Editorial: Downtown’s not dead

On Monday November 17 the local store Things From Mom’s Basement officially moved from a basement storefront to a larger, street-level location just upstairs.

The new location is very much an expansion. Store owner Erin Knowles said (in a release from the Downtown Business Improvement Area) that the new store would allow the business to show one third of its stock, up from one fifth.

Things From Mom’s Basement is more or less a vintage “stuff” store. If it’s an object from your childhood you have fond memories of, they’re likely to have it or something like it there.

The move is an exciting conversation changer for the downtown. Rather than having to talk about all of those closing businesses (something it seems Peterborough’s been talking about since the 80s), we can point towards a counter example: a business that appears to be rather thriving.

People are quick to jump to hyperbole when it comes to discussing downtown Peterborough. More often than not I hear people saying that it’s a dying place, that everything is going out of business, or that there isn’t anything to do.

I wonder how these people are going to react to the news that a downtown business is expanding, filling a storefront left open by another downtown business when it too expanded to a larger location.

Having come from a city of a similar size, I can say with certainty Peterborough’s downtown is still a healthy one. No doubt it’s had setbacks and challenges in the wake of the expansion of big box retail stores, online shopping, and the 2008 recession, but which downtown hasn’t?

There are many cities that simply do not have stores like Things From Mom’s Basement in the downtown. They don’t have arts and culture hubs like The Spill, Artspace, Showplace, or Market Hall. They don’t cater to niche interests like the Darkroom Project based out of Gallery in the Attic, or the two stores that carry vinyl records (Moondance Music and Bluestreak Records).

The downtown in the city I come from certainly doesn’t do any of these things. If these stores exist, they exist in different parts of the city and aren’t centralized in a way that facilitates travelling by foot between them.

The sheer amount of performance space in this city is incomparable to similarly sized locales.

It’s easy to take on a negative attitude and point towards an empty storefront as being indicative of the downtown’s sure demise. But this negative attitude some people have serves only to hurt it by discouraging people from actually checking out what it has to offer. I think a far more useful approach would be to emphasize what great stuff does continue to exist there.

If you want to see a truly dead downtown, they’re out there, and I have a few suggestions as to where to go to find one.

Peterborough isn’t one of them, and the success of businesses like Things From Mom’s Basement is proof to me that it won’t be any time soon.

About Pat Reddick 84 Articles
Pat was co-editor of Volume 49, along with Matt Rappolt. He's primarily interested in arts coverage, often editorializing on arts issues. He graduated from Trent with a Bachelor's degree in English Lit. Pat hosts or co-hosts several programs at Trent Radio, such as Media Are Plural. You can follow him on Twitter, or watch him eat through his kitchen window. In his spare time Pat reads a lot (q.v. English major), plays video games, and writes fiction. He has a blog or something but I couldn't find out too much about that.