Strength in num­bers

Bet­ter days ahead for Car­bon­ear’s Water Street

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

Car­bon­ear’s Water Street may have seen bet­ter days, but Frank Butt be­lieves its best days may be yet to come.

The en­tre­pre­neur who op­er­ates a gas sta­tion, con­ve­nience store and Sears out­let at the west end of the street, sees the va­cant build­ings and empty spa­ces be­tween them along the street. But he also sees the her­itage build­ings that have been re­stored, some of which have been rec­og­nized for their pro­vin­cial and even na­tional his­toric sig­nif­i­cance. He sees peo­ple tak­ing old aban­doned build­ings, and breath­ing new life into them as gyms, and cafes. And he is es­pe­cially en­cour­aged by that move­ment.

“When I see peo­ple do­ing up their build­ings, I know they’re do­ing it for a rea­son,” he said.

On a re­cent in­for­mal sur­vey of what was once the town’s main com­mer­cial dis­trict, and in its hey­day, one of Con­cep­tion Bay North’s busiest streets, he dis­cov­ered, to his own sur­prise, there are up­wards of 50 busi­nesses cur­rently op­er­at­ing be­tween the Con­cep­tion Bay Re­gional Com­mu­nity Cen­tre on The Beach and the In­ter­faith Cit­i­zens Home on Water Street East — ev­ery­thing from a se­cu­rity firm to a fu­neral home and a tat­too par­lour to a news­pa­per of­fice. Wide va­ri­ety “You can get a hair­cut, buy a snow­mo­bile, get a meal, gas up, get your gro­ceries, do pretty much any­thing you can in larger cen­tres,” Butt sug­gested.

The Car­bon­ear na­tive, who has in­vested con­sid­er­able time and re­sources into his busi­ness since he took it over in 1988, be­lieves his home­town is “a pretty nice place to live and do busi­ness.

“I’ve in­vested some money here only be­cause I be­lieve there’s life in the down­town area.

“If ev­ery­one got to­gether and pro­moted the area as a whole, we’d be able to bring in bus tours. It would be nice if they could walk around and drop into lit­tle stores like they used to years ago. But you got to have some­thing to of­fer the peo­ple, vis­i­tors and res­i­dents alike,” Butt said.

Life in down­town

Given the num­ber and va­ri­ety of prod­ucts and ser­vices it al­ready has to of­fer, he be­lieves the street is far from dead. In fact, if the cur­rent trend con­tin­ues, Butt sees loads of po­ten­tial for growth and fur­ther de­vel­op­ment.

How­ever, he also sees one very large piece miss­ing from the puz­zle — or­ga­ni­za­tion.

In­stead of ev­ery­one go­ing their own way and do­ing their own thing, he sees the need for all hands to join forces and speak for the place where they do busi­ness with one uni­fied voice.

What the area needs now, be be­lieves is “some kind of in­cen­tive or push to get things set up so you can of­fer things to tourists and res­i­dents. We want ev­ery­one to drop down to down­town Car­bon­ear!”

Whether it is called a board of trade, cham­ber of com­merce or some other name, to be de­cided by the mem­bers, Butt would like to see some kind of or­ga­nized body formed to rep­re­sent the in­ter­ests of the busi­ness­peo­ple who op­er­ate in the town’s down­town busi­ness core. Public meet­ing first step He is or­ga­niz­ing a public meet­ing set to take place at 8 p. m. on Tues­day, Feb. 21 at the Knights of Colum­bus in Car­bon­ear.

While it is aimed at the busi­ness com­mu­nity in the down­town area, the meet­ing is also open to the public, and Butt says he’s look­ing for­ward to a good turnout. He is also wide open to sug­ges­tions on the best way to get the ball rolling to­wards the for­ma­tion of such a group, whose pur­pose will be to make the down­town area as at­trac­tive as pos­si­ble to lo­cal res­i­dents and vis­i­tors alike.

Point­ing out Car­bon­ear has “lots of fa­cil­i­ties all over town,” Butt is con­vinced any en­hance­ment of the down­town would only help the town as a whole — “but my main fo­cus for now is just the down­town area.”

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