Townsite Public Market: What's Old is New Again
At the newly-opened Townsite Public Market in Powell River, visitors weave through artisan stalls, follow their noses to specialty food purveyors, and pick up fresh, local fruit and veg. With kids and dogs in tow—and a Basecamp americano in hand—the shopping experience at the Market is a decidedly modern homage to the location’s historic origins.
Townsite Public Market resides in the historic Stores Building, British Columbia’s first indoor mall. Built in 1941, the mall served as Powell River’s shopping and community hub, with Hudson’s Bay, Safeway and the Credit Union amongst others. Subsequent incarnations included life as a bingo hall and nightclub. When a fire destroyed the building, Powell River business investor Steve Brooks purchased it, not wanting the location’s history to disappear. He envisioned a continuation of that legacy, but with a 21st century twist. “I've tried to balance the building with a mixture of entertainment, market type stores providing produce, coffee, baked goods, and then stores showcasing our local artists and artisans.” He is also working with the City of Powell River, Vancouver Island University and the Powell River School District to set up a section of the market as an innovation and tech hub.
Most of the 14 businesses currently at the Market are female entrepreneurs, craftspeople, or artists. Tatiana Kostiak of Fiddleback Shack and Lesley Wilson of Kaleidoscope Coast Creations share a space, and appreciate the opportunity the Market offers them, and other start-ups, for showcasing their work. “Deciding to be in a brick and mortar location was what we really needed but we also wanted to be somewhere unique,” Kostiak explains. Both women have their own workspaces, but needed a space to market their creations and interact with customers.
The Market is also home to K-Lumet, a local social enterprise that employs people with high barriers to employment, including those with disabilities.
Once you’ve filled your basket with handmade chocolates, lunched on a tasty quinoa bowl, and had that perfect handcrafted birthday gift wrapped and ready, test your mettle at the in-house rock climbing gym, Powell River Climbing Co-op. It’s BC’s largest co-op run climbing centre. Then reward your hard work with a beer flight at Townsite Brewing, just across the street from the Market.
Brooks hopes the Market becomes an integral part of Powell River’s arts and culture scene, with the goal of offering events at least once a month. The Market participated in the Townsite Jazz Festival this past April, will host a large craft fair in May and the Powell River Veg Fest in June.
So what’s next? Brooks plans to open another section of the building’s large, 35,000 sq ft floor space and attract more food vendors, particularly a local fishmonger. Exhibits that highlight the historic significance of the site are underway, complementing the exposed wood beams from the original building that are already featured throughout.
Townsite Market is poised to become one of Powell River’s go-to gathering places. As a vibrant attraction for both locals and visitors alike, the Market is truly unique, one that honours its roots, yet has an eye to the future.