The Constant of Change on James Street North

The Constant of Change on James Street North

I write this sitting in a traffic lane on James Street North, 9pm, on a nice summer night.

As I bicycled onto James tonight from Cannon Street, I glanced at 154 James Street North - the home of Mixed Media. Dave's moving his shop to Westdale, his move will be one of those chapter marks of change.

I pulled into the Sobi Bike hub at the Armouries, a building which anchors the centre of the street. (Yet, despite being an anchor, it is disconnected from the life of James Street today)

The sounds of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry band spreading out onto the street as the band practices in the courtyard of the armoury.

I cross the street - looking both ways - to Mulberry Cafe to get a coffee.

Which brings me to sitting out here in a traffic lane. Mulberry Cafe has an outdoor street patio now, I sit in it as I write this. Traffic drives by at a steady pace, a few motorcycles add fumes to the air, prompting me to consider the wisdom of sitting here.

My mind goes back 25 years, to the World Series victory of the Toronto Blue Jays, and my no longer clear memories of all the honking cars and people out on the street to mark that occasion.

It stays in that time period to return to the Big V pharmacy in the building which is now home to the Bank of Montreal, and was a Shoppers Drug Mart in between. The Big V had narrow aisles, and lots of magic - for long car trip - board games.

I fast forward to 2012, Supercrawl when an army buddy of mine - returning home for the first time in nearly a decade to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry - grabs me and asks what happened to James Street.

Back to December 2001, at this very corner, there's a shootout. Nobody is hurt, most of us think its related to the mob, it never gets solved, but it is the last shootout on the street.

Mulberry Cafe a sketchy laundromat back in those days, I think I went in a few times to play Space Invaders on the arcade machine they had. If I did, it would've been on days I needed to unwind after a hard day at the armoury.

Where today there the Acclamation condos are soon to open, there was a series of small storefronts where new businesses came and went - if they succeeded, they moved to larger locals, if they failed, another would come behind that and try to succeed.

Deno's Deli & Burgers was my go-to breakfast and lunch spot, it struggled as the street struggled. Rare is the weekend when I don't wish my favourite greasy soup hadn't closed in the days just prior to James present revival.

I went off to Winnipeg in 2004, missing the opening of Dave Kuruc's Mixed Media store in 2005. What a crazy idea it seemed at the time, I thought the East Hamilton Sir Winston Churchill Secondary School graduate was proving why Glendale was the better high school.

Boy, did Dave prove me wrong - not about the high school bit, but about the idea of his shop being crazy.

I sit here tonight, and my mind wonders, what will James Street look like in 10 years?

One constant is for sure, Hamilton's commercial link between the Downtown and Harbour will continue to keep changing.