For peninsula residents who only travel through, Bedford can seem like nothing more than the traffic-clogged Highway. But while it’s true that most of the retail in Bedford straddles the highway, there are real gems of shops to be found, which bring character and depth to the town.
Ten Mile House, 1519 Bedford Highway, 832-1700
Barry Misener’s Bicycles Plus is a Bedford institution, around in various locations since 1993, and in the historic Ten Mile House for the last seven years. “We try to do something for everyone,” says Misener, showing off the range of bicycles, accessories and the service shop in the rear. “We’re a mid-to-high end shop, but we also have kids’ bikes, family bikes---because they’ll grow up, they’ll start having fun and say, ‘You know what, I want to get more into this.’” To be successful for so many years, Misener has to keep up on the latest trends; most recently he went to California to get certification for a fitting station---a customer can now come in and Misener measures his or her physical characteristics, performs an individualized motion analysis and can use the results to tweak the customer’s bike for best performance.
Brain Candy Toys
936 Bedford Highway, 431-8697
If you ask me, modern big box toy stores are failing today’s kids, because they sell unimaginative plastic segregated into socially regressive rows of pink and blue. So it was with joy and wonder that I walked into Brain Candy Toys, a smallish store in a strip mall across from Mill Cove, chock full of interesting toys that don’t insult kids or their parents. “The first thing I consider when ordering toys is it has to be fun,” says owner Darren Corning, who opened the store in October with his wife Sylvia. “After that, comes educational and unique, and things that parents don’t mind playing with.” Corning, who test-drives the toys with his own two kids, has another rule: “We have games that don’t plug in. People come in looking for video games, but they usual leave with something else, because they find they really like our toys.”
1531 Bedford HIghway, 835-6565
For some people, Bedford is The Chickenburger. It’s been around since the glaciers retreated, serving the wooly mammoths and dinosaurs the first boiled chicken sandwiches in the New World. (I might have this history slightly wrong.) Ever since, the thing about The Chickenburger is dependability: the same basic menu, the same little paper cups for ketchup, the same jukebox, the same drive-up customers. The day I stop by for lunch, the place is packed, as usual, and an elderly couple is sharing lunch in their original Model T out in the parking lot, just as they did in their courting days, back in the Neolithic Age. Ya know, it’s only a diner, but dependability and predictability are a welcome refuge in this uncertain, cruel world.
1270 Bedford Highway, 406-3449
Rob MacLeod’s central Bedford skate store turned just two years old in May, but already business is booming. MacLeod has revamped the entire store, creating an enlarged section for women’s gear, and bringing in lots of surf gear and wear as well. Selling especially well right now are longboards, costing $200-$350. “It’s easier to get around on them,” explains MacLeod, “and they defy the typical image of skaters---10 years ago every skater was a punk, or thought they were” but now folks are using the boards for simple transportation. MacLeod is also excited about the new “temporary” skate park that will open at the LeBrun Centre just up the hill this fall, to be followed by a more permanent structure in the near future.
Sunnyside Mall, 835-4997
It’s refreshing, walking into the Bedford Pete’s. Back on the peninsula, Pete’s is the uber-chic hangout of young professionals and urbanites, but here at the Sunnyside Mall, there’s honest-to-dog children, old people, families. Evidently, the desire for wholesome and quality produce has caught on in the suburbs. And Pete’s is about to embark on a big “buy local” push, says marketing manager Holly Chmelyk, with local products in each department, “from produce to deli to grocery” tagged as local. “We’re locally owned and managed, and we’re celebrating local food.”
1552 Bedford Highway, 835-1648
After an exhausting day full of dogs, toys and bikes, there’s nothing more necessary than a relaxing cold beer, and sure enough, tucked back behind the Sunnyside Restaurant, through a side door on the parking lot and up a flight of stairs is Riverside Pub. It’s wonderfully incongruous how the unsettling bustle of Bedford Highway, just metres away, is completely lost in the tranquil pub, which, as its name suggests, overlooks a green stretch of the Sackville River, with a deck open during warm weather. Better-than-usual pub grub, an attentive staff and a slice of Bedford community complete the picture: the pub is exactly what Bedford needs, and has.
746 Bedford Highway, 444-3649
Tailwagrrrs is the damnedest place: dozens of dogs are running around, getting groomed, attending Doggy Daycare and all of them are happy. “We’re cage-free,” explains owner Kathleen Duffy. The day I visit, a steady stream of customers is coming and going, a delightful flux of puppies and people. Business is so good that Duffy is expanding next door, which will include a “sit-down canine cafe” where dogs and people can sip coffee, eat the eco-friendly dog treats, socialize and use free wifi. The extra space means dogs in Doggy Daycare will be separated by personality, size and temperament. Also on site is a grooming operation and a grooming school, which teaches pet owners and potential professionals. It’s worth stopping by, even if you don’t have a dog, to see this slice of dog/human society.