Zappa’s Lounge, 180 Ontario Street: a huge space with an identity crisis.  Is it a dance club, an ideal patio space, or a gourmet tapas resto?  Perhaps a Cocamo renaissance is in order for this address.
  • Aroma Resto-Winebar, 248 Ontario Street: Aroma made a decent run at it in this unique space, but they certainly didn’t inspire the same sort of confidence as the addresses previous tenants: Mino’s.
  • Limestone City Cupcakery, 250 Ontario Street: when we caught wind that this bakery was being displaced by a rental loophole, we were devastated.  Thankfully they managed to land elsewhere.
  • Kingston Sound Works, 101-275 Ontario Street: with the outside of this hideous building now sporting an LED sign, it was high time for a tenant shakeup. Sound Works still operates on Rideau Street.
  • Lasik MD, 278 King Street East: living free from the shackles of glasses and contact lenses are a goal for many.  While Lasik moved out of the basement of Four Points, they’re still downtown.
  • Unknown, 280 King Street East: this central location has been vacant for so long it has been used to temporarily display local tourism posters, cutouts and the like.  A vacancy nevertheless.
  • Tango, 331 King Street East: I cried a little bit when Tango closed.  Where else can an early thirty-something go to enjoy decent drink and dance the night away without being hunted by prey.
  • Sacred Source, 73 Brock Street: I don’t remember ever stepping foot inside this place, but it seems as though they had a lot of crystals, readings, meditation and so on.
  • Hair Salon, 82 Brock Street: this space has been vacant for long enough that I had to defer to Streetview for an assist regarding what used to be here.
  • Bank of Montreal, 165 Wellington Street: an ideal corner address that has, like many vacancies, been this way for some time.  On the plus side, lots of construction action suggesting something’s happening.
  • Sun Restaurant, 41 Montreal Street: the reason for this vacancy is a bit more pleasant and easy to swallow than the rest.  The owner and chef of Sun Restaurant closed up shop to enjoy retirement.
  • Blockbuster Video, 145 Clergy Street: the death of DVD, pending demise of Blue-Ray and growth in popularity in online streaming littered the landscape with many of these hollow shells.
  • Central Laudromat, 170 Division Street: hard to explain this closure.  Is it the location?  Or is it that more and more students are landing accommodations with on-site laundry capability?

Additions, Relocations and Coming Soon

  • Lovebird, 174 Ontario Street: the other half of Mexicali Rosa’s has found true love with this bridal boutique.  The gowns in the window make this space shine like a true downtown boutique.
  • Diane’s Fish Bar, 195 Ontario Street: from the minds that brought you le Chien Noir, Atomica and Harper’s comes this delectable seafood restaurant.  Hope they, and their tequila, are here to stay.
  • Studio 7, 252 Ontario Street: this used to a chocolatier, or a cupcakery, or something else.  Not sure.  Either way, this whole stretch can’t seem to hold onto business.  Could a salon work here?
  • City Spa 560, 267 Ontario Street: this esthetics and massage centre boasts enough exposed limestone and brick to put the most stressed  out clientele at ease.  Find some inner peace here.
  • Marble Slab, 262 Ontario Street: although technically this new purveyor of ice cream’s address says Princess Street, make no mistake it is on the Ontario Street side of S&R. Let them eat ice cream.
  • Limestone Mortgages, 100-275 Ontario Street: from debt consolidation to home equity line of credit and mortgages, this modest sized shop seems to be the right fit for this area of downtown.
  • Heather Haynes Gallery, 320-A King Street East: a fantastic gallery with a million dollar view of City Hall.  The fact that they’re located just beside Coffeeco, my fave, certainly can’t hurt.
  • Graham’s Pharmacy, 328 King Street East: when National Bank pulled up stakes and left for the township, few would have guessed that a pharmacy would move in.  What an amazing space!
  • Jack Astor’s, 330 King Street East: with their unique rooftop patio and huge corner location, they’ve already contributed to the demise of a few local, independent restos.  They are here to stay.
  • Tango Neuvo, 331 King Street East: wait, didn’t I previously write that this place is closed? Yes, but this is Tango Neuvo.  Different name, and from what we can gather, a different owner.
  • 1000 Islands Soap Company, 339 King Street East: I’ve never had much time for stores like this.  It’s not that I enjoy smelling gross, rather, I can’t handle a place with so many overpowering smells.
  • Maru, 354 King Street East: I was originally excited about the idea of Maru, but my one and only experience there was not amazing.  They rarely look busy, but have toughed it out this long.
  • Red House, 369 King Street East: finally a new addition I am excited to add to the list.  Red House features a truly local menu, craft brews and an atmosphere that’s struck a chord with Kingstonians.
  • Kenneth Bell, 60 Brock Street: an interesting new addition to lower Brock Street.  The self-proclaimed King of Bling has been making jewellery since 1993, selling to over 500 boutiques.
  • Kingston Olive Oil Co., 62 Brock Street: this is either brilliant or a bad idea.  Time will be the judge.  My only hope is that I’ll get an opportunity to sample all the vintages they have to offer.
  • Cat Walk, 65 Brock Street: formerly of King Street East, this woman’s boutique moved around the corner when massive renos came knocking to their former address.  A pleasant storefront.
  • Cher-Mere, 68 Brock Street: this Caribbean-inspired spa, hair and skin care merchant represents a international chain set to open and pamper us soon.  How are all these spas staying open?
  • Antique Store, 207B Wellington Street: with supposedly sky-high rent, and fierce competition from the Antique Market across from the Ambassador Hotel, I can’t see this place lasting.
  • 4 Colour, 8 Bit, 208 Wellington Street: another lease agreement shuffle.  I think this video, board game and comic merchant will do better now that they’re closer to the tourist action.
  • Pig & Olive, 224 Wellington Street: a welcome addition to this section of Wellington Street! With Pasta Genova next door, the pair combine to create a mini-grocer hub for specialty items.
  • Liquid Nutrition, 236 Wellington Street: perched on the doorstep of Goodlife Fitness and the KRC, this peddler of health-conscious, blended beverages is currently all the rage.
  • Anna Lane, Bagot and Queen Street: while this unique condo development is in fact residential, it made the list as it represents significant growth that could steer more businesses north of Princess.
  • Thai House Cuisine, 183 Sydenham Street: the successor to Lotus Heart Blossom, Kingston’s one and only vegetarian restaurant, occupies a gorgeous space with an upscale vibe. Find my review here.
  • The Tower, Clergy and Queen: the second residential condo project to make the list.  With penthouses  priced over $1 million, Queen Street United is poised to become an exclusive address.
  • Funk N Used, 154 Division Street: last time I made the rounds, this business from home advertised that they sold bicycles, antiques and could even cut your hair.  Now it appears they’ve narrowed their focus.
  • Kame Sushi, 156 Division Street: one of two new sushi ventures on the list.  While I’ve yet to make it to either Kame or Niji, both are conveniently positioned to attract business from the student housing area.
  • Niji Sushi, 168 Division Street: clearly downtown Kingston has a sizable carrying capacity for sushi restos.  With new ventures springing up quarterly, how many sushi spots can we realistically support?
  • Fluid, 424 Division Street: rounding out the list of new business is this relatively new night club.  Is there room for Fluid to operate in a Hub dominated by Stages, The Griz, Alehouse and the Brass?
Interested in learning more about the state of downtown Kingston? Check out part three of this series, which focuses on Upper Princess in 2013. Want even more? The 2015 edition of this series is now available.

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...

13 thoughts on “The State of… Downtown Sidestreets (Part 2 of 3)

  • Sacred Source moved to the building the Screening Room is in, though I haven't been in to look. There was also another witchy shop that opened where Bagot Leather goods was, then moved next to the Iron Duke, and now appears to be gone. There's only so many witches in Kingston, I guess and if Very Shari and Sacred Source couldn't stay in their locations, another store isn't going to fit.

    I seem to recall a cocktail themed shop catering to 30-40 year olds with terrible taste in that location too. Like, Sex on the Beach t-shirts and all that.

    One nice thing about the Sacred Source space on Brock though is that there's a nice garden courtyard behind it, that had been used for meditation and whatnot, and there's a nice upstairs space as well.

    Speaking of Brock St, I wonder whatever happened with the space that used to be Edges salon, it was this wonderful pink and black eighties nightmare of a space, but big and with good views of the street. I guess it'd be above Birds and Paws or that men's wear store. I seem to recall there was a fire.

  • I'm curious to see what will happen to Bagot Street when the condos and Artillery Park are done. I like the additions on Wellington to go along Pasta Genova.

    Also, what will happen to the lot at the former Police station across from the K-Rock Centre? In my opinion, it can't sit as a gravel parking lot for too long. A few shops built around a public area would be nice.

  • Frank, I think the former police station, along with the substation, is what the city refers to as the North Block – they've got plans in mind

    I also like the revitalization of Wellington with Pig And Olive and JuiceyJuiceStoreWhatever.

    Also, went by Brandees tonight. It is now Aji Sai All You Can Eat Sushi, according to the signage. Finally, Kingston gets a sushi place to fill our crippling sushi deficit. Downtown, no less. From Google, it appears to be a Canadian chain of AYCE Sushi. womp womp

    • My best guess is that not only is Sushi trending, but the food costs are lower than other types of cuisine..?

      • I like sushi well enough, but I'm not sure how many sushi restaurants (and there are already 6 or 7 downtown) Kingston can support. For my money, Discover Japan was the the best, and it's gone the way of all things.

        • Apparently the best is on Aberfoyle and Counter (can't remember the name).. I've heard Discover Japan was good, but surely with the volume of places now there must be some good choices?

          • I think you're thinking of Akira. I've never tried it.

            And yes, sigh, Discover Japan was the best. They knew me there. I was very sad to see it go. Had my first California roll there…

            My go-to now is usually Sima but I've also had good experiences with take out from Sushi Ya.

  • Thanks TedSmitts.
    Right, the City has plans for North Block, the process is underway. Still a long way from breaking ground…

    When will we see a truly local microbrewery open?
    The Brew Pub is nice although most of it's production is contracted outside of town and none of their products are available for purchase, either there, the Beer Store or the LCBO.

    • The Brew Pub had plans/dreams to get one their products (white tail) into local LCBOs at one point in time, but we’ve yet to see that happen. Not sure if it’s still in the works, or totally fizzled out. That’s all to say I also would love to see a microbrewery pop up in Kingston.

      • Once upon a time in the Nineties, the Brew Pub did have their Dragon's Breath Ale in Beer Stores in Eastern Ontario, and prehaps further … the now defunct Hart brewing company made and distributed their own and the Brew Pub product…..

  • Add Trugs to list of closures. They are having a going out of business sale, not much left. Guy at the register (owner?) was discussing why they were closing with a customer when we were browsing. He cited the big dig as the primary factor, which is somewhat surprising given that the construction wasn't even on Brock Street. Nevertheless, it goes to show that the impact of these massive upgrades also have a negative effect on small businesses who can't weather the storm, or in this case drought.

    Stuff'd Urban Eats also cited the big dig as having a negative impact on their business. Very likely it will close as well. With construction right on their doorstep, the connection is a bit easier to see. Nevertheless, a very sad day if this place closes.

  • The Mug And Truffle appears to be gone, it's got butcher's paper up in the windows and a padlock and hasp bolted to the door, suggesting it was not an amicable parting. I guess it could be for contractors for renovations, but I kind of doubt it.

  • It is very regrettable that much of Kingston business has become just chains and small business just can,t make it.Perhaps Kingston should have a year round market (public) whereby most or all the business should be local. This would make it more unique and it would be very appealing to locals as well as visitors.Two such places that come to mind are The Owen Sound Farmers Market and Winnipegs Forks Market.

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