Sandy Hiebert took a double take along downtown Nanaimo’s Victoria Crescent Wednesday, surprised to find new businesses opening up in the long-closed storefronts.
“I think it’s great. It’s time to open this up,” said Sandy Hiebert, a Nanaimo resident.
“I mean downtown Nanaimo is known for having these funky, little shops. So why have empty space, when you can have art and life,” said Nanaimo resident Gina Galway.
“It’s good. It’s just the beginning,” said Nathan Randall, the owner of Sound Heritage Music, a vintage music store on Victoria Crescent.
Randall holds the lease for an entire historic building on the block, that’s become notorious for open drug use and homelessness. He said there’s huge potential there for small businesses, that need space and low rents, so offered up closed storefronts to friends, who quickly jumped at the chance.
“I am fortunate to be able to provide space for these cultures and businesses to grow and thrive in a neighbourhood that could really use it,” said Randall.
Vault Skateboards moved in on Nov. 1.
“Nothing has been in here for at least 15 years. When I stand back now I’m pretty proud of what I’ve done and how it looks,” said Vault Skateboards Owner, Matt Chesterfield.
A clothing and art shop called Nightmare Oasis opened just days ago.
“It’s all one of a kind, local, handmade pieces, so we’re excited to share them,” said Nightmare Oasis’ Co-Owner Mia Dungeon.
“You only live once. So do it,” said Vault Skateboards employee James Watson.
According to barber Dave Lawrence, who is President of the Victoria Crescent Association, this new confidence in the often beaten-down block has been a long time coming.
“It feels really good. Like I put stock in Victoria Crescent almost 16 years ago and to see it getting better and flourishing is something that I always thought it could be,” said Dave Lawrence, Owner of That 50’s Barber Shop.
“Come check it out. It’s coming to life,” said Chesterfield.