Saturday 24 Sep 2016

Vellingtunne
David Simmonds

Another new restaurant - the Tall Poppy Cafe - is opening up in Wellington this week. Let's take stock.

Working from west to east, we've now got the Orchard View Dairy Bar, the Legion, the Tall Poppy, Rock 'N Roger's, The Devonshire, the Wellington Grill, East and Main, the Plaza and its pizza takeout, and the Sandbanks Bar and Grill.

That's nine establishments. With a population base of 1,700, give or take, which means that if each restaurant can turn over 50 seats a day, the entire population of Wellington can be fed by one place or another every four days. That's not even taking into account take home-prepared meals from the Foodland, donuts from Lakeshore Farms Market or chocolate bars from the Wellington Convenience Store.

I realize that not all the restaurants serve the same market segment. The Tall Poppy Cafe, for example, is styling itself as a family friendly, grown, raised or cooked from scratch establishment.

Still, the concern remains. Have we reached the 'tipping point' - the point where enough becomes too much? Do we have so many restaurants that all will start to suffer?

If you ask me, which you don't have to, because I'm telling you first, we have indeed reached a tipping point. I see it tipping in the other direction - where 'enough' prompts us to appreciate what 'even more' can do.

I've read "clustering" retail services of a similar type is a shopworn technique for increasing overall traffic. That jibes with my experience. Remember how busy street corners often housed four service stations.

When I lived in Ottawa, the Mountain Equipment Co-op moved to my neighbourhood. Before you could say "holy knapsack" there were about six expedition-style stores in the area, and the sidewalks began swarming with expedition-style people. The neighbourhood had become a destination. Local businesses caught on quickly. The bakery became a "trail food outfitter," the travel agent became an "adventure tour planner," the funeral home became an "extended vacation base camp," and so on. The influx of people then allowed the outdoor stores to expand their product lines. They sold high altitude fashion wear to people who wanted to strut around town and leave the impression they were just back from conquering the Matterhorn. They came up with sea kayaks designed not for immersion but for putting on the roof of your car and leading people to think you were an avid kayaker. Everyone did quite well until the condominium developers arrived.

So let's stop for a minute and think beyond the boundaries of Wellington - indeed, way past Hillier and Consecon,past Rossmore and Northport - into the wide world beyond. What if Wellington became a destination people spot, how many would sojourn there?

Let's think big. I'm picturing entering Quebec City, where a nondescript arterial road suddenly blossoms into "La Grande Allee" - a profusion of cafes, bars, restaurants and walk up hotels, all spilling out on to the sidewalk. All filled up with people, despite the heavy traffic just a few steps away.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could put just a little more buzz and critical mass into our own Main Street and hoist Wellington into the same league. After all, a goodly proportion of our tourists come from the province of Quebec in the first place. Think of European tourists going home and saying, "Well, yes, we saw Quebec City, but if we wanted old we could have stayed home. But let me tell you about this, how you say,'Vellingtunne'."

Without wanting to create a loser in order for there to be a winner - but to ensure my point made. Raise your hand if you think the Main Street, of Picton, is a better alternative. Especially, this spring, for reason some know and other ponder.

I admit that we don't have an extensive downtown commercial core. Some creative thinking will be required; for example, how about doubling up. The hardware store could also serve as a cocktail lounge, and offer you a rusty nail or screwdriver while you shop for one. The Museum could branch into restaurant services, serving Quakerburgers and Loyalist Chicken Nuggets.

Here's an idea: move the indoor services onto the sidewalk. The hair salons might offer you an al fresco haircut while your dinner order is cooking nearby. The bank could set up colourful outdoor table for the money changers. The abattoir should probably keep its work indoors, thanks all the same.

While we're at it, we could transform the Midtown Meats lot into an oasis for artisans, where you could have a post-prandial stroll and select a landscape painting, a necklace or a caricature of Leona Dombrowsky.

Our sidewalks could easily accommodate roaming musicians and storytellers. Local politicians made redundant by the anticipated downsizing of County Council might lurk the area keep up their glad-handing skills. Hi! I'm Tom Noteworthy. I'm not running for anything at the moment, just practicing."

There is no doubt in my mind: Wellington is ready to tip from the regional map to the world map. 'Vellingtunne,'I'm beginning to like that word.

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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