Calgary: Exchanging “A Sense of Place” for “Endless Blandness”

As Calgarians, we have two organizations that fight to preserve historical buildings – Calgary Heritage Initiative and Calgary Heritage Authority. But to my knowledge, we do not have anyone that fights to keep our heritage front and center inside of our downtown buildings. I have watched in sorrow as places that once celebrated a sense of Calgary’s unique history and sense of place have been renovated to create blank walls and bland space” says Irene DeBoni in a recent email to me.   She then goes on to give me some examples.

“The Builders” by George Pratt used to sit in the lobby of the Western Canadian Place office tower downtown. Now it sits in the Inland Cement yard! How could this happen?

“The Builders” by George Pratt used to sit in the lobby of the Western Canadian Place office tower downtown. Now it sits in the Inland Cement yard! How could this happen?

Western Canadian Place Sculpture Gone

For many years there were copies of historical pictures taken from the Glenbow archives on the +15 level of Western Canadian Place.  They celebrated Calgary’s past - grain elevators and trains and oil wells; it was like a mini photography gallery. Unfortunately, they were taken out and replaced with a white wall and a ledge for people to sit at. Fine if all you want to do is look at your computer screen.  

Also gone from the middle the Western Canadian Place lobby is a large fountain sculpture “The Builders” by George Pratt, removed as part of a lobby renovation.  Supposedly it was in the way (of employee gatherings, I was told by an employee who works in the building.)  Really? How many of these actually occur in the public lobby? 

Back Story: Pratt’s website indicates that the work was commissioned by Husky Oil (the building’s major tenant) and Trizec (the buildings original owner) to illustrate the idea that both corporations were builders. Trizec in the actual sense as they build many office towers in downtown Calgary including Bankers Hall and Husky in the sense they help build the lives of people and the province.  

Ironically, driving to the Crossroads Farmers Market recently, my husband and I noticed the fountain is sitting in a fenced industrial yard, in “plain” view, but for all practicality hidden.  Surely, we could find a space for it downtown. What a waste.

Link: George Pratt The Granite Carver

George Pratt’s “The Builders” formerly located in the lobby of the Western Canadian Place.

George Pratt’s “The Builders” formerly located in the lobby of the Western Canadian Place.

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Pratt told me anyone could of had the sculpture for the cost of moving the piece out of the storage unit where it was being stored by QuadReal Property Group who currently manage Western Canadian Place. So Inland Cement took it and placed in in their yard. Pratt got a stipend to supervise the move and re-assembly.

Pratt told me anyone could of had the sculpture for the cost of moving the piece out of the storage unit where it was being stored by QuadReal Property Group who currently manage Western Canadian Place. So Inland Cement took it and placed in in their yard. Pratt got a stipend to supervise the move and re-assembly.

+15 Parade of Stampede Posters Gone  

The plus 15 level at the back of Centrium Place (from 6th and 7th Ave SW, between 2nd and 3rd Streets) once had approximately 100 historical Stampede posters that added colour, charm and history as you walked by.  I loved to look at these as I walked from building to building on my way to and from my downtown condo.  Unfortunately, many years ago, a few were vandalized and taken down (I thought for repair), but they never did return and then they all disappeared.  Now it is just bland off white wall.  How boring and what a missed opportunity to celebrate the history of the Calgary Stampede. 

Link: Why we love the parade of posters?

This is the Parade of Posters along the +15 corridor at Stampede Park. The downtown Parade of Posters looked much the same.

This is the Parade of Posters along the +15 corridor at Stampede Park. The downtown Parade of Posters looked much the same.

The old posters include lots of interesting information about the Stampede and how it brought world class entertainment to Calgary.

The old posters include lots of interesting information about the Stampede and how it brought world class entertainment to Calgary.

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Hyatt Regency Hotel Field of Fame Gone

I was so proud that the Hyatt for years chose to show that our history was important by including numerous western paintings throughout its lobby.  Also the restaurant was named Thompsons as the 1893 Thompson Bros. Block was integrated into the new hotel.  There was even an upside-down canoe built into the ceiling and behind the front desk a copy of the 1832 map showing David Thompson’s route across the country.  

But the piece de resistance for me was the fact that the Hyatt Hotel was one of the first places to host a “Field of Fame” to commemorate, recognize and honour those Calgarians that have made a significant contribution to the community and the city of Calgary. The Fields of Fame are groupings of structural steel, architecturally designed which are placed at prominent locations throughout the city to commemorate the accomplishments of those Calgarians who have made a lasting contribution to Calgary. 

Each Field of Fame includes six steel “sheaves of wheat”, thirteen feet high, symbolic of the prairies and the farm and ranching culture that formed the early backbone of the Calgary area. Each sheaf of wheat includes a brief history on the individual being honoured, with a photograph and wording designed to highlight the importance and significant contribution made by the particular individual to the fabric of the Calgary community.


For the past several years I have been part of a group that takes tourists and locals on free walking tours downtown.  The Hyatt was always part of my route because of its focus on Calgary.  Locals especially liked learning more about the people who have shaped Calgary over the past 100 years.


This past summer the Hyatt underwent a renovation.  While I totally understand the restaurant in its previous state often sat empty and changes had to be made, I don’t understand why the “placemaking” elements had to be reduced and, in many cases, actually removed.   

Gone are the wonderful ranching pictures that used to be in both the restaurant and the lounge areas.  But more importantly, gone is the Field of Fame.  Nobody in the hotel could even tell me where the plaques were taken.  Finally, someone in management returned my phone call and said they had been returned to the Champion Society.  When I expressed my sadness at this and my hope that no further action regarding the existing artwork would be taken, I was reminded that the Hyatt did not own the artwork, that it was only leased.   

Link: Alberta Champions

Unfortunately, the “Field of Fame” located at the McDougall Centre is hidden away amongst the trees at the back of this historic site. It would have been great at the front of the building as part of the site’s grand entrance. This location is even hidden from the nearby sidewalk.

Unfortunately, the “Field of Fame” located at the McDougall Centre is hidden away amongst the trees at the back of this historic site. It would have been great at the front of the building as part of the site’s grand entrance. This location is even hidden from the nearby sidewalk.

The “Field of Fame” at Harley Hotchkiss Gardens is in a much more prominent location.

The “Field of Fame” at Harley Hotchkiss Gardens is in a much more prominent location.

Maude Reily’s Sheaf

Maude Reily’s Sheaf

W.O. Mitchell’s sheaf

W.O. Mitchell’s sheaf

Everyday Tourist Note: 

I checked with the Alberta Champions Society re: missing the missing “Field of Champions” and found out it had to be moved as the new owner couldn’t integrate it with their new vision for the interior design of the hotel.  Too bad, very sad. This is a prime location next to the convention centre to tell the story of some of the individuals who have shaped the city of Calgary over the past 100+ years. 

I remember getting into trouble with the owners of the Hyatt Hotel when it first opened and I questioned why the lobby and rooms were full of art celebrating the Rocky Mountains, but had nothing celebrating downtown Calgary.  As the Executive Director of the Calgary Downtown Association and a board member of Tourism Calgary I wanted them to showcase to visitors some of the many fun things to see and do downtown.  I was told the art was from the personal collection of Ron Mannix, the former owner of the hotel and “to mind my own business.”  

Too Much Corporate Blandness

Irene goes on to say, “My husband and I have always loved to travel.  When we go to cities, we like to see what makes them unique. We love to discover fun, off the beaten path things that make a city unique, rather than the obvious icons.   

I would like to urge the owners of Calgary’s downtown buildings to utilize their lobbies to celebrate Calgary’s history and the City of Calgary to utilize the +15 system to do the same.  If we want to attract more businesses to relocate to downtown and more people to live downtown, we must make our downtown a more interesting place to explore. 

We MUST work together to create a downtown that showcases Calgary’s unique sense of place, rather than transforming it into a generic corporate blandness, which many think it already is.  

While new buildings, structures and public art like the Central Library, Peace Bridge and "Wonderland" are great additions to our downtown, it is the little things, the unexpected surprises that sometimes have the biggest impact on visitors.   

Irene DeBoni
Member of Chinook Country Historical Society
Member of Historic Calgary Week Committee
TransAlta Retirees Walking Tour Group

Everyday Tourist Note:

I too have been noticing fun, interesting elements have been removed from the lobbies of Calgary’s downtown office buildings like the bison skeleton (a boy and his Dad found it in the cliff next to the Glenmore Reservoir) that was in the Sun Life building lobby for decades. When I asked where it has gone security told me management was renovating the lobby and the skeleton had been given to the Royal Alberta Museum.  This made me sad!

When I was in Winnipeg recently, I was impressed by how many businesses celebrate the city’s history and sense of place with photographs e.g. Boston Pizza (St. James) and Safeway (Osbourne Village) and the Salisbury House’s two mini-museums – Manitoba Sports (Portage location) and Manitoba Music (Pembina location).  

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Downtown Calgary also lost #29 Locomotive when CPR moved its headquarters from downtown to its historic Ogden Yards. This is understandable, but given the important role the CPR played in shaping our downtown and city there should be major train monument in a prominent location in our downtown. FYI: Every noon hour the trains whistle use to blow. It is the little things that make exploring urban places fun.

Downtown Calgary also lost #29 Locomotive when CPR moved its headquarters from downtown to its historic Ogden Yards. This is understandable, but given the important role the CPR played in shaping our downtown and city there should be major train monument in a prominent location in our downtown. FYI: Every noon hour the trains whistle use to blow. It is the little things that make exploring urban places fun.

I sure hope Calgary Parking Authority and the Downtown Association don’t decide to close the Udderly Art Pasture in the +15 of the Centennial Parkade.

I sure hope Calgary Parking Authority and the Downtown Association don’t decide to close the Udderly Art Pasture in the +15 of the Centennial Parkade.

Last Word

Calgary, we can, no we MUST do better to celebrate our unique history and sense of place. Come on corporate Calgary you can do better when renovating your lobbies to create something unique that reflects Calgary and not just some generic blandness.

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Downtown Fun: Spokane vs Calgary

Flaneuring Calgary Stampede: Parade Of Posters

Fun Ideas For Downtown Calgary

FFQing Downtown Calgary’s Udderly Art Pasture

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Calgary: Neighbourhood Walkabout Postcards

One of our favourite things to do is take a walk in one of Calgary’s 200+ neighbourhoods…especially in the summer. I thought it would be fun to share some of the quirky, strange and fun things we have discovered on our neighbourhood adventures. Everything from little free libraries to birdhouses, from artworks to pathways and from doors to porches.

Hope you enjoy this virtual walkabout….

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

Beltline

Beltline

Downtown

Downtown

Bow River / Poppy Plaza

Bow River / Poppy Plaza

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Parkdale

Parkdale

17th Ave SW

17th Ave SW

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

St Andrews Heights

St Andrews Heights

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Altadore

Altadore

Inglewood

Inglewood

Bridgeland

Bridgeland

Bowness

Bowness

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

Beltline

Beltline

Eau Claire

Eau Claire

Downtown

Downtown

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Bowness

Bowness

Mission

Mission

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Alberta Children’s Hospital

Alberta Children’s Hospital

Bankview

Bankview

Sunalta

Sunalta

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Downtown

Downtown

Chinatown

Chinatown

Montgomery

Montgomery

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Briar Hill

Briar Hill

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

Beltine

Beltine

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

Bridgeland

Bridgeland

Beltline

Beltline

Parkdale

Parkdale

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

Banff Trail

Banff Trail

Altadore

Altadore

Cliff Bungalow

Cliff Bungalow

Chinatown

Chinatown

Bowness

Bowness

Bankview

Bankview

Crescent Heights

Crescent Heights

Bridgeland

Bridgeland

Renfew

Renfew

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

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South Calgary

South Calgary

Altadore

Altadore

Inglewood

Inglewood

Parkdale

Parkdale

Montgomery

Montgomery

Sunalta

Sunalta

Altadore

Altadore

Parkdale

Parkdale

Bridgeland/Riverside

Bridgeland/Riverside

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Inglewood

Inglewood

Beltline

Beltline

Renfrew

Renfrew

Downtown

Downtown

Beltline

Beltline

Banff Trail

Banff Trail

Inglewood

Inglewood

Briar Hill

Briar Hill

Inglewood

Inglewood

Eau Claire

Eau Claire

Beltline

Beltline

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

Riley Park

Riley Park

Parkdale

Parkdale

Hounsfield Heights

Hounsfield Heights

Bowness

Bowness

Bridgeland

Bridgeland

Briar Hill

Briar Hill

Briar Hill

Briar Hill

Inglewood

Inglewood

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Beltline

Beltline

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

Ramsay

Ramsay

Mission

Mission

Confederation Park

Confederation Park

Pumphouse Theatre Park

Pumphouse Theatre Park

Bankview

Bankview

Hillhurst

Hillhurst

Pumphouse Theatre Park

Pumphouse Theatre Park

Crescent Heights

Crescent Heights

Parkdale

Parkdale

Renfrew

Renfrew

Banff Trail

Banff Trail

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Crescent Heights

Crescent Heights

Sunalta

Sunalta

Downtown

Downtown

Sunalta

Sunalta

Sunalta

Sunalta

West Hillhurst

West Hillhurst

Last Word

Congratulations you made to the end of virtual walkabout. If you aren’t too tired and you’d like to walk through some more neighbourhoods here are few links that might interest you.

Forensic Walks In Calgary

Front Yard Fun

Sitting On The Porch

The Pandrol Clip: Art vs Engineering

I bet most people just walk, drive or cycle by this object at the corner of 9th St and 4th Ave SW thinking that is just another piece of contemporary art. In fact, it is a huge Pandrol Clip that I have enjoyed for years as I walk over the Louise Bridge that connects downtown to Kensington Village.

A What? You ask?

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A Pandrol Clip?

The information panel next to the object says it is “an important component in keeping Calgary’s CTrain system together. The Pandrol Clip is part of a railway fastening system developed in 1959 by Norwegian railway engineer Per Pande Rolfsen.

Physically the clip weights less than two pounds and has a diameter of approximately 20 mm. However, this unique system offers a lightweight, low-cost rail fastener where spring and torsion works together to provide a high clamping force - each clip exerts a force of approximately two tonnes on the foot of the rail. This holds the rail foot in place, keeping the rail fastened to the underlying base-plate.

The proven benefits of the Pandrol Clip include a very long and virtually maintenance free life. It is safe, secure, can be inserted and removed manually and will continue to grip the rail under vibration. It is now used by hundreds of railways systems around the world.

But, can it also be considered art….

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Clip vs Figure vs Gate vs Frozen River vs Blue Ring vs Bloom

It has all the ingredients of sculpture - shape, space, form, line, texture. In fact it reminds me of bit of a Henry Moore reclining figure, as well as Kosso Eloul’s “Nova Gate” at the entrance to the old Nova Building downtown.

Henry Moore, Reclining Woman

Henry Moore, Reclining Woman

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Nova Gate at the 7th Avenue SW Entrance to what was originally called the Nova Tower by Kosso Eloul.

Nova Gate at the 7th Avenue SW Entrance to what was originally called the Nova Tower by Kosso Eloul.

It also reminds me of Frozen River by Stephen Glassman located next to the Emergency Operation Centre at 673 First St NE - a long way from the river. The information panel reads,  “This winding structure of local stone and bent pipe is a gesture to the native glacial and prairie landscape, and its people. Like a frozen river, the artwork appears across the horizon, fixed in motion and defying gravity.

It also reminds me of Frozen River by Stephen Glassman located next to the Emergency Operation Centre at 673 First St NE - a long way from the river. The information panel reads, “This winding structure of local stone and bent pipe is a gesture to the native glacial and prairie landscape, and its people. Like a frozen river, the artwork appears across the horizon, fixed in motion and defying gravity.

And then there is Travelling Light aka Giant Blue Ring by Inges Idee a glorified street light, which is probably as much an engineering exercise, as it is an artistic statement. (photo credit Inges Idee)

And then there is Travelling Light aka Giant Blue Ring by Inges Idee a glorified street light, which is probably as much an engineering exercise, as it is an artistic statement. (photo credit Inges Idee)

Speaking of street lights, this public art work on St. Patricks’ Island title “Bloom” by Michel de Broin, that incorporates vintage street lampposts welded to tripod is also as much an engineering feat, as an artist’s statement.

Speaking of street lights, this public art work on St. Patricks’ Island title “Bloom” by Michel de Broin, that incorporates vintage street lampposts welded to tripod is also as much an engineering feat, as an artist’s statement.

Last Word

I wonder how many other engineering objects there are like the Pandrol Clip that blur the boundary between form and function, object and art. Calgary is often called “The City of Engineers” as it has one of the highest per capital number of engineers in Canada, maybe the world.

Perhaps it is fitting that our public art and engineering communities are linked.

Sometimes Calgary’s urban design and arts communities refer to Calgary as a “city built by engineers” when frustrated by the City’s inability to embrace the arts, creativity and experimentation. Indeed, Calgary has a reputation (nationally and perhaps internationally) of being a bastion for pragmatic prairie conservatism.

Perhaps instead, we should be embracing our engineering culture and working together to create something unique. The Beakerhead festival that combines art, engineering and science was a great first step. We need to take few more steps….

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Beakerhead Festival

Confessions of a public art juror

Do we need all of this public art?

Uniquely Calgary Shopping Experiences

If you are visiting Calgary, perhaps new to Calgary or just want to get out of your shopping rut, here are some Everyday Tourist recommendations for uniquely Calgary shopping experiences.  

Even if you don’t like to shop, or don’t need to buy a souvenir each of these shops are interesting for their design, artifacts or the community that they are located in.

Alberta Boot, #50 - 50th Ave SE

Perhaps the quintessential Calgary shopping experience would be to buy a pair of locally made cowboy boots from Alberta Boots.  Clem Gerwing moved from the family farm in Saskatchewan to Calgary in 1963 and purchased a wholesale footwear company. For several years he sold Quebec, Mexican and American made boots.  Not happy with the quality, he decided the world’s best boots should be made in Calgary and so Alberta Boots was born in 1978.  The Gerwing family has since made boots for the likes of Will and Kate (yes, THAT Will and Kate), Tom Selleck, Brad Pitt, Kevin Costner, Owen Wilson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Fred Couples, Jerome Iginla, Gordie Howe, Paul Brandt, Keifer Sutherland and many other big names. 

Their huge store and factory in Calgary’s up and coming Manchester district is definitely worth a visit.  And a surprise – they don’t just make cowboy boots now!

Link: Alberta Boot

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Aquila Books, 826 - 16th Avenue NW

 Who would think the little building with the blue awning on the TransCanada Highway (aka 16th Ave N) is home to one of North America’s best antiquarian bookstores?  Aquila specializes in books dealing with polar expeditions, Western Canadiana, mountaineering and the Canadian Pacific Railway. As much a museum as a bookstore, it is filled with antique maps, prints, photos, letters, postcards, scientific instruments and even an Inuit kayak hanging from the ceiling.  It is well worth the visit if you love history and/or books.

Link: Aquila Books

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Circa Glass, 1226A - 9th Ave SE

If you like eye candy, you will love Circa.  Owner and curator Brian Imeson has created a one-of-a-kind gallery in Canada that showcases mid-century modern art glass from around the world. A visit to Circa is an educational experience, as Imeson is more than willing to spend time sharing his vast knowledge of European art glass. 

A souvenir from Circa is something you will enjoy for a lifetime. 

Link: Circa Glass

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Crown Surplus, 1005 - 11st St SE

You could easily walk by the Crown Surplus site thinking it is just a junk shop filled with old army surplus equipment - not that there is anything wrong with that. Established in 1953 originally as R&S Surplus, Crown Surplus has a long history of selling decommissioned army equipment. But inside there is so much more. It is a military treasure hunters dream with stuff hanging from the ceiling and stuffed into every corner, but you can also find great outdoor clothing and equipment deals. 

Link: Crown Surplus 

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espy, 1009 9th Ave SE

Located in the timeless Atlantic Avenue Arts Block, espy is an affordable fashion boutique for women and men.  The staff pride themselves on being able to find their clients – no matter their size or age - the perfect pair of jeans. They specialize in the difficult, by carrying sizes from 00 to plus 16 for women and special sizes for men with long arms and long legs. 

Could there be a better souvenir of Calgary than a perfect fitting pair of blue jeans? And yes, they’re more than just jeans.

Link: espy

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Gravity Pope, 1126 - 17th Ave SE

Gravity Pope is a must visit for anyone interested in fashion and interior design.  The open multi-level floor plate with its 70s psychedelic design is simply dazzling with mirrors everywhere reflecting the light and objects to create a magical mystery tour.   A commissioned colorful art installation by artist Kristi Malakoff embellishes the visual feast.  And then there are 200 footwear brands displayed on pedestals like works of art.  

It is like an art installation that you might see at a major contemporary art gallery in London or New York – but this is one where you can take a “piece” home.

Link: Gravity Pope

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Heritage Poster & Music, 1316 - 11th Ave SW

Here you will find not only vintage vinyl, but new and out-of-print music, rare concert tour and gig posters, photos, movie posters and just about anything “music.” Holger Petersen of Stony Plain Records says, “Heritage Music has the best collection of Blues, Folk, Roots and Jazz records in Canada.” I don’t argue that.

Link: Heritage Posters

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Kent of Inglewood, 1319 - 9th Ave SE

Need a good axe? How about an old fashioned straight razor? You can get these and lots more at Kent of Inglewood man’s man store. Check out the Kent of Inglewood Boar Bristle Beard brush or their badger hair shaving brush.  There is also a barber on site where you can get a shave and a hair-cut, while others are exploring the shops of Inglewood.  

And yes, they have an entire wall of axes…. warning don’t try to shave with them.  And yes, they do offer shave classes.

Link:  Kent of Inglewood

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Knifewear, 1316 - 9th Ave SE

Across the street, along Inglewood’s main street you will find Knifewear’s museum-like flagship store that opened in 2008.  Owner Kevin Kent, (he also owns Kent of Inglewood), first fell in love with Japanese knives while working a sous-chef for the legendary chef Fergus Henderson at St. John’s restaurant in London, England.  Upon returning to Calgary in 2007, he began selling knives to Calgary chefs out of his backpack on his bike.  Today, he visits Japan a couple of times a year to learn more about the ancient art of knife-making and meet directly with the blacksmiths.  His staff are both enthusiastic and very knowledgeable. The dynamic mural on the wall is worth the visit alone.   

A Japanese knife will surely impress friends at your next dinner party. 

Link: Knifewear

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Livingstone & Cavell Extraordinary Toys, 1124 Kensington Rd NW

If you are a grandparent or love retro things, you will love Livingstone & Cavell. It is full of nostalgia-based toys, everything from shiny pedal cars to pick-up sticks, from toy soldiers to classic board games and wind-up tin toys. Livingstone & Cavell invites everyone to play again. Wind up a tin robot, twitch a marble with your thumb, play a few bars of “Happy Birthday” on a toy piano, and share your memories with friendly staff.  

Take home something educational for the grandkids and something fun for yourself. 

Link:  Livingstone & Cavell

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Map Town, 400 - 5 Avenue SW

When you're in the heart of downtown Calgary, there's a hidden gem that has been compared to the world's largest map store - Stanford's in London, England. Established in 1989, Map Town is Canada's largest map store offering 90,000 world, travel, country, topographic, landowner, provincial, nautical and aeronautical maps, as well as travel guides, traditional and solar globes, digital data for your GPS and novelty items. Map Town has delivered maps to over 99% of the postal and zip codes in Canada and the USA.  

There most unique map is an authentic Captain John Palliser's exploration of Western Canada in 1867. If it is still available it is yours for $28,000. Popular souvenirs include World Wall maps, and local hiking maps of the Canadian Rockies. It is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year.

Link: MapTown.com

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Recordland 1208 - 9th Ave SE

Opened in 1979, Recordland boasts an inventory of over one million obscure, classic and new records, making its Canada’s largest record store. Visit on a weekday and you can browse to your heart’s content. Visit on a weekend and you will be rubbing elbows with Calgary’s many audiophiles as the place is packed with floor-to-ceiling shelves that are only about three feet apart. Look up to see and records decorating the ceiling.  

Link: Recordland

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Reid’s The Stationary Store, 710 - 17th Ave SW

Reid’s has been a fixture on 17th Avenue for over 25 years.  A party store in the front and stationary store in the back, it is a FUN place to explore. Jam-packed with balloons and piñatas and gag gifts, as well as designer items from Alessi and Riedel, and a huge selection of cards and specialty paper.  Serious pen collectors won’t want to miss their large selection of designer writing utensils from Mont Blanc to Faber-Castell, from Lamy to Cross.  

If you can’t find a souvenir here, you aren’t really trying.

Link: Reid’s 

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Rubaiyat, 722 17th Ave SW

Rubaiyat, established in 1973 has been one of the retail anchors on Calgary’s 17thAvenue main street, since it opened at its current location in 1980. The store is unique as it combines a hand-blown glass gallery with upscale jewellery, as well as home décor accessories and furniture (indoor and outdoor).  At any given time, there are works by over 800 artisans.  It even has its own Stained Glass Studio at 1913 - 10thAve SW - definitely worth a visit for off-the-beaten path shoppers.  

If you can’t find a souvenir here, you really don’t want a souvenir.  

Link: Rubaiyat

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Smithbilt Hats, 1015 - 11th St SE 

No visit to Calgary is complete without a visit to the Smithbilt Hats new store, museum and factory in Inglewood.  Founded in 1919, Smithbilt is the maker of the famous Calgary “white cowboy hats” that have been presented to visiting dignitaries as the City’s symbol of hospitality and friendship since the 1940s.  Today the store offers a range of hats and other western fashion accessories. You can even custom cowboy hat made for you. The shop is full of hat-making artifacts and if you are lucky you might even see in progress hat-making. 

Link: Smithbilt Hats

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The Chocolate Lab 202D Centre St. SE, 

This tiny off-the-beaten-path shop in Chinatown offers chocolates that are ALMOST “to0 pretty to eat.” They are works of art.  Several of The Chocolate Lab’s bonbons – Orange Dreamsicle, the L.L. Dean and the Lychee Rose have won awards at the International Chocolate Awards.  If you go to The Lab, be sure to leave some time to explore the surrounding quaint Chinatown. 

Link: Chocolate Lab

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World of Whiskey, 333 - 5th Ave SW, (+15 level, west of Petroleum Club) 

Explore over 850 different varieties of whisky at Calgary Co-op’s World of Whiskey store, one of the first whiskey-only stores in North America.  Here you will find rare vintages from Scotland, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, India and France, including a 50-year old single malt Glenfiddich going for the price of a well-equipped car.  

No smoking jacket required. 

Link: World of Whiskey

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Last Word

Obviously, there are many other retailers I could have included in this list. If you are looking to further explore Calgary’s unique shopping scene, I would suggest you explore these five districts. 

  • Inglewood: Along 9thAvenue SE

  • Beltline: 17thAvenue SW

  • Kensington: 10thSt NW and Kensington Road

  • Design District: 11thAve SW

  • Downtown Hudson’s’ Bay to Holt Renfrew (+15 level and above)

If you like this blog, you will like these links:

Restaurants That Define Calgary’s Sense of Place

19 Reason’s Not To Visit Calgary in 2019

Calgary: History Capital of Canada

 

Vancouver: The Barbershop Capital of Canada?

In every Canadian city I visit, I seem to discover it is the “capital city” of something. Halifax was the Capital City of Blade Signs. Saskatoon was the Capital City of Public Art. Lacombe: The Mural Capital of Canada.

After a month of flaneuring the streets of Vancouver I think it might be “The Barbershop Capital of Canada.”

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Barbershop are back

Yes I know barbershops are making a comeback in cities across North America, but I am thinking Vancouver is way ahead of the curve. I haven’t done exhaustive research but based on my observations and recent visits to many Canada cities I am prepared to go out on a limb and declare it the “Barbershop Capital of Canada.”

Wherever we went in Vancouver, it seemed there were barbershops on every other block, be it downtown, Main Street, Yaletown, Denman or Kits. Some we the old traditional barbers with the barber pole and others were more modern. Some had sandwich boards with fun graphics and sayings that made me smile.

Link: History of Barber Pole

In doing a bit of research, I discovered not only that barbershops are back across North America, but that landlords love them as they are not impacted by online shopping as retailers are. This didn’t surprise me as one of the things I notice in Vancouver is that a lot of their ground floor retail seems to be hair and nails salons, as well as barbershops. There was one block where I counted 6 hair salons and one nail salon in a row - the merchant at the end of the block was a a Psychic Reader. Strange but true!

Link: Barbershops Art Back

Here are some photos of the various character barbershops I discovered while flaneuring the streets of Vancouver. I have included a couple of Google Maps to illustrate just how many barbershop there are in Vancouver’s trendy areas.

I hope you will enjoy. There is even a bit of a surprise at the end.

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All of these barber shops are within a five minute walk of where we were staying at the corner of Nelson and Burrand in downtown.

All of these barber shops are within a five minute walk of where we were staying at the corner of Nelson and Burrand in downtown.

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In Kitsilano these barbershops show up on google maps.

In Kitsilano these barbershops show up on google maps.

Everyday Tourist Reader Comment: One of my patients came in with a fresh haircut, looked like he had been to someone that knew what they were doing, so I asked him where he gets his haircut. He told me about Majidian Barbers, which he travelled across the city to go to, and that he and his buddies call Oran, the barber, "Scissorhands" because he cuts like the wind and barely talks. Since I was in need of a good barber and Majidian is around the corner from our place, I gave him a go and he did not disappoint! Thought I might lose an ear but I didn't, and I came out with a great cut!  Tony

Everyday Tourist Reader Comment: One of my patients came in with a fresh haircut, looked like he had been to someone that knew what they were doing, so I asked him where he gets his haircut. He told me about Majidian Barbers, which he travelled across the city to go to, and that he and his buddies call Oran, the barber, "Scissorhands" because he cuts like the wind and barely talks. Since I was in need of a good barber and Majidian is around the corner from our place, I gave him a go and he did not disappoint! Thought I might lose an ear but I didn't, and I came out with a great cut!

Tony

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Move west in downtown nearer to Stanley Park and Coal Harbour and here are the barbershops that populate Google Maps.

Move west in downtown nearer to Stanley Park and Coal Harbour and here are the barbershops that populate Google Maps.

Last Word

Everest Barbers which was just around the corner from where we were staying at Nelson and Burrard actually offers a membership. Not just one membership, but a Gold or Silver Membership.

The Gold Membership gets you unlimited haircuts and style, unlimited beard shaping and line-up, back next shave with shaving cream, hot towel after your haircut, complimentary beverage, use of an fragrance in the cologne bar and 10% discount on all product. Cost? $93/month, $270/3 months, $522/6 months or $950/year. That is like the cost of gym membership or yoga studio!

The poster says $18.25 per haircut, which means you are getting your hair cut 5 times a month. I barely get 5 hair cuts per year. There is obviously something happening in Vancouver when it comes to men’s grooming that I haven’t experienced anywhere else.

One has to wonder if barbershops could be the future anchors of main streets? I know our little two-block 19th St NW Main Street in West Hillhurst has two barbershops.

PS

I was so impressed by Vancouver’s barbershops culture I decided to get a haircut before heading home. But rather than going to one of the professional barbershop I thought it would be interesting to get a haircut from a student at Vancouver Community College. To my surprise I was the female student’s first male haircut, but the instructor was great at supervising the cut. She did a few touch-ups and all was good.

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