Before you criticize downtown Barrie, I encourage you to visit.
I’ve read so many grumblings that there’s nothing of value in downtown Barrie, that there’s nowhere to shop, that it’s just empty storefronts, that parking is impossible, that it’s unsafe and unsavoury. Let me ask, have you visited downtown in the last year?
Nowhere to shop, huh? I work in a store that is rated Number 1 in Barrie shopping attractions on TripAdvisor. We’ve won New Business of the Year and Business of the Year; we’ve been voted Favourite Gourmet Food Store and Favourite Specialty Food Store over the past three years. Oh, and we’ve only been open for three years!
And we are not alone. Two of the city’s best women’s clothing stores are on Dunlop Street…featuring unique, fashion-forward pieces combined with superb customer service. Chic hair salons, a lingerie store that specializes in personal fittings…art galleries and jewelry shops…you can’t get this at a mall!
Restaurants…from the ridiculously delicious Grilled Cheese Eatery to the sublime special-occasion-worthy Il Buco, there are independent downtown spots that serve as necessary respite to the chain restaurants in the ‘suburbs’. There’s an award-winning bakery, a first-class gourmet cheese store, and three fabulous independent coffee shops. Local gastropubs featuring craft beer and delightful food brought to you by area farmers and producers. These establishments cater to all ages and their owners are eager to share their products and considerable knowledge with you.
Much of this retail entrepreneurship success is driven by smart, community-minded women. To paraphrase Beyonce, if girls run the world, women rule downtown Barrie! From Homestead to Swirleez, and from ZuZu, Barrie Olive Oil, Ripe Juicery to Janet Kemp, Everleigh Gardens, Bravo, Canvas and Cabernet, Our House and many more, downtown Barrie showcases the outstanding contributions of women in our city.
Worried about where to park? There are large parking lots between Dunlop and Simcoe, a parking complex on Collier, and most of the time, there is plenty of street parking. It’s inexpensive, and it is all within a few minutes’ walk from your destination.
On my most recent walk down Dunlop, I noticed three empty storefronts. One is going to be the new location of a much-beloved Barrie institution (shh, I can’t tell!) and the others, I’m sure, will be snapped up in no time. Compare that to our malls—Bayfield and Kozlov come to mind—where there’s more retail space than will ever be rented.
Sure, our downtown is a work in progress—as it has been for 100 years and likely always will be—and yes, we do have concerns around loitering and drug use, and it is a hub for our city’s homeless individuals. But we face the same concerns as other mid-size cities. And it does not mean our downtown is a dangerous, unsavoury place to be. I volunteer with downtown’s homeless population, and I recognize many of the faces I see on the street. They’re certainly not going to go out of their way to offend or harm you. As you would in other cities, be aware of your surroundings, and you’ll be fine.
Don’t get me wrong—I like shopping at plazas and big-box stores—but if you want a real taste of independent, local, unique products and services, stop your grumbling and take a walk downtown. See for yourself what’s going on, and come in and say hello. We look forward to meeting you.