Away from the busy highway traffic through Duncan awaits a downtown of old, where pianos are parked along the sidewalk trusting that someone will play a spontaneous tune.
Station Street Tattoos owner Ruth Spohn often does.
“Well, I grew up here so it holds a pretty special place in my heart. But it is unique, it’s different,” said Spohn.
Yet the downtown business owner says so many pass by on the highway, not knowing there are picture perfect alleyways, winding paths of footsteps that lead you from one famous storytelling totem to the next of over 40, among historic buildings and unique businesses that you can’t find anywhere else.
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“The highway is a terrible representation of what’s down here because it’s so much nicer,” said Spohn.
“Yeah, it’s just killer downtown,” said Jane McConell, who works at Eclectic Avenue Vintage Boutique.
When asked if she loves it in Duncan, McConell said, “I do.”
“I left for four years in my formative years and I was never so happy than to come back,” she said.
Longevity John Faulkner, owner of the Duncan Showroom, says the city requires visitors to look a little deeper.
“You’ve got to investigate. You’ve got to discover Duncan,” said Faulkner. “Get off the highway, come into the downtown and discover.”
Spohn wants to breathe new life into the downtown. So the artist has painted a new mural that was unveiled on Station Street on Wednesday.
“I’m hoping to start an initiative to make downtown more beautiful. I’m hoping to inspire others to come up with their own creative ideas,” she said.
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Fellow artist and Duncan business owner, Esther Hama, says she’s grateful for Spohn’s efforts.
“And I’m so over the moon proud of her, I think this is such an accomplishment and I think this is bringing so much beauty to our town,” she said.
According to the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Society, the area is bouncing back from tough times and growing with new businesses that want to be part of the unique district.
“It’s incredibly walkable, and it’s a safe downtown, and there’s plenty of parking downtown. So it’s a really great place for visitors to come and understand what it’s like to be in the Cowichan Valley,” said Katherine Devine, the executive director of the Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Society.
So more murals and revitalization projects are planned, with funding already in place to make them happen.
“It’s amazing and it’s celebrated and I think that’s wonderful,” said Spohn.
Supporters hope more projects will put a light on Duncan’s historic downtown and its increasingly bright future.