Who are you?
My name is Bryan Smith and I am the owner of a Catalyst Specialized Personal Training, a private studio located in Hamilton’s West End. I moved here from New Brunswick on my own, my Father’s side of the family lives in Ontario. *Check out the new promo video from Catalyst, put together by local production company, MTM Media that Matters
I moved here in the spring of ‘05. Initially I moved here to meet my Father, who I hadn’t seen in over 18 years, We had a nice 4 week visit, but when I went back to the small town I was raised in on the east coast, I realized there was a lot more out there and I was really excited to come back out and see it. So, I talked one of my friends into filling up the back of his small SUV with all of my belongings and we made the drive out. I still remember sitting on the floor of my new empty apartment in downtown Hamilton, looking off of my balcony to the fire stacks of the east end, wondering if I made the right choice.
It seems as though even in the short time that I’ve been here, EVERYTHING is changing.
Where do you live?
I currently live in Hamilton’s West End, just off of Locke St. I love this area and during my last 2 moves have made sure this is the part of Hamilton I stayed close to. I love the character of Locke St, and the fact that even though it’s situated in the middle of the city, you can walk down the street and it feels like walking down the main street of the small city I was raised in. I have my local restaurant where the waitress and I are on a first name basis and she knows my order, I have my small barber shop where I get my haircut and complain to my hairdresser about the weather, and there are no shortage of interesting businesses in that area.
What resources were helpful to you in making your decision?
My Father convinced me that Hamilton was the place to be. I had recently graduated college and he had found me a job out here with a small company that helped foster my love for the interesting people of Hamilton. I also had a side job where I had to walk downtown to the bingo hall to catch the #2 bus to Barton and Nash every afternoon which quickly made me realize that I didn’t want to live near that part of town.
What resources do you WISH you’d had access to that would have helped?
Maybe something simple, like a map. Or some immediate friends who knew the area. I initially lived downtown in Hamilton, relatively close to The Olympia – one of the largest apartment buildings in the city. So, everyday, after work, I would just go out for a run in no certain direction, figure out some local landmarks, and always just jog back towards The Olympia at the end of the run.
What things surprised you the most about Hamilton? Good & Bad
One of the worst things about Hamilton that surprised me the most was the fact that one end of the city seemed completely forgotten about. It was like there was a third world country just down the street and nobody cared. It seemed like most people would just as soon claim ignorance so they wouldn’t have to think about the city’s east end. Maybe they were just immune to it since being raised so close by, but even walking downtown watching person after person ignore every homeless man and woman they saw that were asking for change really irked me. Granted I almost went broke giving away my earnings to the poor of Hamilton, not that I’m any better than the residents, but I had just never been exposed to this to that extent, so I felt it was my duty to help.
Now, what happily surprised me about Hamilton is how, even with their reputation as “Canada’s Armpit” (I’ve heard this on more than one occasion) they are fighting to create a stronger economy along with a booming downtown and are really trying to rebrand the city as an incredible place to live. It seems as though even in the short time that I’ve been here, EVERYTHING is changing. Hamilton is booming and it is looking like the city that nobody wanted to have anything to do with a decade ago, is quickly becoming the buzz around the country. I really admire that.
What advice do you have for anyone considering a move to Hamilton?
Come for a visit. Try and take it all in. Don’t be like I was when I first got here and judge the entire city based the landscape/people of one corner. Ask questions, immerse yourself in what Hamilton has to offer, whether it be the arts of James St, the booming business sector downtown, the countless small pubs and bars featuring amazing local musical talent, and the small town feel of little pockets of this massive (to me) city.
What are your favourite places and things to do around the city?
I’m kind of a fitness freak, so number 1 to me would be the 4 or 5 different sets of stairs that Hamilton has built to climb up the escarpment. Each one is very different with different challenges and the views once you get to the top are spectacular. Keep in mind that you could fit my entire home province in the view I see from the top of the Wentworth stairs, but it’s amazing nonetheless.
The West Town – I frequent this spot at least a couple of times/week, whether it be by myself to enjoy a quiet breakfast, or taking potential clients and having individual work meetings there with coworkers, it’s a fantastic spot with great food and a great staff.
Supercrawl – This massive gathering of amazing people blows my mind every year. Closing down James St and opening up the shops to show off local talent even impresses me and I don’t know the first thing about art. To see the passion of fellow Hamiltonians makes me happy that this is the spot that I chose to set up shop and raise my family.
Of all the things going on Hamilton these days – what are you most excited about?
I’m the most excited about the seeing the revitalization of the downtown core. This is one of the first places I ran through when I moved here and there were more than a few times where I had to stop and shake my head at the state of some of the buildings. It looked like a scene from The Incredible Hulk, after the Hulk had run through the city. Buildings that had long been half consumed by fire looked like the city just stopped the blaze, then walked away. It blew my mind.
But now it seems as though the city has taken major steps to improve this and instead of driving downtown looking straight ahead, hoping no bricks from dilapidated buildings fell on me and crushed me, I can now look around and be impressed at the way things are beginning to take shape.