Who are you?
Hi, Jeannie! My name is Maggie Makar and I’m a graphic designer / blogger / furniture upcycler / pole & aerial artist wannabe (you really CAN do anything in Hamilton!). I’m also one half of Vamped Up Vintage, a furniture upcycling company that I started with my friend Nell and plan to debut at the Vintage Marketplace in the Hammer next year. My family immigrated to Hamilton from Poland when I was five years old, and I have steadfastly believed that it’s the best city to live in ever since!
What area of the city did you grow up in?
I grew up in the Beasley neighbourhood. Catharine N./Barton FTW!
Where are of Hamilton do you currently live in?
I have very recently purchased a home on the East Mountain near Concession St. with my lovely boyfriend Joel and ginger kitty Simon (his portion of the down payment was in the form of purrs). Prior to that, I spent nearly a decade renting various apartments in the Durand and Kirkendall neighbourhoods. In terms of choosing the area, it was between downtown or anywhere on the Mountain near the brow/Concession Street. Bidding wars are a crazy experience, and we lost out on a home near Gage Park, but are very happy to have won our cozy nest on the Mountain. We both feel that Concession is a street with tremendous potential and see it as having the same vibe as Ottawa and Locke. It was also very important to us to be close to nature and have quick access to downtown. A five minute walk gets us to the Wentworth Stairs (the best and cheapest cardio workout ever!) and puts us on the path to the Bruce Trail / Rail Trail.
What do you think has changed about Hamilton if anything?
Barton/James and the North End were my stomping grounds, and it’s been incredible to see the positive changes that have happened in this area over the past few decades. Businesses are thriving and people aren’t afraid to explore that stretch of the city. I believe what’s changed the most is the perception that people have of Hamilton. I remember telling people that I was from downtown Hamilton and being met with distressed pearl-clutching in response. I think that reaction is slowly changing and people no longer view our city as a scary place to be avoided at all costs. To be honest, I think Hamilton will always have that rough around the edges quality, but that’s a huge part of what makes us great!
I also love that you can play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with almost anyone you meet – Hamilton is absolutely a big city with a small town feel!
What do you think the best and worst things about this city are? What are the areas that you would like to see improvements in?
For me, the best thing about Hamilton is the perfect balance of nature/city life. We are lucky to be surrounded by so much greenery! The various trails and conservation areas are a huge part of what has kept me here all these years. I also love that you can play Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon with almost anyone you meet – Hamilton is absolutely a big city with a small town feel! The worst? At the moment, the construction on Concession St. OHHHHMAHGAHD. Will it ever end? In terms of improvements – for purely selfish reasons, I think there could be more trips between Hamilton/Toronto on the GO train. I have recently started commuting to Toronto for work and have noticed this.
What advice do you have for anyone considering a move to Hamilton?
Dooooo it! And do it soon. Real Estate is still relatively affordable, and Hamilton is like a fine wine: It just keeps getting better as it ages, and it makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside.
What are your favourite places and things to do here?
1 – The Dundas Valley Conservation Area: I love hiking here year-round and experiencing all four seasons in nature. It holds a very special place in my heart.
2 – The Ship and Steve’s Open Kitchen(149 James Street South) (OK, I cheated and put two here): The Ship is always my go-to meeting place for pints and burgers with friends. It’s a default setting that is (very happily) programmed into my core – the food and atmosphere never disappoints. Breakfast is my FAVOURITE meal of the day, and Steve’s Open Kitchen has been my default breakfast place for ages now. The food is always consistent and the staff is really sweet and friendly! OHHH, Jack and Lois must also be mentioned for breakfast. Their stuffed angels. You must try them.
3 – Brass Bombshells Pole Dance and Aerial Fitness Studio: I spend anywhere from 2-3 nights a week at Brass Bombshells. I got tired of the same old gym routine and have been attending the studio for about two years now. It’s an awesome workout and I get to indulge my pole/aerial artist ambitions!
Sneaky 4 – (I knooooow I said 3, but here’s one more item that deserves mention) This Ain’t Hollywood: My favourite venue for shows because, in my opinion, the sound there is the best!
Of all the things going on Hamilton these days – what are you most excited about?
The positive vibe that’s going around, and the fact that people are starting to notice how awesome this city is. Hamilton is totally having her “She’s All That” moment. Watch us glide down the Wentworth Stairs while “Kiss Me” strums along in the background and drink it in, Freddie Prinze Jr.