This is C.C.B. Electric Works, at 564 Gladstone Avenue. As the sign says, it's been serving Centretown with electric motors and parts since 1907. The owners proudly display antique equipment in the middle section of their storefront, which used to be Nicastro's.
C.C.B. stands for Crowe, Costello and Black, and was previously at 378 Bank Street, across from Lewis Street. Here's a shot from 1979 supplied by Midcentury Modernist.
At the time, the neighbourhood was experimenting with traffic calming options. One of them was to close off side street accesses to bank, turning Lewis into a parkade. The street lanes were narrower, but the sidewalks gained little due to trees and planter boxes on the reclaimed sections. Obviously, this didn't last.
Next door, at 376 Bank Street, was the National Manufacturing Company Ltd. This photo is from 1910:
An interior shot shows their display of wood stoves.
In 2000, C.C.B. and the other tenants were kicked out by the landlord, who wanted to build a five-storey condo building (PDF) above. Because C.C.B. had just signed a five-year lease, the landlord paid a considerable sum to move them into their Gladstone Avenue location, where they've been since. The other tenants weren't as lucky.
Apparently only two condo units were sold, and the reconstruction plan was scuttled. New businesses moved in, such as Capital Laundry and Maison Baguettes, etc. (together where C.C.B. used to be) and SAAB salon and spa (where the National Manufacturing Company was), seen here in 2009. The building at Bank and Gilmour which contains Bridgehead was also part of the redevelopment plan.
Maison Baguettes, etc. closed as a casualty of the reconstruction of Bank Street (one of only a handful of stores that did--I honestly don't think that's more than one would expect from natural turnover) leaving a croissant-shaped hole in the Village's middle. SAAB quickly expanded to fill the space.
Inside of 564 Gladstone, some memorabilia is posted on the walls, including a photo of one of the original owners at a lathe, and an old newspaper advertisement which boasts that C.C.B. "Serves an important need in our community." Indeed it does, and high rents are forcing it even further from the city. There is also an 1800s lathe that was offered to the National Museum of Science and Technology, which declined the offer because the original documentation wasn't included.
C.C.B. had to move out to somewhere in the west end after rent increased following its second five-year lease on Gladstone Avenue. Paul Pharand, the owner, told me that his revenue was just barely paying for rent and nothing else.
Even though C.C.B. served primarily trades and corporate clients, its departure from Centretown at the end of 2010 is just another example of the emigration of basic services from downtown neighbourhoods, as lamented by the Citizen's Kelly Egan (whose family owned the former Esso Station at Bronson and Gladstone). This is the movement that has left us without a hardware store, with few grocery options, fewer gas and service stations, and other gaps in the community fabric. In Westboro, a longtime bakery had to close its doors in 2007 due to rising rents from the influx of boutique stores, despite booming business. At least the Glebe has managed to hold on to its hardware and grocery stores.
It's not all bad news. Gladstone Avenue, one of the last low-rent parts of Centretown, is starting to "Glebify", with new condos at Bank, Kent, and Cambridge, a possible new community garden, a certain community-minded resident, and more no doubt coming down the line.
The trendy, boutique store taking C.C.B.'s place is Red Apron, which has outgrown its space across the street after five years in business. Renovations are underway and according to Red Apron's blog, and they aim to move in sometime in April. [Edit: See my subsequent blog post on the opening of Red Apron in the new location]
I've noticed that much better care has been taken of the gardens in the (car-oriented) plaza since hip foodie-magnets Red Apron and True Loaf bakery moved in. The Ethiopian convenience store has been replaced by a café serving Turkish coffee and hookahs, which gives the area an added ethnic bent.
It's great to hear the Red Apron, a local business that promotes good food, is doing well. But this kind of success is unintentionally causing basic services to leave Centretown.
It's hard enough for people in Dalhousie to live without a supermarket (and in Centretown with limited, high price options).
Other cities have had the problem of retail moving out of dying downtowns. We have the opposite problem: attractive walkable neighbourhoods are attracting condos and upscale boutique stores that are pushing out important services. Paradoxically, the inhabitants of these pedestrian-friendly neighbourhoods require cars to get out to the suburbs for hardware, office supplies, and affordable groceries and housewares. What can we do to keep basic services in Centretown, and how much further will it go? Imagine having your car stranded downtown because there were no more gas stations left to refill at!