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GUEST COLUMN: Back in the day Sarnia’s downtown had it all

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Nadine Wark

It’s great to see the old Prokopec building at the corner of Christina and Lochiel no longer vacant.

A new eatery has moved in, complementing all the other restaurants in downtown Sarnia, a mixture of old and new. Over the years the building has housed several different businesses including a mortgage and trust company (Canada Permanent), where I worked for many years.

Across the street, the building that now houses the art gallery was once the home of Saks, Sarnia’s premier women’s clothing stores.

Even if you didn’t buy at Saks, it was worthwhile stepping inside to feel the ambience and admire the original woodwork, including a beautiful staircase that led to Ports, which sold clothing that truly made a statement.

At the other corners of Christina and Lochiel were a cigar store and the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Just from memory, I recall so many other businesses that made up the downtown – stores like Verna’s, Reiss Ladies’ Wear, Pacesetters, The Vanity, and my favourite, Reitmans, where I knew all the staff and they knew me.

Shoe stores included Arliss and Keddy. The Linen and Wool Shop offered many unique gifts shipped in from far-away places. Hudson’s Bay was an excellent place for Christmas shopping with the different departments offering gifts for everyone on the list.

Mary’s Record Mart was the place to go for the latest LPS and 45s. For the sweet tooth there was Laura Secord, The Nuttery and Hunt’s Bakery.

Back in the 70s, it was elbow-to-elbow trying to maneuver Christina Street with only an hour for lunch. It was a challenge to make our way through the crowds, go shopping and still have time to eat too!

My co-workers and I enjoyed mixing things up; sometimes it was Kresge’s where we spun around on red stools waiting for hotdogs. Other times it was ‘finer dining’ at The Star Lounge next door, or The Colonial Hotel, The Colborne, The Hambone, The Olympia, The Imperial, Tang’s and probably our favourite, The Cromwell Grill, where the original owners are still serving their customers today.

At Kresge’s you could actually walk those squeaky floors right through to Front Street to exit. I believe there was a pool hall next door that also connected one street to the other. Other ‘five and dime’ stores included The Metropolitan and Woolworth’s which, I believe, was the first to close, perhaps in the 60s.

Sarnia’s Downtown Days in July attracted even more people with excellent sidewalk sales, a midway and even a baby contest.

Today, Christina and Front Streets offer a wide variety of interesting shops, specialty boutiques, and restaurants to choose from. Our downtown continues to thrive, making new memories as we conjure up the old.

Nadine Wark is a retired office administrator and freelance writer who resides in Sarnia







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