My family has deep ties to downtown Kitchener. My opa had The Tick Tock Clock and Watch Repair in the old Income Trust building in the 1970s and ’80s (now TD Canada Trust at King and Ontario Streets).
My mum and dad met in the early ’80s when they both worked at Walters Jewellers, a Canadian-wide jewelry company whose headquarters were on King Street beside what is now Petsche’s Shoes.
I vividly remember walking down Halls Lane with my mum to visit my dad after kindergarten was finished for the day. We’d walk past glittery storefronts and duck down Halls Lane to the back entrance of the jewelry store.
Downtown seemed so glamorous to me as a child.
Today, I spend even more of my time downtown because I work here. I still see my dad here. He owns a jewelry store nearby and we visit for coffee or lunch weekly.
I find myself continually charmed by the stores, restaurants and entertainment.
With more than 13,000 workers here every day, downtown Kitchener should be full of people out and about on lunch breaks, shopping, running errands and grabbing a bite to eat.
I’m also shocked when I mention a new restaurant, or store to a colleague, and receive only a blank look. Do the thousands of people working downtown ever leave their offices to play in the area?
The answer, according to the Downtown Kitchener Business Improvement Area (BIA) is no.
With the increase of in-house coffee bars and catered lunches, many people drive into work, spend their day in their offices and then reverse the commute home without leaving their workspace, said Christine Michaud, manager of community relations at the BIA.
Michaud and her team want to encourage this small army of workers in downtown to get out and explore the area. To do so, the BIA is launching its largest campaign yet.
#DTKLove is an eight-week campaign that highlights different restaurants and stores. Launched last week, the campaign has a simple goal.
“Get out behind your desk and go for a walk. Get out and see what your neighbours do for a living,” said Stefanie Golling, event manager for the BIA.
The campaign is easy to follow. Every week, the BIA posts four or five featured restaurants or stores. Each participating business offers an incentive, such as the free appetizer with a lunch meal at the TWH Social this week.
If you stop by any of the participating businesses during the week, you can fill out a #DTKLove ballot to win a $500 Downtown Dollars gift certificate and be entered for the $1,000 Downtown Dollars grand prize.
Those businesses also offer prizes ranging from merchandise to free tickets for weekend events in the downtown core. That could include concert tickets or a VIP package to the Kitchener-Waterloo Comedy Festival March 5-7.
91.5 The Beat will be on location at one of the businesses each Wednesday at noon to draw the winning ballot for the $500 gift certificate. Today, The Beat is hanging out at Gloss Boutique and Salon, 87 King St. W.
The BIA worked with EPMG Video Production to produce a short video on each business owner. It’s a great way to put names and faces to stores you pass by regularly, and to show off the personalities and passions that are building up the downtown.
If you are out and about during the campaign, the BIA hopes you’ll share your experiences on social media, and mention the hashtag, #DTKLove.
“People still have the mindset that it’s a scary place and nothing is down here,” Golling said. “There’s so much happening here.”
It’s supposed to get above freezing this weekend. This calls for some celebrations. I see and hear that…The Kitchener-Waterloo Comedy Festival runs March 5-7. Tickets are still available for the opening night gala featuring comics Shaun Majumder and Mark Forward at the Centre in the Square, 101 Queen St. N., Kitchener. Tickets start at $26 for the show, which begins at 8 p.m. One dollar from every ticket for the gala goes to the The Food Bank of Waterloo Region. The rest of the festival schedule is online and features comics such as Laurie Elliott and Dave Hempstead at a variety of venues around Kitchener and Waterloo… “Getting Naked” is a new exhibit opening at THEMUSEUM on March 7. The exhibit features pieces, whose subjects are nude, from the Canadian Council Art Bank. Many of these pieces are rarely exhibited as they are viewed as controversial or pornographic. THE MUSEUM hopes the exhibit encourages conversation and challenges perceptions. Stop by 10 King St. W in Kitchener beginning at 10 a.m. to see the exhibit… the Internet of Things Waterloo group has a meetup Tuesday, March 10 at The Boathouse, 57 Jubilee Dr. in Victoria Park, Kitchener. Guest speakers include Derrick Klotz, a field applications engineer at Freescale Semiconductor, and Bob Moroz, president of RFID Canada. Register online. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the evening officially kicks off at 7 p.m. You’ll want to get there early to grab a seat and order a drink.
Photo: A Chris Austin mural in Halls Lane between Queen and Ontario Streets. Just one of the awesome sights you’ll find as you explore downtown Kitchener.