Strength in numbers
Better days ahead for Carbonear’s Water Street
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.”