Local business and consumer news. Openings, closings, deals, sales, what to buy and where to buy it, we round it all up and give you an insider's shopper's special on small business in Halifax. Contact shoptalk@thecoast.ca to send a tip.

Friday, January 30, 2009


Hamachi Group wins Small Business of the Year and Frozen Ocean closes its doors.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 1:42 PM

A delicious incentive to gently thaw from now until the end of March at Hamachi House (5190 Morris, 425-7711) is the winter warm-up special, a complementary miso soup with the purchase of any menu item during lunch (11:30am-2:30pm). And speaking of all things Hamachi, congratulations to the Hamachi Group for winning the 2009 Gold Award for Small Business of the Year from the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.

The rumours of the demise of popular surf apparel and fashion boutique Frozen Ocean (1600 Barrington, 425-0040) are confirmed. Doors closed January 31.

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South Park YMCA to get cable TV treadmills

With personal screen cable multi-channel universe, it's even easier to ignore the sweaty jogger next to you.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 1:40 PM

TV has rarely married well with good health. But further to the battle against tedium while you exercise, coming soon to the South Park YMCA are new 17" personal viewing screens with 60 channels of cable (including The Comedy Network, if you wanted to watch South Park while sweating on South Park). Four will be attached to four new treadmills while the rest will be installed on the existing ones, for a total of 13 screen-mounted treadmills. If that wasnt enough, reports manager of membership Allison Covert, they're also getting new cross-trainers (the walking/skiing machines) and fitness bikes to go in their freshly painted space. Head on down to 1565 South Park, 423-9709 to watch TV and burn calories.

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80/20 Lifestyle Studio

Fitness and Health studio focuses on nutrition. They take before and after photos, too.

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 1:38 PM

For more evidence that we at Shoptalk care about your wellbeing as much as were looking out for your pocketbook, check out the newest way to get fit and stay healthy in Halifax: 80/20 Lifestyle Studio (80 Main, 457-4455) just opened its doors on January 5. "We provide personal training packages with a focus on nutrition and overall wellness," writes Kim Way, owner of the new operation, in an email. "The clients receive personalized attention in a private studio, so it's great for anybody who's avoiding the crowded gym scene right now. They also receive a nutrition plan, and before and after photos and measures, so it's like being on their own weight loss TV show, without the cameras!"

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Planning and Design Centre seeks storefront

Community planning group based out of Dalhousie University want to move to downtown digs. Can you help them?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 1:37 PM

Speaking of creative ideas to improve the cityscape, The Planning and Design Centre is on the hunt for a prominent storefront to set up shop in downtown Halifax. The Planning and Design Centre started as a special project of the Cities & Environment Unit—-a community planning and research group based in the Faculty of Architecture and Planning at Dalhousie University—-but is working towards being an independent institution. You can check the website for a detailed description of what they're about, but to put it simply, they're a non-profit that wants to help the public make sense of all the plans, initiatives and strategies towards improving Halifax. At their proposed shop one could go in and get access to all the stuff going on, find out what stage it's in and offer input. If you think you can help out with a space, or youre just curious about their work, visit pdcentre.ca or call 494-7705.

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Halifax Design Plan on Deck

Downtown Halifax Business Commission asks Haligonians to show support for HRM By Design

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 1:36 PM

It hasn't gone away. In fact, its about to come around again: The Downtown Halifax Business Commission is encouraging folks to write their councillors to support the passing of the long-awaited and much-discussed HRM By Design, the $3 million financial incentive package put together to make firm development standards for downtown and reimagine the business streetscape.

DHBC executive director Paul McKinnon is also the vice chair of the urban design task force, a citizens group for the overseeing of HRM By Design. As a result hes a big supporter of what the plan might do for the complexion of retail in our downtown. He anticipates the plan being presented in March, at which point there will be a public hearing, the results of which prompt the council to say yea or nay.

"It helps reinforce and repair the urban environment," says McKinnon of the plan, who sees retail spots that don't benefit from large, unfriendly gaps on Barrington Street. He pointed to the Maritime Centre specifically as part of the problem. He is hopeful that the plan will get the support it needs, even in this dire economic climate. "[The plan] will encourage and require businesses at street level. It puts a major spotlight on downtown. What really revitalizes a downtown is people. We want to encourage people to return, to offer mixed-use housing opportunities."

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Industry comes out of shell at Sip n' Shuck

Government launches Catch, a new festival to salvage local seafood. But is it too little, too late?

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 1:32 PM

This year's Sip n' Shuck at the Delta Halifax featured a celebrity shucking competition. Well...maybe celebrity pushes the envelope. Notable shuckers included Tory ministers Chris d'Entremont and Ron Chisholm (who won first and second place) and councillor Dawn Sloane.

It was Sloane's first time shucking an oyster. She struggled a little onstage with the uncooperative molluscs and finished last. "Well, [Chisholm and d'Entremont] are from rural areas, they know how to do this," she told me later, "I'm from the city, where we just eat them!"

At $35 a ticket, the event was attended largely by food industry people who sipped while the province shilled its latest venture to promote our fisheries: Catch, a seafood festival in June at the Cunard Centre. I spoke to Chisholm, whose Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture are organizing Catch.

This event is part of the Conservative government's response to the near collapse of the lobster fishery. Chisholm admitted they got involved late in marketing or promoting our seafood products; "For too long we were dependent on the US market. We took it for granted and we were complacent. When the dollar was at par with the US dollar we had an inkling of what might happen if we got into trouble."

And then trouble hit. But what can a province do when it's just a little cog in a global industry and 85-90% of its product goes to export markets? "It's difficult to do anything," Chisholm said. "Marketing and promotion are about the only things we can do."

He was quick to point out his department's whistle-stop promotional tour of the Western provinces before Christmas upped lobster sales in Albertan Sobey's by 400%. "It was the biggest seafood promotion in Canadian history," he boasted. Still, while they were out West, lobstermen set up a pretty successful (and desperate) ad hoc holiday sales drive in mall parking lots across the province. I guess we'll see what Catch does for local business this summer.

The real star of the night were littleneck clams. They are not native to Nova Scotia and they're rarely seen here in Halifax, but they are farmed by Innovative Fishery Products in Belliveau Cove. They are ridiculously delicious. The shucker told me it's 10-15 times harder to chuck than an oyster (how do you measure that?) because their lids interlock. They also seals in those delicious juices. An intense dose of salt water and the taste of fresh raw clam which is ten times better than a fried one. Too bad 90% of them are shipped to the USA. Marc Blinn, one of the owners, said that Fid was the only restaurant in the HRM he knew of who bought from them, but added they'd do big or small orders for anyone.

While I'm on the food and drink tip, all the vinyards and microbrewers had tables providing samples. The bottling labels of Tideview cider from Greenwich are nicely redesigned (they needed it); their semi-dry cider is still tasty as ever. Sean Doucet, executive chef at the Delta, cooked up deep fried oysters in a po'boy with slaw and some oyster fritters with ponzu sauce and Acadian Seaplants hana-nori seaweed. There were plenty of shucked oysters. I spotted one tired shucker who said he'd opened about 800 oysters. He looked lke he was about to pass out — proving there is a local appetite for local food in the city.

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Stonewall closes, The Source Survives, Biscuit's got a sale, new NSLC on Quinpool, new owners at the Oxford Laundromat and Belly Dancing classes start.

Posted on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 1:10 PM

Number two electronic giant Circuit City has announced bankruptcy in the States and is liquidating its assets. The boys and girls at Best Buy (the number one American electronic goods retail giant) must be thrilled. The good news for us north of the border is that Circuit City's Canadian presence The Source---formerly Radio Shack---is solvent and separately financed, so the Halifax-area shops will stay open.

Wither the cheesecake: The sign outside says "Fully equipped restaurant for rent," and the word we have is that Stonewall Restaurant (5244 Blowers)---formerly Stonehaven---has closed.

A Best of Halifax readers' poll winner in the customer service category, Johnny MacDonald at Biscuit (1661 Argyle, 425-5436) gives it to us straight: "We're clearing all the winter stock," he says. "It runs the gamut, some winter coats, tonnes of jeans, trousers, workwear, some dresses. All of the shoes." That's between 40 and 90 percent off, folks.

As an addendum to our Well Being Guide of a couple weeks back, full of ideas on how to stay fit indoors this winter, Belly Dance Basics & Beyond is celebrating its 20th year in business. New beginner classes started January 25 at North Woodside Community Centre (230 Pleasant Street), January 27 at the Rockingham Community Centre (199 Bedford Highway) and begin tonight (January 29) at the Bloomfield Centre (2786 Agricola), from 6-7pm. Call Bernadette at 462-0007 to register, and no problem if you're a latecomer: signing up after the first class is cool.

There's been a change of ownership at the Oxford Laundromat, which has been in its digs at 2983 Oxford since the Capital grocery store vacated the space almost 20 years ago. Staff tell us the new owner is starting a renovation Friday, January 30, with hopes that the updating won't interfere too much with regular business hours (a heroic 8am to 9pm, seven days a week). If you haven't done a wash for a while, and want to be sure they're open before shlepping a mountain of dirty clothes, call 455-4725.

As was mentioned last week, a new NSLC outlet has opened as of Tuesday in the Quinpool Centre (6169 Quinpool, 423-7126). It has that awesome new store smell and it looks a lot like the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. The space previously rented by the NSLC in the back of the Quinpool Atlantic Superstore will revert back to the store in the days to come once the NSLC gets all of its liquid stock and equipment out.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Now with parsley, sage and rosemary

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 4:49 PM

Since December 11, Dartmouth residents have been enjoying a new cafe in the downtown. Our Thyme Café (98 Portland, 406-7467) has been wowing a busy lunch hour contingent with sandwiches and homemade grub, sweet squares and cappuccinos. With biodegradable cups and Fair Trade coffee, the 20-seater cafe even runs with an environmental bent, and a little fireplace keeps it cozy through the winter months.

But what's most outstanding about Dartmouth's newest cafe is that it has been started for both revenue generation and social enterprise. "It's an initiative of the Elizabeth Fry Society," announces the project's assistant coordinator Lynn Yetman. Elizabeth Fry, for those who don't know, advocates for women in prison, helps develop social services and support for woman in legal trouble and publicizes issues around women and the law. "[The cafe] will give women an opportunity to gain experience in a working kitchen and in the food services industry," says Yetman, who reports that in the six weeks it's been open the community has been responding well to Our Thyme. "Our homemade soups and paninis are very popular. We do catering, too. Call in advance for take out." (To reach the Elizabeth Fry Society of Nova Scotia, call 454-5041.)

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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Paragon Theatre

As The Marquee dies, a new enterprise rises

Posted By on Wed, Jan 28, 2009 at 6:06 AM

The Marquee's last hurrah comes February 7 with a 50-musician recreation of The Band's The Last Waltz concert, and then will be no more. But, fear not! The large north end music hall (2037 Gottingen) has been taken over by partners Craig Mercer, Peter Farmer and Mark Townsend, who will tear down and rebuild walls and otherwise reconstruct most of the building as the Paragon Theatre, which opens for business on April 1.

The Marquee struggled financially in part because it only worked for large weekend shows with audiences of 400-600---it was essentially a dead space from Sunday through Friday morning. The Paragon partners are addressing that shortcoming by opening a coffee shop, cafe and art gallery on the Gottingen Street side, and by installing a stage for smaller shows through the week in a more intimate reconfiguration of what is now the front of the building. Large shows will continue to play the large stage, says Mercer, who has been The Marquee's entertainment director for the past year.

Mercer also plans to avoid a large cost incurred by The Marquee by not renting the lower portion of the space. "We won't have people sneaking in the back door, so we'll be able to reduce our security costs," he says.

Marquee owner Victor Syperek has told local media that he wants to build condos on the site, but Mercer says that plan is at the very least on hold---the Paragon partners hold a five-year lease on the space.

"We're very confident," says Mercer, when asked if he can succeed where Syperek failed.

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Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Oxford Laundromat getting spruced up

Posted By on Tue, Jan 27, 2009 at 10:21 AM

There's been a change of ownership at the Oxford Laundromat, which has been in its digs at 2983 Oxford since the Capital grocery store vacated the space almost 20 years ago. Staff tell us the new owner is starting a renovation Friday, January 30, with hopes that the updating won't interfere too much with regular business hours (a heroic 8am to 9pm, seven days a week). If you haven't done a wash for a while, and want to be sure they're open before shlepping a mountain of dirty clothes, call 455-4725.

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Friday, January 23, 2009

The Halifax Sexplosion

Everything To Do With Sex Show comes to Halifax

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2009 at 2:50 PM


The 1st Annual Everything To Do With Sex Show pulls down its inaugural drawers at the Cunard Centre, January 23-25. The three-day event has long been a success in cosmopolitan Montreal and Tonronto, but will it fly in conservative Nova Scotia?

"We are entertainment, but we are also about education, and knowledge," writes Sex Show representative Stephen Murdoch in an email. "Products are presented in a non-intimidating, fun and friendly atmosphere. [Over 90 percent] of our attendees come as couples, most are over 25 years old, many have children, and are in committed relationships. The show is about spicing up peoples lives, not about encouraging high risk behavior... the show is also sexy and romantic, and a whole lot of fun."

Expect a dildoriffic time, with daily fashion shows and performers and seminars such as Unleash Your Inner Felatio Goddess, Erotic Talk: Talking Dirty For Women and How To Be A Webmaster. Local body-centric businesses will have a presence, including Island Rose Tattoo, Sexy Girl, Venus Envy and Night Magic Fashions.

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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Treevenge Tree Shirts

The guys behind the insanely popular horror/comedy short film Treevenge are getting into the merch biz. Go to Pretty Things Boutique to buy it.

Posted By on Wed, Jan 21, 2009 at 3:02 AM

To celebrate the invitation to this week's Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, the guys behind the insanely popular horror/comedy short film *Treevenge* are getting into the merch biz. If you doubt the power of Jason Eisener and Rob Cotterill's bloody hit, stop by Pretty Things Boutique (5685 Cunard, 492-8329), and grab one of the bright red t-shirts in men's and women's sizes ($25 each) sporting the logo and the gang of tall trees that, to paraphrase Matt Mays, stare you down. Also available are unisex, one-size toques in red or white for $20. "People were coming in and asking for stuff before Christmas," says Pretty Things owner Cadence MacMichael. She credits the inquiries at her store to well-researched Treevenge fans who put it together that MacMichael and Cotterill are an item. And, incidentally, another of director Jason Eisener's multitude of ongoing projects is a documentary on Pink Velvet Burlesque, of which MacMichael is leader and founder. See the burlesque performer this weekend at The Everything To Do With Sex Show and don't miss reports on Eisener's Sundance adventure at thecoast.ca

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Monkey business

Wooden Monkey to move

Posted By on Thu, Jan 15, 2009 at 4:55 PM

The Wooden Monkey is moving. The familiar Argyle location (1685 Argyle) will colse up for good Feb 18, explains co-owner Christine Bower. "We'll invite all our regulars in that night, and when everyone is done their meal, we'll have them carry their chairs out the door and up the hill," to a new, expanded Monkey in the old Beacon Securities Building (1707 Grafton). "They have to carry something. A lamp, a fork, something," she jokes.

The new site provides two storeys for diners, with the kitchen in the basement. Moreover, expect live music and a somewhat expanded menu.

"It's the same, but better," says Bower.

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