October 17, 2014 - 7:44 AM
Downtown Vernon has a charming Main Street framed by quaint cafes, art galleries and boutiques. It has an old fashioned movie theatre, wide sidewalks for strolling, and park benches for those who want to sit awhile. It’s the picturesque street you’d find in movies set in small towns, like The Majestic.
The only thing it seems to be missing is people.
Merchants know what I’m talking about. Lather Up Canada recently announced it was closing and moving to online sales only. Not enough customers. Parking rates recently doubled, driving customers away, the owner said. A few blocks away, the massive building that once advertised the name Liquidation World is lying vacant, and there are other shopkeepers counting the days until they are forced to uproot and try somewhere else. Merchants have lamented it's on its way to becoming a ghost town.
The city has acknowledged the challenges. That’s why it worked with property owners to revitalize the downtown core with expansive sidewalks, new street furniture, lamp posts and twinkle lights in the trees. It’s all made for a more appealing downtown, but what’s the point if no one knows it's there?
The Downtown Vernon Association is working hard to put people back downtown and show them what it can offer. They want to close off a portion of 30 Avenue in the summer and welcoming vendors and customers to inhabit the roadway. The association’s executive director said the Avenue Market is a way to “open peoples’ eyes to what we really have downtown.”
The unique mom and pop shops—featuring everything from records to kitchen accessories—the heartwarming and nostalgic brick sidewalks, and the variety of restaurants hidden downtown come as a surprise to many. So many times, I’ve heard people say, ‘I didn’t know this was here.’ Exploring the downtown core of a city is a must on every tourist’s itinerary, but visiting the one in our own backyard is vastly underrated by locals.
Visit the Park Royal shopping centre in Vancouver and you’ll see they’ve tried to re-create a downtown, Main Street style shopping experience with a mix of indoor and open-air shopping. Even the Uptown Centre in Victoria mimics the feel of boulevard shopping. The atypical shopping malls are tapping in to something we all crave: a more personal, community atmosphere.
If you’ve never gone for a walk down 30 Avenue (Main Street) in Vernon, treat yourself. Whether or not you do any shopping, that’s up to you. Just go and take it in. Feel the fall leaves crackling between your feet and the brick. Notice the old architecture lining the street, the wrought iron decor on the sidewalk. Grab a sandwich at one of the cafes and enjoy it on a park bench, because there’s more to Vernon than food courts and big-box stores.
To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email email@example.com or call 250-718-2724.
News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2014