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Ups N’ Downs going Front to back

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Another Victorian beauty in downtown Sarnia is showing off her original good looks.

The 1970s-style cement boards have been stripped off the façade at 221 Christina St. North. The brickwork and stone windowsills are restored, and bright blues and terracotta brighten up the exterior.

“We found early photos of the building from around the 1880s,” says co-owner John Mallon. “We’ve tried to maintain the spirit of the original façade.”

He and a silent business partner also own Ups N’ Downs, a popular restaurant and nightspot on Front Street.

Like several others downtown, the Ups N’ Downs building runs right through from Christina to Front street, but the restaurant has operated only from the Front Street side since Mallon and his partner bought it in 1992.

For many years, 221 Christina St. was occupied by a travel agency and more recently by Your Sarnia Office. Investment has been made in the building over the years but most of it is buried in unseen infrastructure, said Mallon.

Now it’s time to make visible changes and improve the restaurant facilities, he said. It cost about $50,000 to restore the Christina Street façade and a much larger – and undisclosed – amount is required for the interior work about to start, he said.

“Ours is a gigantic Victorian building with beautiful architectural details. We didn’t want to do it on the cheap,” said Mallon.

“This is an opportunity to make the streetscape look nice and maybe kick-start other renovations along Christina Street.”

From a business perspective, the weak Canadian dollar is keeping more Sarnians on this side of the border. That’s working in Ups N’Downs’ favour and makes it a good time for re-investment, said Mallon.

Last fall’s purchase of the Bayside Centre right across the street and big redevelopment plans announced by a Vaughan-based group, is also motivating him to spruce up 221 Christina.

Within the month, construction work will begin to expand the small Ups N’Downs kitchen, provide ground floor storage space, office space, a second-storey apartment facing Christina and a new roof.

Once Mallon’s office moves from its upper Front Street location, a second bar will be built on the second floor of the pub.  A large front door that leads from the street to the second storey has been closed to the public for decades, but Mallon plans to open it up, particularly for First Fridays when lineups tend to be out the door and down the street.

He entertained the idea of a lunch bar opening up on the Christina street side, but foot traffic just isn’t heavy enough on that block to justify the expense, he said.

“The entire reason for this is to expand and redesign the building for even bigger volume at Ups N’ Downs,” said Mallon


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