I’m not really big on being a cheerleader for anything.
But I do support the things I care about deeply, and Downtown Chilliwack is one of my darlings.
Last month, I had the chance to interview Beautyboxx owner Liz Castro, and hear about how she’s settling into the downtown core. I was happy to find she fits right in, bringing a Kits vibe to the already hip Mill Street offerings.
It’s hard not to love Mill Street, isn’t it? Varied shopping options are just steps apart, in storefronts that hide treasures as you dig deeper into each of them. Up and down Wellington is more of the same, despite some vacant, disheartening holes.
With my interview done, I decided to check out a few of my usual haunts while ducking into places I hadn’t been before. First stop was to Harvest on Mill Street, where they’ve been making delicious gluten-free scones lately. I picked up a few of those for home and carried on to Wellington Avenue.
Along the way I noticed something wonderful; every store had shoppers in it. They were buying shoes, home decor, baked goods, children’s clothes, books, and what-have-you. It was inspiring. Each of them made a conscience decision to head downtown to shop.
As I walked I remembered there’s a fairly new second-hand shop across from Service Canada, so I popped in to see what they’re all about. I learned their proceeds go to non-profits of the owners’ choosing.
“We retired and got bored!” I heard one of the proprietors say to a customer, laughing.
Next stop, Nuggets Books. Now, as an avid reader I’m ashamed to admit that I hadn’t been yet. So I was happy to meet the owner there, too. He guided me through the narrow stacks to find what I was looking for, and we spoke briefly about literature.
With a new-to-me copy of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, by Canadian author Madeleine Thien, I decided to rest a bit at Decades and have a read. After a quick snack and cup of coffee, I was off and running again. I browsed the new location for the Old Country Store auction site, and promptly fell in love with a writing desk. Then I popped into Ballam Furniture Gallery and chatted with Jim and his son, Ryan.
Heading back to my car, but not quite ready to leave, The Arthouse on Mill caught my eye. We’d chatted about this spot in the newsroom the week before, and here it was. I became thoroughly enraptured by the design of the space, the airiness, and the artwork.
Finally, I stepped into Did I Mention Flowers. Another lovely store, another friendly owner.
Did I buy a lot downtown? Not really, not this time. The baking is now long gone, and I have two new-to-me books on my shelf to read.
Yes, downtown has problems. Truthfully, I always expect that during one of these shopping trips I’ll see something bad happen, somewhere. But I go anyway. I’ve been shopping downtown since I moved here in 1999 and haven’t been emotionally scarred yet.
But I have contributed to the good things happening downtown, and supported the good people doing them. I’ll cheer for them any day.
Jessica Peters is a reporter with the Chilliwack Progress