City Life

A Locke Street Christmas

Perhaps the best time to enjoy Locke is on a cool, crisp day in December, when the street is decorated festively for the Christmas season and browsers line the sidewalks.

By Ryan McGreal
Published December 13, 2010

I lived on Locke street in the mid-1990s, when it was a comparatively dispirited place. Among the sleepy antique and consignment stores were just a few highlights: Ron's Big Easy, a cajun restaurant run by Daniel Lanois' brother, the late Ron Lanois; Henry Black Books, run by the charming and book-obsessed Henry Black (who, I'm sad to learn, just recently passed away); a strange place called Agnes' Floral Creations and Gifts, the purpose of which I was never quite able to determine, given that they didn't seem to sell actual flowers.

Since then, and particularly in the past decade, Locke Street - indeed, the entire neighbourhood - has undergone a renaissance that has been nothing short of breathtaking. As the antique stores have slowly migrated to Ottawa Street (another traditional commercial district undergoing a revival), a wide variety of new stores have crowded in, filling a variety of niches and and collectively providing a pretty comprehensive suite of businesses.

Locke Street now has bakeries, a butcher, a grocery store, cheese shop, restaurants, book store, clothing stores, cafes, design shops, a delicious burrito hut, galleries and more.

Perhaps the best time to enjoy Locke is on a cool, crisp day in December, when the street is decorated festively for the Christmas season and browsers line the sidewalks. To give you a taste of what the street has to offer, here's a sampling of photos taken over the past few days.

Locke South banners and wreaths hang from the hydro poles
Locke South banners and wreaths hang from the hydro poles

The reinvented Courtyard provides intimate fine-dining
The reinvented Courtyard provides intimate fine-dining

Earth to Table Bread Bar already feels like an instant classic. They started a bit rocky but listened to customers and iterated rapidly.
Earth to Table Bread Bar already feels like an instant classic. They started a bit rocky but listened to customers and iterated rapidly.

Decorations in the window of Lulu and Lavigne
Decorations in the window of Lulu and Lavigne

Epic Books is epic
Epic Books is epic

Christmas trees line the sidewalks
Christmas trees line the sidewalks

La Jardiniere always has magnificent Christmas decorations
La Jardiniere always has magnificent Christmas decorations

Decorative pieces fill the windows at Textures, an artisans' co-op
Decorative pieces fill the windows at Textures, an artisans' co-op

Sweetness Bakery: their chocolate mint cupcakes are delicious
Sweetness Bakery: their chocolate mint cupcakes are delicious

A Christmas tree in the window of Locke Street Antiques, one of the last remaining antique stores
A Christmas tree in the window of Locke Street Antiques, one of the last remaining antique stores

Kataya: don't be put off by the creepy hand doorknob. They have some great women's fashions designed in-house
Kataya: don't be put off by the creepy hand doorknob. They have some great women's fashions designed in-house

Apparently a pinko cyclist is shopping at Forrat's Chocoloates
Looks like a pinko cyclist is buying some chocolate at Forrat's

The Art Alley wraps around the side of Ten Thousand Villages
The Art Alley wraps around the side of Ten Thousand Villages

The arrival of Starbucks did not signal the death-knell of independent coffee shops on Locke
The arrival of Starbucks did not signal the death-knell of independent coffee shops on Locke

Bad Dog Cafe: reports of its impending death were greatly exaggerated
Bad Dog Cafe: reports of its impending death were greatly exaggerated

The tree stump in front of the Hellingman office is decorated for Christmas year-round
The tree stump in front of the Hellingman office is decorated for Christmas year-round

The Beasley House Bistro predates the recent wave of hipness on Locke Street
The Beasley House Bistro predates the recent wave of hipness on Locke Street

The past two Saturdays, a horse-drawn carriage has taken people-watchers up and down the street
The past two Saturdays, a horse-drawn carriage has taken people-watchers up and down the street

Decorations line the front pillars of the Wrapping Room
Decorations line the front pillars of the Wrapping Room

Kutz 4 Kidz is in on the decorating action
Kutz 4 Kidz is in on the decorating action

Dusk falls over Citizen Kid
Dusk falls over Citizen Kid

The Bar on Locke comes to life
The Bar on Locke comes to life

Lights blaze from Goodness Me, downstairs, and Pure, upstairs
Lights blaze from Goodness Me, downstairs, and Pure, upstairs

Paradise Lost: the iconic fish and chip shop awaits new owners
Paradise Lost: the iconic fish and chip shop awaits new owners

The decorations at La Jardiniere are best appreciated at night
The decorations at La Jardiniere are best appreciated at night

Ryan McGreal, the editor of Raise the Hammer, lives in Hamilton with his family and works as a programmer, writer and consultant. Ryan volunteers with Hamilton Light Rail, a citizen group dedicated to bringing light rail transit to Hamilton. Ryan writes a city affairs column in Hamilton Magazine, and several of his articles have been published in the Hamilton Spectator. He also maintains a personal website and has been known to post passing thoughts on Twitter @RyanMcGreal. Recently, he took the plunge and finally joined Facebook.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2010 at 09:03:59

Fantastic visual tour!

I took a friend to Locke Street this summer to show her what another BIA had accomplished; she was amazed at the breadth of the various boutiques.

I lived there late-80s/early 90s, so remember an even older version of the street. I'm so glad it's progressed from 'Antiques Alley', because it's always held so much potential, especially given its history.

I still sigh when I walk past where the Regent Cinema used to be...

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 13, 2010 at 09:09:37

great tour...you need to go snap these pics again now with the snow!
mystoneycreek, just to clarify, the Locke BIA is brand new and only encompasses a few blocks at the south end of the street. The street was revived without a BIA, largely by the hard work of it's merchants and merchants association. Cheers

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2010 at 09:47:18

Jason:

Oh, believe me, I'm fully aware of the goings-on regarding Locke Street and the BIA and competing interests...far more than most. I happen to believe in Merchants' Associations, but currently side with the notion that government involvement in BIAs is fraught with unbelievable pitfalls, and the interests of just about any 'high street' are best served by those who are actually doing the work, the business owners themselves and not Council. I hope this will serve as clarification...though it's interesting how the mere mention of a BIA in my comments sets off alarms. Funny, that.

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By BeulahAve (registered) | Posted December 13, 2010 at 10:13:54

Don't forget the multiple churches on Locke Street, available to anyone who wishes to celebrate Christmas with liturgy, beautiful music, and classic decorations. My own church, St John's Anglican (Rock on Locke), hosted an outstanding big band jazz concert last night and will have traditional Lessons and Carols on Sunday at 7pm. http://www.rockonlocke.ca/

Personally, I have been really glad to see the overabundance of hair salons on Locke be tempered by the variety of the newer stores.

Also worth noting are the plans to renovate the playground area of St Joseph School, with the intention of making a true community space. Details can be found at http://greentuxproject.wordpress.com/abo...

Comment edited by BeulahAve on 2010-12-13 09:27:34

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By John Locke (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2010 at 13:24:51

Love my street.

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By bobinnes (registered) - website | Posted December 13, 2010 at 15:45:48

mystoneycreek, jason, please elaborate on BIA issue. I'm not very familiar but always suspected BIA was just another tax, supposedly for beautification plus anything organizers can scalp off. WHat do owners do if they can't afford the surcharge? How much is a typical surcharge/ how does it work? Also, i've always wondered if BIAs (or merchant assns) on one street just rob from other streets to boost their own - which possibly infers that all BIAs should be abolished????

Ottawa Street is closer to me & Merulla said he's trying to get something going on Kenilworth. Barton beautification didn't seem to do much, but i bet it cost a bundle. I can't see BIAs working on just any street but will be interested in any opinions on the subject.

Comment edited by bobinnes on 2010-12-13 14:51:06

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By bob lee (anonymous) | Posted December 13, 2010 at 16:38:47

umm, you forgot the gun shop.

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By kevin (registered) | Posted December 13, 2010 at 17:55:07

The West Town is good.

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By mattc (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 03:12:53

I'll be spending Xmas here at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. Thanx for posting these pics; I'll be sure to look at them again during the season. I've been reading RTH posts on a regular basis since I arrived here. Much better than the Speculator for coverage on relevant local issues. 10 more weeks till I'm home!

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By Ryan (registered) - website | Posted December 14, 2010 at 06:14:11

Hi mattc, I'm happy RTH is able to give you a connection to Hamilton. Get home safe!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 09:18:01

Great to hear from you Mattc. Have a blessed Christmas and stay safe! We appreciate your service.

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 13:53:33

Is there a decent business directory of the stores and shops in these BIA's? Something that sorts by product offering or description?

I'd definitely prefer to, at least more often than not, shop for clothes in downtown shops.

And, while it could be that I'm a picky shopper, finding casual/ cool/contemporary-yet-affordable styles for guys not very easy. And when time is of the essence, browsing streets is tough.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 14, 2010 at 14:52:05

Here ya go:

http://www.lockestreetbia.ca/

(Keep in mind that not all business on Locke are included here...)

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By Sean Dickinson (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 16:23:41

I love Locke!

I live on Locke as it happens, only literally at the very end on the north! by Dundurn Castle

Must sa,y the south end is much nicer but the whole street - stem to stern - is quite lovely!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 16:28:16

I can't wait for the waterfront pedestrian bridge from the north end of Locke to the waterfront trail. I'll be a 5 minute walk to the waters edge. Sean, you'll be even closer. I love living up at the north end near Victoria Park and Dundurn Park, yet being close enough to walk to the shops at the south end.
Would be nice to see the stretch between King and Main have some traffic calming in the form of only 1 traffic lane, 1 parking lane and 1 bike lane along with a flex zoning that could allow commercial uses to spread north (as if. This is Hamilton....)

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By slodrive (registered) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 16:46:10

@mystoneycreek

Much thanks! This is a really nice site. Represents the neighbourhood well. Hope more are doing that.

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By Lisa (anonymous) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 17:50:45

THE NEWEST ADDITION TO LOCKE STREET....SOLEE SHOES>SOLEE>SHOES>SOLEE>SHOES>SOLEE SHOES

SOLEE SHOES is the newest fashion boutique to open In Hamilton at 195 LOCKE STREET SOUTH (directly across the street from the cheese shoppe)

Womens footwear and accessories from all around the globe: Italy, Spain, NYC, Montreal

DEFINITELY worth comming down to Locke Street For!!!

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By jason (registered) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 18:34:28

when, oh when will we get a Pho restaurant on Locke? Is it too expensive for that sort of thing?? I've heard rumblings that a good sized condo project/ mixed use building is planned for the old Asian grocery store near Jackson. Would be really nice to fill in that spot and bring some of the good vibes closer to Main St, which is pretty thin right now other than Beasleys and the Mexican place.

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By Paul (registered) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 20:16:40

Don't forget Simply Zen, an Awsome store across and up a bit from Starbuck an especially great place to check out for ecofriendly items this holiday season. Next to Zen there is a new dog boutique for dog people!

Regarding Locke St BIA there are actually 2 orgs here Locke St BIA from Chatham south and the older Locke St. Merchant's Association whose turfs primarily Chatham northward. When looking online check out both for a fuller listing of shops on Locke.

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By JonC (registered) | Posted December 14, 2010 at 22:31:35

@mystoneycreek

Apparently the stage area of the old Regent is still intact behind Dr. Jim's. I don't know if it was walled in for cost or sentimental attachment or what, but it's still there, waiting.

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By mystoneycreek (registered) - website | Posted December 15, 2010 at 11:12:09

Apparently the stage area of the old Regent is still intact behind Dr. Jim's. I don't know if it was walled in for cost or sentimental attachment or what, but it's still there, waiting.

Oh, yeah... I know all about the history of The Regent. In fact, I have a friend who at one point...long ago...was a member of the Jehovah's Witnesses congregation that worshipped there.

If I won the LottoMax prize this week, believe me...

: )

(Yes, I'm a dreamer, and yes, I do believe in the seemingly old-fashioned concept of 'nabes', or neighbourhood, single-screen cinemas. Such as The Fox in The Beaches in Toronto...)

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By Ted Mitchell (registered) | Posted December 15, 2010 at 18:16:58

Who knew our editor was pretty sharp with the shutter finger?!

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By michaelcumming (registered) - website | Posted December 18, 2010 at 14:35:11

Great photos Ryan. I first set eyes on Locke St in 1987 when I met my soon-to-be in-laws on nearby Bold St. It has greatly improved since then but its essential character seems intact. The main anchor then I think was a store called Ripons [?]. The gun shop where you could pick up your Glock was there then I believe.

Locke has developed in a commercially diverse way which would make Jane Jacobs proud. Its a great little strip which is handy to both richer neighbourhoods to the south and poorer neighbourhoods to the north. The annual street fair is great. I only wish my inlaws hadn't moved to Burlington in the meantime!

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By simonge (registered) | Posted December 22, 2010 at 09:00:59

This is a great post Ryan. As you know, my family moved down to Locke in the last year and just love it! All we need is a skate park on this end of town and my 3 boys would never leave!

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