Mailbag: Shop New West this Christmas

Here at Tenth To the Fraser, our editorial team has been kicking around ideas for localizing our Christmas celebrations this year. Our family will attempt to source most of our food locally, and I had in mind to explore local shopping opportunities as well. One of our readers is taking it one better, and plans this year to do all her family Christmas shopping locally.

Hey there.  I just checked out your blog for the first time today at the suggestion of my husband, Blair Fryer [ed. note: Blair is the City of New West’s communications manager].  What a great resource for New West!  I just posted a link on my Facebook page so that all of my NW friends can check it out. 
I also wanted to tell you about something Blair and I are doing this Christmas which might be of interest to you.  We’ve decided to do all of our Christmas shopping in New West this year, purchasing as much as possible from local businesses. (The Wii for the kids might be the only exception.  Best Buy is technically in NW but doesn’t exactly qualify as a local business!)  There are so many fabulous new shops and galleries on Columbia and E. Columbia, I don’t think we will have any problem finding perfect gifts for our family members, teachers, coaches etc.  Gifts certificates for a our favourite cafes and restaurants are another option.  I’m planning to let all of our friends know about this via email and Facebook in hope that others will consider doing the same, or at least supporting some local businesses as they make their Christmas purchases.  It’s a great way to support our community, particularly during such difficult economic times.  It’s also a message to other businesses that NW is a great place to set up shop.
Congratulations again on your blog!

Rebecca Maurer

Thank you for your note Rebecca! Your email was a timely reminder for us (and our blog readers) to remember New Westminster businesses when planning our Christmas shopping this year.

In the post I wrote on Peter Julian‘s idea for a destination B.C. history museum and arts centre downtown, my co-author Jocelyn said in the comments

I vote they take over the Burr theatre and knock down an ugly next-door neighbour for the museum part. Columbia seems perpetually on the edge of greatness, perhaps this would push it over. Can’t you see Columbia as the Commercial Drive of the Fraser?

The funny thing is, while Columbia may be teetering on the edge of greatness today, once upon a time the ‘golden mile’ was the place to shop. A recent Newsleader article paints the picture:

It was the 1950s and 1960s, boom years for New Westminster’s most famous street nicknamed the “golden mile.”

Woodward’s, Eaton’s, Army and Navy and Spencers, all dominant retailers of the time, were found on the mile—actually four to six busy, crowded blocks.

It was one of the busiest retail districts in Canada, said historian Archie Miller—busier than Toronto’s Yonge Street, Vancouver’s Granville Street and Montreal’s rue Sainte-Catherine.

Think about that for a minute. Busier than Younge Street, Granville Street or rue Sainte-Catherine. Oh, New West! What a decline! And yet it is improving. More boutique businesses are opening along Columbia and in Sapperton, and many locals are hopeful that we really could be approaching the tipping point to retail greatness once more. If and when we do, it will be thanks to people like Rebecca and Blair, who look away from the generic frenzy of mall shopping and seek out unique gifts from local shopkeepers.