Feast your eyes on the future of retail in East Village
The historic Simmons building was transformed into an open-plan bistro on July 17 for a much-buzzed-about retail announcement and tasting reception. On the menu was some very tasty news that had local foodies salivating and savvy shoppers planning retail excursions.
Three home-grown culinary heroes - Phil & Sebastian Coffee Roasters, Sidewalk Citizen Bakery, and Connie DeSousa and John Jackson of CHARCUT - will take up tenancy in the red-brick mattress factory. These grass-root companies have local founders, highly-respected brands, and a collective vision to make the Simmons Building an engaging, bustling hub of activity at all hours, offering best-in-class food in a warm, opening space.
In EV's Gateway character area just to the west of the Simmons, 300,000 sq. ft. of urban-format mixed-use retail space will be developed by RioCan, Canada's largest real estate investment trust. The 3-storey project, to be built on the Gateway Block formerly owned by the Calgary Police Association, will include a grocery store.
These welcome additions to eastern downtown made for appetizing news to the curious and hungry crowd who packed the beloved 101-year-old riverfront landmark. The word spread like wildfire on Twitter, where it trended nationally.
Appreciative food-lovers gave a collective thumbs up to the culinary dream team, who together will transform the Simmons building into a vibrant gastronomic destination. With Phil Robertson and Sebastian Sztabzyb's coffee roastery, Aviv Fried's in-house bakery and a newly conceived "charbar" by DeSousa and Jackson, the beautiful open space within the Simmons, with its hardwood floors and big wooden pillars, will become home to a multi-level boutique-style community retail hangout.
As local songstresses Jocelyn and Lisa took to the stage and the High Kicks blasted onto RiverWalk, happy lunchers munched artisanal sandwiches, sipped craft coffee and slurped chilled oysters. "There are going to be some great places to go for lunch soon," one downtown worker nodded in satisfaction, as she sampled some clafoutis. "Come and try the bread," another hungry villager pleaded to his friend, trying to entice her away from the oyster shucking and crayfish line.
Knowing that the treasured Simmons building will be maintained as a public space is the crucial icing on the cake for both Calgarians and the chefs about to call it home. "Thank you for trusting this special place to us," Connie DeSousa told the appreciative crowd.
We look forward to the day, early in 2015, when the Simmons will nourish us once again.