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

Lower Princess Street, Kingston, OntarioBack in 2009, we published our first three part series exploring the ever-changing landscape of downtown storefronts, with a specific focus on new business and vacant commercial real estate.  Since then, we’ve revisited the series every two years.  Subsequently, in both 2011 and 2013, we found that high taxes, the recession, the Big Dig, as well as competition from new big box outlets, continued to shape our ever-changing downtown.  Indigo and Empire Capitol 7 Cinemas have sat vacant since our last snapshot in 2013, while the ongoing shuffle game involving businesses relocating up and down the block has kept us guessing where our favourite stores end might end up.

Once again, I invite you to join Kingstonist as we set out to document the vacancies, relocations and additions that have taken place since our 2013 snapshot. In this first episode, we’ll travel from the very bottom of Princess Street to the Hub’s boundary at the Division Street intersection.

Closures and Vacancies:  20 in 2015.  Compare that to 18 in 2009, 12 in 2011 and 21 in 2013.

  • Amber Room, 7 Princess Street: the lowest vacancy on Princess Street was left by the Amber Room, which has since relocated to 34 Princess, right next door to Peter’s Place.  This vacancy is right across from the Merch.
  • Tweed and Hickory, 101 Princess Street: having never been inside this place, I’m somewhat surprised it managed to stay open as long as it did.  There’s lots of talk of this and neighboring spaces being transformed into a bank.
  • Chumleighs, 103 Princess Street: after occupying this space until the end of their lease, I’m guessing the writing was on the wall, and owners saw an opportunity to forgo a rent hike by relocating to Minotaur’s old home.
  • 105 Princess Street: temporarily transformed into an art gallery, but still vacant.  Could potentially become part of the larger transformation on the block to create a new bank spanning 101 to 107 Princess Street.
  • 107 Princess Street:  another vacant storefront paving the way for a huge transformation, combining storefronts into one consolidated space.  Great next door neighbour: The Golden Rooster.
  • Serves You Right, 164 Princess Street: just how long until something new and exciting will take a chance on this piece of real estate?  It has to be one of our longest standing vacancies, but I can still recall dining here.
  • Crave, 166 Princess Street: I’ve taken the liberty of moving Crave from coming soon to vacant, mostly because they were advertising their opening two years ago and nothing has happened here.  Prove me wrong, Crave.
  • TresOrs, 168 Princess Street: here’s a familiar theme.  Rental agreement comes up for renewal.  Prices get hiked. Business takes a walk to another location to enjoy cheaper rent.  It’s sad, but it very likely happened here.
  • XO Lounge, 177 Princess Street: formerly Zyng, then the Monkey Bar, then this poor excuse for a night club.  Not much has happened here, nor will it if someone decides to keep the dream alive and turn it into another club.
  • Memory Lane Sweets, 215 Princess Street: I’m all for candy when the mood strikes, but as I get older that doesn’t happen as much as it used to.  Apparently sweet tooths in Kingston are getting their fix elsewhere.
  • Just HiFi, 239 Princess Street: now this is a spot that I actually was sad to see go.  Just HiFi was the only independently owned stereo/home theatre retailer in downtown Kingston.  And now we have… Best Buy?
  • Starbucks, 251 Princess Street: what happens when you open up one too many of your own coffee shops?  You kill the competition and eventually the snake eats itself.  Sorry to see the live music go, but good riddance.
  • Indigo, 259 Princess Street: one of the most significant losses to our downtown since 2013 involved this magnet store.  Don’t worry, the second floor is being turned into student rentals. The main floor sits vacant.
  • The Source, 271 Princess Street: an insignificant loss to some, but nevertheless a loss that has yet to be filled.  I remember purchasing our first DVD player here, when it used to be called Radio Shack.  What’s a DVD you ask?
  • Syd Silver, 277 Princess Street: this place was vacant when we last took a look at lower Princess, but thankfully it’s now got a great next door neighbour with Stone City Ales. A prime location for a complimentary gastropub.
  • Turk’s, 279 Princess Street:  I purchased so many beautiful things here, many of which I still have to this day.  The staff were surly yet helpful.  It was the perfect place to get lost in with a coffee and big decorating dreams.
  • Novellino, 286 Princess Street: they sold clothes of some sort.  Obviously not enough, and they closed.
  • Wallack’s, 290 Princess Street: if you’ve read the news lately, you probably know that Wallack’s has had some big financial problems affecting all of their stores.  While they pledge to reopen some, we’re just not sure here.
  • Easy Home, 333 Princess Street: vacant since our last pass through lower Princess, I think that this spot may have been used as an office for a failed Mayoral hopeful.  Too much space for what is needed here.
  • Room 9, 347 Princess Street: the final vacant spot on this section of Princess Street is Room 9.  Owners are looking for partners to make this into something special.  In the meantime, it remains nothing at all.

Additions, Relocations and Coming Soon: 41 in 2015. Compare that to 14 in 2009, 25 in 2011 and 23 in 2013.

  • Blunt Hair Studio, 9 Princess Street: it always surprises me just how many hair salons can not only survive, but truly thrive in Kingston.  Here’s another gem, which enjoys a prime location at the foot of Princess.
  • The Amber Room, 34 Princess Street: they sell jewellery, amber jewellery.  One time I found a mosquito  in a ring there.  You know the rest. (Seriously, kudos to this long lasting business in downtown #ygk.)
  • Simply Well, 34 Princess Street: Kingston has not yet reached “peak juice”, or at least that’s the bet being placed by the folks behind this soon to arrive juice shop.  Will the market sweeten or sour with this new offering?
  • Undr, 68 Princess Street: here’s a men’s store I can finally get excited about.  Selling men’s underwear, socks, shaving and skin care, lounge, sleep and sleepwear, the only question is how expensive will it be?
  • Minotaur Gifts and Games, 78 Princess Street: when they outgrew their former home near Bagot and Princess and their lease expired, our favourite game and gift store relocated to the former home of Olden Green.
  • Dental Care Kingston, 110 Princess Street: I don’t know if downtown is the best location for a dental office, but what better place than here to be told you’re not brushing properly, and you need a tooth pulled.
  • Hatley, 112 Princess Street: this popular clothing retailer is at the front line of perpetuating every single Canadian stereotype, from our love of beavers to the abundance of moose.  Freshly relocated from Brock Street.
  • Card’s Bakery, 115 Princess Street: this secret hole in the wall along Bagot Street saw the light and moved into a gorgeous, newly renovated storefront along Princess.  A real contender for best downtown bakery.
  • Roger’s, 119 Princess Street: since our last trip down this stretch of Princess in 2013, this address was fully renovated, blending well with its surroundings while also giving a nod to heritage buildings.
  • Quesada, 119 Princess Street: the Mexican treat that was once only available near the Invista Centre has a new(ish) location in the heart of the city.  While they may be a franchise, at least it’s Canadian owned.
  • Verde, 123 Princess Street: formerly P’lover, not much has changed here aside from the name.  Read into that what you will, but this eco-centric shop is a great option for sustainable and pro-environment goods.
  • Dollar Tree, 122 Princess Street: I get that a downtown will have a dollar store. I don’t get why we need two.
  • Cloth, 131 Princess Street: newer women’s clothing retailer. I haven’t been inside.
  • Kawartha Credit Union, 155 Princess Street: another sad but perhaps not too unexpected departure from downtown was Dover’s.  The space occupied by this men’s clothing retailer will be transformed into a bank.
  • Wild Wing, 160 Princess Street:  offering over 100 variations of traditional, classical and boneless wings, spiced, sauced and tossed just the way you like it.  A franchise, but nevertheless a nice addition.
  • Chumleighs, 165 Princess Street: it’s good to see Chumleighs still making a go of it downtown. That said, I wonder what will happen to their business as society embraces digital streaming from the cloud.
  • Antique Emporium, 201 Princess Street: I wasn’t all that surprised when Urban Trade closed.  The wait for a successor at this prime intersection was not long, and the successor is a great stop for treasure hunters.
  • Ash Forest HiFi, 210 Princess Street: with the loss of Just HiFi, Kingston was without a real local home stereo and entertainment retailer.  Thankfully, this boutique operation landed in the former home of Rockit.
  • Kingston Royal Rugs, 214 Princess Street:  prior to their move further downtown, Kingston Royal Rugs was situated in Williamsville.  Their move downtown adds one more, much needed, home décor option.
  • Alchemy House, 219 Princess Street: a relatively new jeweler selling sparkly things that are customized and handmade.  They offer 100% recycled gold and silver, and exclusively use Canadian diamonds.
  • Capitol Condominiums, 223 Princess Street: I have mixed feelings about the loss of downtown’s other movie theatre.  Is this large condominium project the right answer?  Stunning penthouse views, but is it a good fit?
  • Midori, 238 Princess Street: an independent gift shop specializing in cutesy things for the kids.  They boast that they have a gift for every occasion! Their online presence is impressive, with free shipping for orders over $60.
  • Hipkids, 233 Princess Street: another newer business looking to capitalize on the cute factor.  This clothing retailer has everything from kids clothing to mommy gear, car seats to stroller and skin care.
  • TresOrs, 235 Princess Street: formerly located between Montreal and Bagot, here’s another possible relocation due to hefty lease increases.  I personally like the old storefront better, but at least they didn’t close.
  • Bombshell, 253 Princess Street: fancy yourself a funny t-shirt, backpack or socks?  Look no further than this clothing retailer.  It sort of, and I use that term loosely, reminds me of what Willy’s used to be.
  • The Running Room, 255 Princess Street: yet another business who moved from their previous home, this time only a few doors down.  Their new home is certainly brighter and perhaps even bigger.
  • Podo Nomu, 264 Princess Street: this Korean restaurant specializes in noodles and dumplings, like their signature Jajangmyun dish.  Of course, their menu also sports Bibimbap, packed with veggies, beef and eggs.
  • Fuel, 268 Princess Street: juice may be the next evolution of smoothies, but that doesn’t mean there still isn’t a market for protein-infused concoctions, packed with assorted berries and wheat grass.  Yum.
  • Stone City Ales, 275 Princess Street: without a doubt, my favourite addition to downtown’s business landscape.  They brew and serve their own beer.  And, don’t forget about the bottle shop, open late for your convenience.
  • Small Batch Café, 282 Princess Street: a relatively new eatery specializing in homemade soups salads, sandwiches, caffeinated beverages and desserts.  Drool at their daily specials as you sit inside Stone City Ales.
  • Angel Nails, 284 Princess Street: I haven’t been inside, but I know they do nails.  Pretty straightforward.
  • Rice House, 296 Princess Street: the second new Korean restaurant on the block.  They’ve earned rave reviews for their Bibimbap, pork bone soup, as well as their sushi.  Nice to know that sushi isn’t their main thing.
  • Wine Rack, 318 Princess Street: many connoisseurs will likely turn up their nose at this place, but when supplies are low they certainly do well in a pinch.  The shelves are packed with VQA varieties, so it is a good option.
  • Rogue Boutique, 324 Princess Street:  downtown Kingston lacks a decent number of home décor slash design shops.  This spot is a good addition specializing in fun knick knacks that are sure to generate conversation.
  • Choi’s Roll, 326 Princess Street: dentists cried a little bit when the Limestone Cupcakery closed their doors after a decent run.  Surprise, surprise, another sushi spot has appeared and we’ve officially reached peak sushi.
  • Gabriel Pizza, 341 Princess Street: this Ottawa-based purveyor of delicious pizza has yet to earn my business, mostly because of the many decent, locally owned pizzerias that I already know and love.  I will try it though.
  • Jac’s One of a Kind, 342 Princess Street:  I can’t specifically recall what was here, but I’m sure Streetview will prove to be the honest broker.  A nice pairing to have this place next to used clothing spot, What’ll I Wear.
  • Canada Computers, 346 Princess Street: since their move from Clergy and Princess, they’ve expanded their already huge footprint to include a computer service and home theatre departments.
  • La Hacienda, 347 Princess Street: this hotspot is the successor to Burrito Amigo and a rising star to watch.  Specializing in Latin flavours, hoping to bring back authentic Mexican and Salvadorean food to Kingston.
  • Perfect Accessories, 349 Princess Street: cell phone accessories and such for when you need it.
  • Boston Pizza, 371 Princess Street: one of the strangest turnovers I have yet to get the hear the real story on.  The transition from independent Fanatics sport bar to franchised Boston Pizza happened practically overnight.
Interested in learning more about the state of downtown Kingston? Check out part two of this series, which focuses on Downtown Sidestreets in 2015.

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...

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

  • Thanks for the Princess St summary. Thought you would like to know that “Art Noise” is going to open in old Wallach’s….owned by Tri Art owners. Dr. Geeta Naaran who opened new dental office has been practising downtown for at least 15 or 20 years upstairs in Lasalle Mews. Reno of her new office in that huge space is great.

  • Thanks for this useful summary, Harvey. Just on Verde / P'lovers – I believe that the name change was the result of the managers / franchisees buying out the owners. I am totally with you on Stone City Ales… ;)

    As ever, the elephant in the room is the dominance of downtown Kingston by three intransigent and selfish landowners, and a local government that appears unwilling or unable to challenge this situation…

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