Modern Primitive closing its doors

The awning over the doorway into Modern Primitive shows some wear as the business gets ready to shut its doors after nearly 30 years in downtown Kingston. Photo by Dominic Owens.
Most Kingstonians found out Modern Primitive was closing when these signs suddenly appeared outside the well-known storefront. Photo by Dominic Owens.

After almost 29 years of business, Modern Primitive located on a Princess Street in Kingston’s downtown core will be closing its doors for good.

The business, which features products from all around the globe, has a rich and long history within the Kingston community. According to co-owner David Parkinson, it was his love for both travel and interesting things that brought the business to life.

“When we started we only had a few street-side jewelry carts, and from there we moved to a space in the old Stacey Building,” Parkinson explained, referring to the businesses first bricks and mortar location. “We have been here since then.”

Parkinson spent four years selling jewelry on the streets of Spain. When he and his wife and co-owner, Bonnie, began traveling, they would acquire products that they would then bring back to Canada.

When they settled in Kingston, those travels and journeys didn’t cease, and the family continued to travel and acquire interesting things, sometimes even bringing their young daughter along for the trips.

Parkinson said that their travels have been amazing – And that because the family travelled more in colder months, right now is actually the first time he’s experienced winter.

“I’ve been here for thirty or so years and this is my first winter in Canada,” he said.

Inside the small-but-exciting Modern Primitive. Photo by Dominic Owens.

The selection of items in the shop is eye catching. Even on a glum, cloudy day, the lights bounce off the shiny and sparkling jewelry, and the wide variety of colours that  fill the small store demonstrate the thought put into every purchased item.

“We brought in different stuff all the time and I think that’s what made us different from other places. Online shopping and large retail stores tend to carry similar, if not exactly the same products, whereas we only purchase things that are unique and hold meaning,” said Parkinson. “If I don’t like something, I don’t purchase it.”

There are so many things that make the shop unique and special to its customers, from the trap door in the floor that leads to the out-of-the-way treasure cave that stores the stock, to the wide variety of products from multiple countries and villages – and, of course, the outdoor room of clothing and textiles that opens into Rochleau Court in the summertime.

Owner David Parkinson opens the trap door (or Go-Down, in India) that lets way to Modern Primitive’s stockroom. Photo by Dominic Owens.

Parkinson said that he believes their shop will be remembered not only for its uniqueness but for its variety.

“There have been many stores like ours in the area, but they tended to focus on a range of products from a specific area, whereas we like to have a variety of things from many different places and backgrounds,” he said.

“The trap door that leads to our basement was constructed by us, many shops in England use the hidden doors, and in India they are actually called Go-Downs. Those are the things that make this place so special and memorable. ”

David and Bonnie are set to retire sometime in the near future, however due to the amount of stock they still have, the store won’t officially close for a few months.

“Our customers both new and long-time, loyal are absolutely amazing, and right now the goal is to clear out the stock we have,” Parkinson said. “That’s why everything is marked at 50 per cent off, if a necklace is $14.00 the customer pays $7.00.”

The bells that hang just inside the door of Modern Primitive jingle softly as each customer enters. Photo by Dominic Owens.

2 thoughts on “Modern Primitive closing its doors

  • Awe, I really love this store. *sigh*
    No Modern Primitive, No The Jungle.
    Alternative lifestyle stores are just not going to have a presence here anymore.
    This makes me sad.

  • Was just down at Modern Primitive actually. The previous owners found some like-minded international traveller and supplier and passed the torch on I guess.

    Still some pretty interesting stuff, sourced from all over, prices seem about the same as before. Got some new things in too so I’ll probably head down again before Christmas to check those out.

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