While some long-time Nanaimoites say it wasn’t always the case, downtown Nanaimo is a vibrant area, full of life.
It is a great place, they say.
Greg Badger, owner of Funk your Fashion on Commercial Street, has owned his business for five years and been in Nanaimo for eight – some people have told him that it used to be rundown and a bit scary.
“All I know Nanaimo downtown is to be a vibrant area with amazing artists, busking on the streets, as well as shops as my own and lots of great restaurants and coffee shops and stuff like that. It is a phenomenal downtown, just waiting to explode,” says Badger. “It’s doing well but it has the potential for it and the upside is incredible.”
Jane Coupland, owner of Very Vintage Upcycled Chic on Commercial Street, likes being situated in downtown Nanaimo as it allows a blend of different people, such as tourists and people at conferences.
She likes being part of the downtown community as well.
“It is so great because geographically and esthetically, it’s beautiful and with the ocean and the walkway and we have a lot of great heritage buildings – to me it’s the soul and the heart of the city,” Coupland said.
Kathy Boland, a long-time Nanaimoite, moved from Ontario two decades ago and she said people didn’t really feel comfortable coming downtown back then but things have changed.
“It’s really got a small city, active feel in the downtown core,” Boland said. “There are little shops, there are small, interesting retail that you can meander through and get things that are unusual. More and more people are starting to come downtown and enjoy it.”
According to Steve Lebitschnig, owner of downtown music and movie store Fascinating Rhythm, having independent business owners downtown is what makes it so great.
“We’ve got a nice mix of independent businesses, especially unique stores. A lot of owner/operators, people that can make decisions can provide maybe a better level of service and satisfaction than you sometimes get at a chain store,” Lebitschnig said.
Nanaimo African Heritage Society President Shalema Gantt sees her organization’s location downtown and the centrality is what makes it great.
“We’re such a great port city. Everything is so convenient. From downtown, you’re surrounded by parks, the ocean,” Gantt says.