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Wellington West BIA a ‘hotbed for new ideas’ among retailers

Thriving business improvement area cements popularity as a proving ground for entrepreneurs looking to debut new concepts for consumers

Gareth Davies
Gareth Davies, owner of gift and homeware shop Maker House Co. in Hintonburg, said his store has stocked up on budget-friendly options for the gift-giving season.

An escape room, gourmet doughnut bakery and a shop specializing in handmade furniture might have sounded like unusual business ideas to the casual observer a decade ago.

But the likes of Escape Manor, SuzyQ Doughnuts, Maker House and others have all grown into runaway success stories after getting their start in Wellington West – a commercial area spanning the Hintonburg and Wellington Village neighbourhoods that has a long history as a proving ground for new retail formats and innovative consumer offerings.

For entrepreneur Gareth Davies, Hintonburg was the perfect fit for his hand-crafted homeware goods store Maker House, which he launched as a pop-up store on Wellington Street West in 2015. After receiving a flood of interest and positive feedback from customers, he knew the business was there to stay.

“We called it a ‘pop-up to permanent,’ which really gave people the chance to buy into the business and support this new vision we had,” says Davies, who sources his products from more than 200 Canadian artisans. “The neighbourhood just wrapped their arms around us and said ‘You’re not going anywhere.’”

Growing the community

A part of Wellington’s history

Just up the street, Liliana Piazza’s family had a similar experience in Wellington Village when her father launched Ottawa’s first Montreal-style bagel shop in 1984.

As the Ottawa Bagelshop quickly grew into a well-known Ottawa institution, Piazza says her family has seen the neighbourhood transform into a lively community for business owners and families alike. 

More than three decades later, the Ottawa Bagelshop still operates out of its original Wellington West location – a testament to the community’s ongoing support and a sign that one original idea can last a lifetime, says Piazza. 

“The neighbourhood has only improved as time has gone on,” she adds. “That’s part of the reason I invested in renovating the business. I felt that the neighbourhood could support the Bagelshop for a long time to come.”

That underpinning was especially evident during the pandemic, adds Piazza, with fellow business owners and locals fighting to keep the community animated and a destination for residents across the city.

Dennis Van Staalduinen, executive director at the Wellington West BIA, has also seen the creative spirit of the neighbourhood grow as the community welcomes new shops to the area. 

“The long-term commitment of the businesses, the passion of the community, and the entrepreneurial spirit that exists here all accelerate the success of the area,” says Van Staalduinen. “This was always an organic, real main street district, that has served Hintonburg and Wellington Village well – and will continue to do so.”

He adds that unique stores, restaurants, and services help set the area apart and attract other creative entrepreneurs from across the city. 

It’s an experience that Davies says he can account for first-hand.

“The community really validates all the extra work that we do to source local,” he adds. “The customer base here is very open minded, and they take pride in their neighbourhood being a hotbed for new ideas.”