Unique Treasures Abound

A Retail Renaissance in Thunder Bay’s Waterfront District

A tourist, standing at the corner of Red River and Cumberland in Thunder Bay, asks a resident, “Where is your downtown?”

“You’re in it,” comes the reply to the surprised tourist, who may or may not be aware that Thunder Bay is made up of the two former cities of Port Arthur and Fort William that amalgamated in 1970.

Thunder Bay’s downtown North Core or the Waterfront District (still referred to by many locals as Port Arthur) is redeveloping. With the opening of a couple happening gastro-pubs and more restaurants in the works, the shopping is also improving with local entrepreneurs embracing retail opportunities. Some of the shops have been long residing stalwarts, where the owners are very pleased to see more walk-by traffic.

More people are checking out the shops in the Waterfront District including visitors to city.  One owner was happy when a group of a hundred Swedes from one of number of cruise ship visits to the city turned up to buy his comics. Buildings are selling and the new landlords have plans in the works. A couple shop owners compare Port Arthur to the newly popular Bay/Algoma area of Thunder Bay. This shows how a little competition and envy can be beneficial.

Here are shops you will want to check out in Thunder Bay’s Waterfront District. 

Hill City Comics and Games
26 Court Street South

Comic book artists are talented beyond belief. Each comic, toy, graphic novel, and poster in this shop screams with the talent of artists with amazing drawing and sculpting skills. With over a hundred thousand items to sell and all of them bursting with colour, muscle, square jaws and nubile women, it’s a bit overwhelming. Hill City Comics may not be huge, but it’s packed.

The owner, Robert Quinn, has a memory and archival relish for the various comic histories. With business savvy and uncanny customer and product knowledge he has kept operating for years, even through the few lean years. He’s very happy for the recent turnaround, smiling at his prospects for the future.
Robert is an avid fan of the Free Comic Book Day event. Last May 1st, all around the world, over 2,500 comic book stores gave out 3.5 million free comic books. Six to ten years old lined the sidewalk outside his shop waiting get up to three copies when Hill City gave out over 3,000 comic books to 1,000 young people who stormed into the shop. This is done to encourage reading, and to get kids to try out comic books. Robert sees more kids that day than any other time. He is very encouraged that downtown Port Arthur is seeing more and more street traffic.  

Perfect Fit Lingerie
16 Court Street South
With wonderful personalized service women are in for a fitting that could change their lives. Specializing in bra fitting from size A cups to double J cups and brand sizes from 30 to 48, some women get fitted perfectly for the first time.

Proprietor Suzan Cooper Rochon tells a story about one customer who, because it was so uncomfortable, always took her bra off as soon as she returned home. After being properly fitted it wasn’t until she was about to climb into bed that she discovered she hadn’t removed her bra. First time, Suzan was told.
Perfect Fit also carries luxurious silk sleep-ware, cotton sleep-ware, European bras, nursing bras, sports bras, cup size swim-ware, and shape-wear, including Spanx. In Thunder Bay they are the exclusive shop for Sympli Clothing, a line made in Canada.
As knowledgeable fitters, the staff goes out of their way to make women feel comfortable. They offer little extras like free coffee and a place to relax, by a fireplace. 
Mars Clothing
6 Court Street South 
This hip and sharp modern shop operated by James Nigro caters to young men with items priced from $8 to $200 dollars, so there is something for every guy. Men’s brands exclusive to Thunder Bay are Cheap Monday, Negative Famous, and Jericho. Mars is the only shop in Canada to carry We Are Tuk Tuk, which are clothes from England. 

Mars also carry Herschel bags, a men’s skin care line, hats, wallets, underwear, socks, bags, backpacks, and high-end denim.   

The Loop 
2 Court Street South

The Loop is a funky and fun shop with a large showroom, carrying mostly women’s clothing, but the men’s clothing is highly unique, which can’t be found in a big box store.
The Loop, a partnership of Beth DeProphetis and Allen Tocheri, specializes in Canadian designers where clothes are made in Canada and a few in the United States. Canadian brand names include Yoga Jeans, Broken Doll Clothing, Skinny Sweats, Gentle Fawn, and Sitka. With their brand clothes they sell “one size range” so you won’t be seeing a similar shirt worn by someone else.
The Loop also sells scarves, shirts, jackets, watches and locally made jewelry where The Loop partners with local jewelry designers and quality consignment shops. They are also the only place in town selling unique throwing discs (like Frisbees). You can take a disc to Boulevard Lake and try out their Frisbee Golf Course.

New Day Records
15A St. Paul St.

Reopened under new management, New Day Records is Thunder Bay's home for vinyl records, local art and show tickets. Located beside the aptly-named St. Paul Roastery, the turntable in the record store plays in both businesess and there's a passageway inside so customers can grab a coffee and then peruse some vinyl.

The Picture Store & Local Colour Art Gallery
269 Red River Road
Lucio Coppola is one savvy guy and a very hard worker. He’s framed tens of thousands of works in his shop and offers the best deals in town for picture framing. He travels regularly to get good deals on materials, especially moulding.
Local artists show their work in the shop’s showroom, given the name, Local Colour Art Gallery. Many of Thunder Bay’s stalwart artists show their work here. Other sections of the store also sell plaques, posters, prints, and sports memorabilia. There are also lots of samples of the kinds of matting and framing they do where deep shadowboxes allow for things like hockey sticks, jerseys, and even guitars to be framed. 

Kitty Cucumber
236 Red River Rd.

The largest childrens boutique in the region, Kitty Cucumber is a charming specialty shop carrying quality children’s clothing for infants and children up to size 16/18. In it's 26th year of operation, Kitty Cucumber is the home of many famous brands including Roxy, Quiksilver and Columbia.

240 Red River Road

Since 1995, Mat Bressmer has been selling jewelry for nipples, ears, bellybuttons, and many other body parts. They also have a full-service tattoo parlour and sell clothing and other high-grade jewelry. Their clients are from all over, and of all ages, typically between 16 and 40, but they have sold the rings to 80 year olds.
Rules apply. No one under 16 can get a tattoo and none 13 and under can get piercings. It’s important to note that the staff is very particular about the details and the cleanliness of the shop.  

Spa Euphoria & Wellness Retreat
215 Red River Road

The local women love this full scale spa run by Janet Sangster,providing such servies as manicures, pedicures, airbrush tans, make-up lessons, oxygen therapy, teeth whitening, eye brow tattooing, and too much to list here. A popular draw now is gel nails and eyelash extensions. New chairs have been installed and they offer package deals. Tourists frequent the spa quite regularly, so all are welcome.  

About Duncan Weller

A writer and visual artist, Duncan Weller is a Governor General's Award winner who lives in Thunder Bay. You can visit his website at www.duncanweller.com. His latest two books are a novel, Flight of the Silk, and an expanded edition of the award-winning children's picture book, The Boy from the Sun.

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