Tag Archives: small business

Cosplay store opens in downtown Hamilton

What started as a booth at an anime convention five years ago has blossomed into a bricks and mortar store for sisters Toni and Jo Thomas in downtown Hamilton.

Toni Thomas holding a pillow in Cosplay-FTW.

Toni Thomas holding a pillow in Cosplay-FTW.

Cosplay-FTW (for the win) has finally opened its doors on King Street East after moving from its small Mountain location.

“Though there was high traffic in terms of cars and vehicles (on the Mountain), there wasn’t too many people walking in from the streets,” explained Toni Thomas. “The store itself was also really small, it was like a closet. Four people would be in there and it would be packed like a tiny elevator. We thought it was about time to expand to a bigger location.”

The store focuses on selling cosplay accessories, which is short for ‘costume play’ where people dress up as their favourite fictional/animated characters, and anime merchandise, including plush toys, pillows and figurines.

The idea of starting their own booth during an anime convention began when the pair started looking for circle lenses, which changes the colours of one’s eyes. It turned out their friends were also looking for Sharingan lenses (eyes from a character from Naruto).

“My mom actually managed to hook us up with a contact in Korea and they pushed us to Geo Contact Lens and we started buying lenses from them,” said Thomas, noting anime characters generally have large, bright or unique eyes, and it was very difficult to find special effects lenses at the time.

“We thought, if we were looking to get these lenses, there were probably a lot more people looking them too, as well as cosplay supplies and other cute Japanese items.”

Cosplay-FTW finally opened its own store on the Mountain three years later after much pushing from customers, which was aided by the large cosplaying community in Hamilton, she added.

“We were kind of pushed into it from our customers; they would ask if we had a location and we initially said no, but then thought, we may as well,” Thomas added. “So we started with the little place on the Mountain and then it grew from there. We built up a clientele – even though there wasn’t a lot of walk-ins, people would outright search for us and come down to visit us.”

When the pair noticed a vacant storefront beside Gameopolis, Hamilton’s newest board game and café, they jumped at the chance to move to a bigger location.

“We thought this would be the perfect location: it’s a bigger place and it’s right by another store that would have a similar target market,” said Thomas. “We thought the stores would complement each other.”

The sisters have already noticed more walk-ins at their downtown location and business has definitely grown since they first started out with simply a table.

In the near future, Thomas hopes they will be able to venture into providing cosplayers with prosthetic ears and fangs.

Cosplay-FTW is looking to set up a booth at Hamilton’s newest convention, the Hammer Town Comic Con to be held in October.

The store will celebrate its grand opening on Aug. 3 and Aug. 4.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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Candle store a new spark on Ottawa Street

Of the 52 available candles at Wick’d Wax Creations, each homemade and handcrafted candle is a delicate process of mathematics and chemistry.

Wes Fletcher and his newly opened candle store.

Wes Fletcher and his newly opened candle store.

From the number of drops of oils to the slight adjustments in colouring, each candle is uniquely different.

“I use a liquid dye and essential oils in my candles, so one candle varies from another candle,” explained owner Wes Fletcher. “A grape juice candle may have an X number of drops, lets say 10 drops, while a vanilla candle may only have two drops of fragrance to work with that candle.”

Each candle also has a different wick, with some fragrances more powerful than others, and usually takes him a day to create.

“The substance of a fragrance is sometimes harder to burn so you have to figure out the math of that particular candle,” he added. “Each colour is slightly different for each candle, and ideas for scents are sometimes requested and sometimes my own.”

His goal is to eventually carry 100 fragrances in his store on Ottawa Street.

Fletcher’s interest in candle making began over a decade ago when he started working part-time for a company that made candles in a honey barn.

“I thought it was interesting and when I went to Niagara College, I decided to do my coop with them,” he said.

From there he worked from the ground up and became the manager at a candle store before branching out with a couple of friends to open his own store.

“I decided to take a hiatus but I recently got my equipment back last year and started making candles again in my living room,” said Fletcher, noting he started promoting his products at craft shows in Hamilton before opening his store.

Popular fragrances include Wine & Roses, which has the soft scent of roses and a dash of wine, as well as the China Rain, which has a soft floral base.

Another product Fletcher was inspired to create includes his Fire Starters, which consists of recycled wax and wood chips put together in a cupcake like container.

“All you have to do is nestle them inside the logs of a wood stove or campfire, which also helps eliminate the use of newspapers or kindling,” he explained.

The Fire Starters take around 20 minutes to get started and also provides a soft fragrance.

All his candles are made with a petroleum byproduct (paraffin wax), though Fletcher aims to expand the line to include soy and beeswax.

Wick’d Wax Creations will celebrate its grand opening on May 4 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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Downtown Hamilton stars at annual BIA conference

Downtown Hamilton’s business improvement area and the resurgence of the core were stars during the annual Ontario Business Improvement Area Association (OBIAA) conference in Toronto.

A key conference seminar celebrated Hamilton’s achievements and gave BIAs around the province a chance to see how renewal can lead to success, said the director for Renew Hamilton Project.

This year’s conference is themed around building the local economy.

“BIAs are the very best at building what we call a Main Street Economy,” Richard Allen explained. “All communities of all sizes typically have a BIA and their sole focus is on developing and supporting businesses. The notion of economic development and local economy, and using revitalization techniques are very compelling.”

Hosted by the OBIAA and the Toronto Association of BIAS (TABIA), the conference began on April 14 and goes until April 17.

It is being held at the Toronto Marriott Downtown Eaton Centre Hotel. Fifty delegates from BIAs across Ontario learned about the goal and purpose of the Renew Hamilton Project, which is to document, promote and accelerate the restoration and regeneration of downtown Hamilton and the adjacent communities, Allen said.

“Many of the small towns across Ontario are struggling to maintain, build and grow downtown populations, and many downtowns are also struggling both to preserve and restore their heritage buildings,” he explained.

“Those that are finding a way to do it, are finding a renewal premium on those properties.”

The rejuvenation of an area leads to an increase in property values, more foot traffic and unique stores.

It is also important that BIAs are able to differentiate themselves from other areas, added Allen.

“We were able to discuss many things and play two case study videos about the revitalization of the Gore area,” he said. “The videos proved to be great conversation starters and we had a great discussion. In the end, many people felt that Hamilton was already in front of many other communities when it comes to regeneration of its downtown.”

The reaction to Hamilton’s success was positive, with many people commenting on how the downtown revitalization has started to generate economic and social spinoff.

Other BIAs in attendance noted Hamilton has some techniques and policies that could be applicable to other communities, including the grants and incentive programs, said Allen.

There are more than 280 BIAs representing 55,000 businesses in Ontario.

Other seminars discussed the new accessibility standards, improving event management and streetscape renewal.

Awards are being handed out Wednesday in categories including Marketing and Communications, Business Retention, Recruitment and Expansion, Special Events and Promotions, Safe and Healthy Environment, Bricks and Mortar, and the Alex Ling Lifetime Achievement Award.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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Energy boosting and healthy, Gojiccino enters cafes

It took four years to perfect Gojiccino, but the healthy, energy boosting drink is one of a kind.

Based in Ancaster and manufactured in Guelph, food developer Jennifer Low says her product is a non-caffeinated drink full of nutrients.

Jen Low creating a batch of Gojiccino.

Jen Low creating a batch of Gojiccino.

Small, red and football-shaped, the goji berry was a culinary staple for Low growing up. What was once used in traditional Asian meals, the goji berry has become popular and can now be found in grocery stores, such as Fortino’s or Loblaws.

The berry, used in soups or steeped in teas, can now be put into lattes and cappuccinos.

It was through her varied career around the food and communications industry, she was most recently a food editor for Canadian House and Home, Low was reintroduced to the goji berry when she was visiting California.

The idea to create something with the goji berry was ignited through a conversation with several food journalists about the growing interest in the berry.

“As a food editor, I received press releases coming in from people who have new products and I always knew I wanted to develop my own product but it had to be something that people wanted and needed,” she explained.

It started as an artisanal product and Low had to rethink her approach when it came to making it a mass commercial product.

“This meant using different equipment and thinking about the methods in a different way,” she said. “In order to get your product up to large commercial product, as the developer I have to maintain my idea of what the essence of the beverage is. I can’t lose sight of it because it’s too easy to have it morph into something else.”

A rich, dark liquid, the Gojiccino concentrate can be mixed with any type of milk to make a Gojiccino or Gojilatte. People can also choose to drink it plain, with a dose of sweetener, or as shots that can be added to brewed coffee.

“Think of it as goji espresso in a bottle, so baristas use the concentrate, froth it with any type of milk, and turn it into a latte styled drink,” said Low. ”It’s like a mochacinno with an herbal finish.”

People who don’t know what a goji berry is associate the drink and its taste to something sweet, but it’s not, she said.

“Everybody who tastes it will come up with something different,” she said. “I’ve had people tell me that it tastes like a pumpkin latte but less sweet, or it has a malty taste.”

There is no pumpkin or malt in the concentrate.

Along with regular Gojiccino patrons, each day sees new customers trying out the drink, noted Holly Gibb, a manager at Earth to Table Bread Bar on Locke Street.

A barista adding Gojiccino to a drink.

A barista adding Gojiccino to a drink.

“We have people who come back for it every time and it’s a nice alternative to a caffeine drink to give you energy in the morning,” she said. “We always like trying new things to give our customers to see what they like and what they’re asking for.”

Gibb noted Gojiccino adds an earthy taste to drinks and is quite filling.

“We sell it as an alternative to a caffeine beverage, similar to a protein drink because it’s filling and gives you energy for those who are working out,” Gibb added.

The drink is for anyone, from those who don’t drink coffee to those who have already had two or three cups and want a drink without caffeine.

It’s also for those who are looking to incorporate healthier foods into their diet, said Low.

Toronto’s Fresh restaurants will be offering the concentrate starting this week. Gojiccino can also be found at The Red Brick Café in Sundridge in Northern Ontario.

In three weeks, Gojiccino will be served in Toronto’s The Big Carrot, a natural food market and organic juice bar.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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New businesses a bright light on Barton Street

It’s been slow going but the upswing on Barton Street was one of the reasons Maria Daniel decided to open her creperie there.

Maria Daniel making a crepe.

Maria Daniel making a crepe.

Hargitai’s, her Hungarian maiden name, will be celebrating its first year on April 13 and though it faces the same challenges of all businesses in its first year, Daniel stands by her choice of location.

“There’s no denying the real estate is much more affordable here than anywhere else,” she explained. “I also look at it from a sentimental perspective. This area needs happy things and legitimate business, as well as people who are willing to take the risk and jump in.”

Located at the heart of Barton Village (304 Barton Street E.), Daniel noted the street has already improved but there is a long way to go.

“This area didn’t get like this over night and it’s sure not going to fix itself overnight either,” she said. “Some people have a pre-conceived notion about Barton Street and because of this, they don’t want to come to Barton Street but I strongly urge them to overcome those notions and give this area a chance.”

Developers from Yoke Group Inc. are also hoping renovations to a recently purchased building will slowly shed the negative view people have of the street.

Anthony Quattrociocchi and Eric Cardillo of Yoke Group Inc. inside their newly renovated building on Barton Street.

“It’s not like we’re buying here expecting miracles to happen overnight, but we see potential with the growth here and we hope to bring proper businesses back into the area,” Anthony Quattrociocchi said of Barton Street.

Anthony Quattrociocchi and Eric Cardillo of Yoke Group Inc. inside their newly renovated building on Barton Street.

Anthony Quattrociocchi and Eric Cardillo of Yoke Group Inc. inside their newly renovated building on Barton Street.

Decisions are based on a five-year outlook and where the company believes a location will be in five years, he explained.

Much of the properties on Barton Street have been left alone without maintenance over the last 10 to 20 years, Quattrociochhi added, but they remain in their natural state.

“We look for nice buildings that we think we can bring back to life and Barton Street has a lot of those buildings,” he explained. “We want to get the ball rolling. When people see you doing the renovations it entices them and makes them look at their building.”

The 12 unit building was bought on Nov. 1 last year with renovations completed late January. It has four commercial units and eight residential rooms that features two bedrooms, 10-foot ceilings, and over 1,000 square feet of space.

A bicycle repair shop is slated to open on April 1 in one of the commercial units, but there is already a waiting list for the residential apartments. His partner Eric Cardillo noted development on the street is slow but it’s very similar to what occurred on Ottawa Street and what’s currently happening on James Street.

Two small businesses that have been on the street for over 50 years welcome the sight of new development.

With its butchered meat and freshly prepared sandwiches, Duartes’ Supermarket has been a corner store staple for many families and blue-collar workers.

Alcino Duarte, who intends to take over when his parents retire, noted much of the changes on the street are also reflected in the population.

Twenty years ago Duarte recalls most of the residents were Italian, while 10 years ago the population was mostly Portuguese. Now the community has become a mixed culture as the Portuguese families move out to the more urban areas.


Victor Duarte (left) and Alcino Duarte (centre) with their
friend Victor inside Duartes’ Supermarket.

“Duartes’ still offers the same prices as 20 years ago and the price increases hasn’t been reflected in our store,” he explained. “Barton Street is an area that has a lot of low-income families, including problems with drugs and prostitution… but recent changes such as the banners hung from the side of light posts, are good for the community.”

In operation since 1915, Kenesky Sports and Cycle has seen the transformation that has occurred on Barton Street.

“It was good back in the late 60s and early 70s, then it became crappy before it came back a bit,” explained owner Joel Hulsman. “It went (downhill) again when the Wesley Centre opened up, which is a drop-in centre for the homeless.”

However, Hulsman noted things are starting to change with the addition of the hospital, the upgraded elementary school, and new businesses on the street.

“The upgrades (Yoke Group) did to the building have been great,” Hulsman said. “In five years, Barton Street is going to be vibrant.”

Barton Village BIA Executive Director Shelly Wonch believes the area is heading in the right direction.

“We’re really on a roll and we’re in the right direction even if there’s a long way to go. We have to deal with the business owners with buildings that are all boarded up,” she said. “We have to get the landlords to take responsibility, gain an interest and fix up their buildings.”

Though the street has always been a launching pad for Hamilton, there hasn’t been too much activity in the real estate market around the area, said President Elect Tim Mattioli of the Realtors Association of Hamilton-Burlington.

“Barton Street will always be there and have its own strength but that changes with each generation,” he said.

Hamilton’s downtown core is an example of what can be done to rejuvenate Barton Street, when blocks of properties are bought and either rebuilt or repurposed, explained Mattioli.

“It’s hard to rejuvenate a place without development,” Mattioli said. “One of the biggest problems is that people believe Barton Street is a dangerous place, but it’s not. The beauty of Barton Street is that it maintains the neighbourhood vibe lost in many urban areas.”

People tend to think progress has to be big and shiny, but that’s not the case, he added.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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Small businesses face tough challenges adapting to access laws

Eight weeks ago, the 360,000 businesses in Ontario were supposed to have been in compliance with legislation under the Accessibility Standards for Customer Service Standard, part of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).

No one is sure how many businesses have completed the process.

What is known is that while many businesses agree with the principle, many know little about it or what they need to do to comply.

The purpose of the Customer Service Standard is to identify and remove barriers that would prevent people with disabilities from accessing goods and services. But communication between the government andbusinesses could be better, said Lisa Lehmann, a business development manager for PATH Employment Services.

“I’m finding that businesses really don’t know much about their responsibilities and a lot of work can be done in that capacity,” she said. “More can be done to engage businesses.”

PATH Employment Services and its new program Accessibility 360 is assisting businesses wade through the paperwork each standard requires.

The Customer Service Standard requires small businesses with fewer than 20 employees to fulfill 10 requirements, including the creation of an established policy, practice and procedure manual that conforms to the principals of the legislation. The manual includes the use of assistive devices, service animals, notice of disruptions (for any renovations and a timeline), and a feedback process.

For businesses with more than 20 employees, there are three additional requirements: the manual must be documented and available, businesses must register online with the Minister of Community and Social Services, and must notify customers that all policies are available. The manuals should be available upon request.

Companies must also take the time to familiarize their employees with the standards in the policy manual.

Lehmann noted businesses could register to complete a group session ($100 to $1,000), a webinar (at the cost of $35 per person), or purchase a disc that allows employees to complete training in their own time.

“At most it’s an hour training,” she said. “We try to make the process as least cumbersome as possible for the employer and employees. For example, with the disc, employees can take an hour of their time to complete the training whenever possible.”

The disc also has a pre- and post-test for an employee to confirm they’ve completed the training.

It’s a mandatory task but it can be a tedious task for small- and medium-sized companies to complete the necessary forms, noted Cheryl Bowden, office administrator for Hamilton’s Allegra, a marketing, printing and copying company.

“It wasn’t anything I didn’t expect and we’re not in retail so we don’t have a lot of walk-in clients or delivery, but we do have to post the information and take the time to do so,” she explained.

As a company with more than 20 employees, including full-time, part-time and contract workers, Allegra isn’t big enough to have its own human resources officer to assist with completing the necessary forms.

“It takes a lot of extra time but it does need to be done,” she said. “We’ve always been accessible and accommodating with our clients. If someone is in a wheelchair we would meet them downstairs instead of in our boardroom because our building doesn’t have an elevator.”

Hamilton’s Downtown BIA marketing and communications co-ordinator Kerry Jarvi said many businesses are unaware of what needs to be done to comply with AODA.

“People don’t understand how much it will affect them,” said Jarvi. “There are changes that need to be made and they need to be made aware of the changes. Right now it’s more about educating businesses about what affects them.”

Maxine Carter, the access and equity co-ordinator with the City, noted both public and private businesses are required to implement and complete all the standards as they roll out.

“The Information and Communication Standard, along with the Employment Standard, are the next to be phased in,” explained Carter, noting the city is working to update its website to comply with the Information and Communication Standard. “(The standards) did have certain items that had to be implemented for January 2013, but those were fairly easy things to do. In my view, the public has been given an ample amount of time to complete most of the items to date.”

Some small businesses may disagree and may find some requirements difficult to complete, but the province does provide a lot of support for the small businesses and private sector, she added.

Members of the public can notify the province if they feel businesses aren’t meeting their needs as outlined in the legislation.

“The number (of people with disabilities) is always rising because as people age they do develop some disabilities,” Carter said. “Our aging population is quite significant and not just in Hamilton.”

By the year 2036, one in five Ontarians will have a disability as the population ages. Enforcement of the accessibility standards will be ensured by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment.

Implementation of the standards will be monitored through audits and inspections, with a system in place to track compliance by reviewing the mandatory submitted reports. Companies and organizations persistently in non-compliance would face other enforcement measures, including monetary penalties or prosecution.

Though the government noted its focus is to provide assistance to organizations, a penalty can be issued with fines starting at $200, up to $15,000. This depends on the severity of impact the non-compliance could have on people with disabilities.

“Customer Services Standards is just the start and we’re really encouraging employers to start thinking about focusing on the current and future standards,” said Lehmann.

Changes to AODA began in 2005 with the implementation of different standards beginning with the customer service standard. This will be followed by information and communication, employment, the built environment, and transportation.

The goal is to make Ontario fully accessible by 2025.

Twenty years may seem like a long time, but changes within the act are huge. They include:

Timeline for compliance to AODA standards:
Customer Service Standard
Public Sector deadline was January 1, 2012
Private Sector, Non-profit, non-designated public sector businesses and organizations was January 1, 2012 with an on-line reporting of December 31, 2012

Information and Communications Standard
For the Government of Ontario and the Legislative Assembly, January 1, 2014
For large designated public sector organizations, January 1, 2015
For small designated public sector organizations, January 1, 2016

In this regard, the City of Hamilton is working to update its website by 2015.

Employment Standard
Large designated public sector organizations, January 1, 2014
Small designated public sector organizations, January 1, 2015
Large organizations (50 or more employees), January 1, 2016
Small organizations (at least one but fewer than 50 employees), January 1, 2017

The Transportation and Built Environment Standards have yet to be announced.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz. 

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Small businesses nickeled and dimes with transaction fees

Next time you are at your favourite small business you may notice a sign asking you to pay cash or use your debit card.

Some stores are putting up signs asking customers to pay via cash or debit, rather than credit.

Some stores are putting up signs asking customers to pay via cash or debit, rather than credit.

You’ll find one of those signs at Cake & Loaf bakery on Dundurn Street South.

Bakery co-owner Josie Rudderham said that as a consumer she didn’t realize the impact credit card use had on a small business.

“It’s about $300 in an average month for us to pay for transaction fees,” she said. “That’s $300 that could have gone to employees, training, equipment, and it’s a big deal for small businesses.”

Canadian Federation of Independent Business president Dan Kelly says a consumer alert campaign aims to help consumers understand how significant the new fees are to small business owners.

Using a credit card may be convenient, but the fees for each transaction end up costing a lot to small business owners, he said.

“We have little signs that many merchants are starting to put up in their businesses that say, ‘Would you consider paying with cash or debit?’” Kelly said. “It’s encouraging consumers and giving them a little narrative that you may not know. Anything that can be done to help consumers understand that if they pull out their credit card, especially a premium credit card, they’re imposing higher costs to the system.”

Depending on the credit card used, the base rate is around two per cent, Rudderham explained.

“If anyone is using a premium card, let’s say a PC card that you get points on or a travel Visa, or RBC points, businesses actually have to pay for the points,” she said. “We get a percentage added onto our costs to pay for those points, which can be another two to three per cent on top of the two per cent we already pay (for the initial transaction).”

An example Rudderham used was the purchase of a coffee.

A $2 cup of coffee would incur an additional 10 cents for the transaction fee, she pointed out.

“It’s a cost that we have to pass on to the consumers because we really don’t have a choice,” said Rudderham. “It’s an illusion for many that they’re getting all these points when they use their credit cards and it’s not costing them anything – but it has to be passed down to the consumer at some point. That’s something we really struggle with because I’m not going to add it to your bill just because you used a credit card.”

Kelly said fees like this are crippling for small businesses because merchants have limited options.

An increase in Visa and MasterCard fees is another reason for the campaign, he added.

“Larger merchants have bigger bargaining power so they can negotiate lower rates for all sorts of supplies,” said Kelly. “A small merchant has a narrower margin even if the fees are largely in the same category, whether you are from a large or small business.”

Though there are benefits to using a credit card, Kelly noted interact debit cards offer the same amount of security but at a much lower cost.

“There are benefits to using credit cards and merchants don’t have a problem accepting them, but the fees are driving merchants crazy right now,” he said.

Visa Canada Corporation announced last fall it would implement a pricing adjustment to take effect April 2013 for banks used by business owners in Canada.

The fee is an increase of two cents for every $100, or 0.02 per cent, which is the first increase in five years.

However, Visa Canada noted it is up to the bank to decide how much of the increase to pass on to its customers.

If a merchant currently pays a merchant discount rate (MDR) of two per cent, it would see a rate increase to 2.02 per cent. “The MDR rate is negotiated directly between acquirers (banks) and merchants,” Visa Canada said.

MasterCard International Incorporated also announced a smaller fee hike would go into effect next year.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz. 

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A 15-foot salad bar opens on James Street North

Shane McCartney has something no one else in Hamilton has: a 15-foot salad bar.

Shane McCartney and his 15-foot salad bar.

Shane McCartney and his 15-foot salad bar.

The four-and-a-half metre salad bar offers more than 70 items, including organic and local foods.

McCartney & Son Salad Emporium at 282 James Street North opened on Tuesday and McCartney, the chef, has been rocking ever since.

“In my eyes there isn’t a proper salad bar here because it’s always a secondary thing and isn’t featured (in a restaurant),” he said when asked about opening the restaurant in Hamilton.“I think there w as a huge void in Hamilton for something fresh, quick, easy and from scratch.”

The salad bar features organic and local produce, and a lot of healthy options such as quinoa, edamame and kale, he said.

Dressings for salads and the soups are also made from scratch. The bread comes fresh from the Dundurn Street bakery Cake and Loaf, McCartney added.

McCartney’s restaurant is on James North just south of Barton in an area where he has lived for the past eight years.

“I’ve been doing this for about 10 years and it’s something I learned on the job – I didn’t have any schooling,” he explained. “I sort of fell into it and found that I had a passion and palate for it.”

Over the years, McCartney has worked in various cities such as Halifax and Toronto, where he fed many high profile stars. He was the head chef for Jack & Lois, a restaurant on James North, for the past year, and continues to act as their food consultant.

In addition to the bricks and mortar restaurant, he offers full service catering from fine dining weddings and deli platters, to a mobile salad bar.

The salad bar is open Monday to Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. It will be closed on Sunday’s.

There will be a grand opening in a couple of weeks.

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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11 new restaurants open in downtown Hamilton

Downtown and want something Peruvian for lunch? Maybe some Pollo a La Brasa and Aji Sauce? How about some Empanadas?

Culantro Peruvian Cookery on King William, a block west of the Lister Block, is just one of a growing number of independent restaurants popping up in the core. Last year, the city says 11 restaurants operated by independent owners opened downtown, not including the growing Ontario-established Burrito Boyz chain.

Kathy Drewitt, executive director for Hamilton’s Downtown BIA, explained they are all independent mom and pop shops rather than the typical restaurant chains.

“There are a lot of new restaurants coming in offering very eclectic palates that will appeal to anyone who likes different flavours of food,” she said. “We just had a new Peruvian restaurant open up and who would’ve thought a Peruvian-themed restaurant would appeal to those in Hamilton?”

Culantro Peruvian Cookery opened up on Dec. 1 and Drewitt has been told the restaurant keeps running out of food because they have become quite popular.

Another popular restaurant is Jack & Lois on James Street North, which was voted best new restaurant by Hamilton Magazine last year.

Named after his grandparents, owner Eric Bowden opened his retro-styled restaurant in February and has seen a steady increase in clientele.

“I wanted to open on James Street North particularly because of what was going on down there,” he explained. “I was working in downtown Hamilton at the time and decided to look up some properties on Craigslist. I looked at the neighbourhood and I decided I wanted to make this happen because Hamilton is far more interesting right now in terms of rejuvenation.”

He said it is easier to operate in Hamilton than Toronto because costs, such as rent, are lower.

“There is a lot of undiscovered gems in Hamilton,” Bowden said. “It’s a great place to shoot films, the arts is developing, there is a music scene; it’s burgeoning. The city is setting itself for success right now and councillors are changing antiquated laws for new business owners. They’re not perfect but they’re listening and making changes.”

Drewitt pointed out the usual corporate models, such as Kelsey’s or Jack Astors, don’t fit well in downtown storefront units.

“They usually want bigger spaces and lots of parking,” she said.

The proximity to entertainment facilities, including Copps Coliseum and Hamilton Place, is also a plus, she added.

There are more than 180 restaurants in the Downtown BIA, which is the area within MacNab, Rebecca, Mary and Hunter streets, as well as James Street North and South.

“You can see all the different flavours of restaurants that we have and you don’t have to go far to find a good restaurant downtown,” Drewitt said. “There’s a lot of variety, which is great for everyone.”

New restaurants that opened in 2012:
Culantro Peruvian Cookery, 47 King William Street, 905-777-0060
Baltimore House, 43 King William Street, 905-526-3408
U Shao BBQ, 27 John Street S., 905-521-8880
Corner Tea House & Asian Bistro, 29 John Street N., 905-527-0739
8090 Tea House, 149 King Street E., 905-525-8788
It’s a Food Thing, 49 King William Street, 289-808-2155
Jack & Lois, 301 James Street N., 289-389-5647
Ben & Thanh Thai & Vietnamese Restaurant, 113 James Street N., 905-528-6888
Appleberry Café, 312 King Street E., 905-962-8488
Radius, 151 James Street S, 905-393-1658

Originally posted in Your Hamilton Biz.

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