Who are you?
I’m Donna Reid, creator/owner of The Hamilton Store – a gift shop for people who love their city and want to share it – located at 165 James Street North. I moved here on my own “by choice” in 1998 – I wasn’t transferred here / not a trailing spouse nor do I have any previous connection to Hamilton other than a few stores I sold giftware, art and decorative accessories to. **April 2015 – Check out Donna on CHCH**
I’ve lived and/or worked in many parts of Canada – east to west and back. My last transfer was to Toronto in 1985. I liked TO but it never “fit” me. Once I turned 40 I wanted a home of my own plus I wanted a community – a place where I could get involved.
Where do you live?
I live in the James North arts district – Central Neighbourhood. It was referred to as a neighbourhood “in transition” back then! Yes there were working girls and johns + some shady activities in the adjacent buildings. Chose the area? I think it chose me! I fell in love with an old house that friends of mine had rescued. Then I discovered how close it was to the waterfront (Bayfront Park was just being created!) and its walkability.
What resources were helpful to you in making your decision to move here and to your area specifically?
Very few. The local real estate lawyer I retained told me to immediately walk away because the house was designated, I was overpaying and it was in a terrible neighbourhood! My TO friends thought I was crazy. I called the Chamber to find out more about the city – they were keen to sell me a membership but everyone I spoke to (back then) on the phone went silent when I told them what part of the city I was moving into. And I called the Welcome Wagon but they didn’t service my area!
What resources do you WISH you’d had access to that would have helped?
It would have been helpful to connect with people living in my chosen neighbourhood. And I would guess that there are more resources now!
What things surprised you the most about Hamilton? Good & Bad
The beauty and accessibility of Bayfront Park and the Conservation Area trails – I had no idea there was so much natural beauty so close. How welcoming people were once I got connected to the Architectural Conservancy Hamilton Branch, the neighbourhood association and started attending events/lectures/etc /The bad: I did not expect the “stigma” of living downtown but most of all I could not believe how many people I met, who had lived here for years or a lifetime, who could find nothing good to say about Hamilton – their home! If pressed the only good thing many could express was how great the one way streets were and how “convenient” it was to have the streets lights synced on Main and King so that you could get through downtown “really fast” and not ever have to stop!
What advice do you have for anyone considering a move to Hamilton?
Hamilton is a small town – really! Sooo – that means that what you do and say will circulate – without social media! I often say Hamilton is a no BS kind of town – be authentic, you’ll find your niche. And most of all LOVE your Hamilton and help make it better!
What are your favourite places and things to do around the city?
Doors Open Hamilton – annual event the first weekend of May since 2003 organized completely by community volunteers that opens the doors to our incredible built environment to the public FREE / Foodie City – I don’t go out for dinner often but when I do the continually evolving restaurant scene is exciting – I always have a list of new ones to try and I love the options on James North / the Waterfront Trail
Of all the things going on Hamilton these days – what are you most excited about?
The Hamilton Store – now that’s selfish and self serving! But seriously I’ve wanted to open a shop that celebrates all of this amazing city many years ago- but the community was not ready for it! I’m excited by the enthusiasm and pride residents are expressing about their city. You can feel the energy. There is excitement and hope. It’s our turn and we deserve the best!