Rejects from Old Quebec Street.

Friday, November 14, 2003


Written by Marty Williams

The new Old Quebec St. – the mall that’s not a mall where there once really was a mall in downtown Guelph -- is, quite ironically, nothing like the real old Quebec St. that they tore down to build the Eaton’s Centre. I mean the name is fine, but I remember that particular stretch of road as quite dingy, sparsely populated by buildings, trees and Guelphish humans. It was a poor reflection of what remains of the “real” old Quebec St. that stands un-malled on the other side of St. George’s Square.

So I think it’s funny that they would name a swanky new project after the one part of town that was actually improved by demolition. But then again, what I find ha, ha funny, most people find funny strange. And in this case, after almost 20 years as the Eaton’s Centre (including a couple as the Guelph Centre) not that many people will remember the derelict district it once was. Who then but we ancients will still associate Old Quebec St. with what existed two facelifts and a Botox treatment ago and laugh? Precious few.

But no matter how cranky a coot you are, one does have to admit that the current incarnation is the nicest thing to be plunked down on that spot since John Galt cut down all the trees. It’s styled after a European Arcade, and retains the old shop-front within so even though you know it’s new, it fairly reeks of a retail fashion so retrograde that Mrs. Quarrie might have worked there as a teenager. The attention to detail is quite impressive and I would be a regular stroller and shopper there if not for one slight problem: like the new Mayor’s campaign platform, there’s nothing there. Okay, well, not nothing. But not much. Not yet anyway.

The management of the non-mall mall doesn’t seem to be too worried. They have a vision of the place and they are sticking to it and not just taking any old Joe or Jessica that wants to open a thrift store. They have a plan. And it is obvious that only certain types of stores are welcome to come in and pay rent. To that end they’ve got lots of signs in the windows that say “this site is reserved” for this or that posh and unique retail outlet, and some places have fit the criteria and opened but for the most part it still looks to be under construction.

It makes me wonder: I wonder what kinds of places they rejected. What retail concept would be beneath Old Quebec St.? Here, perhaps, are some of stores (and their slogans) that might have been rejected by the deep thinkers on the project.

· Alter Boys. “Discount gender reassignment while you wait.”

· Hirsute Harry’s. “The finest in nose-hair fashions and accessories.”

· Discount Dildos. “Previously enjoyed sex toys.”

· Retro Auto. “Convert your gas burning car to coal.”

· Red Rover’s Marxism for Dog. “Training until your puppy barx marx.”

· The Pornographers Accountant. “Specializing in double entry book-keeping.”

· Ye Olde Towne Extortionist. “Knee-cappings R Us.”

· The Little Gaffer. “A duct tape emporium.”

· The Half-hour Hotel. “Looking for a little naughty nap-time?”

And of course

· Wal Mart. “Your source for cheap plastic crap.”

If they don’t get the upscale retail they want, places to suit the lofty nature of their ambitions, perhaps they will consider my list. After all, they shouldn’t be so snooty and picky about what kinds of stores go where. Let the free market decide; it knows better than you. And as the recent municipal election has proven, having an idea about what is right, what fits in and what belongs where, is an elitist attitude that will be punished. May the owners of Old Quebec Street heed the warning and open their doors to whatever greasy spoon or discount emporium comes their way before it’s too late.

Then, and only then, will the new non-mall really live up to its name.

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