Monday, January 25, 2010

Shopping in the neighbourhood

There’s a lot to like about living and working in Waterloo. In previous posts I’ve commented on non-commercial aspects of my community. Today, following an exciting new opening last week, I feel compelled to write about a few independent businesses that happen to be within walking distance of my home and that I’ve been patronizing for many years. All of them add to my quality of life in Waterloo, and I’m grateful that they’re here.

Vincenzo’s, a lovely grocery store, recently opened their brand new location in the historic Bauer building, and I discovered on a recent visit that it really is quite wonderful. I’ve been shopping at Vincenzo’s for a very long time — I was first introduced to the store by a friend while I was attending university. At that time it was in a small house on Bridgeport Road in Waterloo and wasn’t yet called Vincenzo’s. My wife and I continued to enjoy the delights of the store when they moved to a larger location on Belmont Avenue in the early 1990s. The new location is even better, and I’m looking forward to shopping their regularly. If the sausages that we had for dinner this weekend are any indication, the newly added Bauer Butcher will be a great hit.

On another front, Words Worth Books is also a longstanding presence in the community. Over the years they’ve weathered the arrival of big box bookstores and internet shopping, and continue to provide a passionately local and literate alternative to those other shopping options. I’ve lost track of the number of times that I’ve gone with a staff recommendation when buying there over the years. I’ve also enjoyed readings by the many authors that Words Worth has brought to town, and look forward to many more. One, in particular, stands out. The late Robertson Davies, a celebrated Canadian author, was here to to promote his most recent book, The Lyre of Orpheus. My wife had brought her copy of the book, which I had previously given to her for her birthday, in the hope of getting it autographed. While standing in the autograph line after the event, my wife joked with Words Worth co-owner Tricia Siemens about a flaw in her copy of the book — some of the pages had been bound upside down. Tricia wanted to replace it, but my wife didn’t want to bother, and Mr. Davies heard the discussion. He took the book and examined it, before inscribing the great message “Robertson Davies Shame on Macmillans!’

Last for today, but certainly not least, is Generation X Video and Media. Mike and his crew have been a reliable source of fine videos, books, magazines, and odd collectible toys for over a decade now. The store was initially located in a house on Regina Street, and later moved into the Regina Commons location where they can be found today. We’ve been getting movies there from the very beginning, as my wife found and explored the store before they were even officially open! It’s a great place where everyone cares about movies. I’ve never hesitated to walk in and ask Mike or Chris “What should I watch?” and neither has ever steered me wrong.

While every city has it’s own unique independent businesses, these are three that make Waterloo special.


  1. I have been going to Vincenzo's since we lived at a long gone address across the road at their old Bridgeport location. That would have been over 30 years ago. Carmen woul have been a small boy, maybe 8 years old then. And oh the smell of that house... I bet that old house still smells like cured meats.

    And WordsWorth, there is another store I have been going to since I was a boy. To this day I call in my ISBN number and get the phone call of my latest book arrival. It when I pick it up I am always sure visit another local Waterloo institution, their neighbors, Bents Camera.

    Anyhow, great article, fond memories.

  2. Thanks for sharing your memories and kind words, Adam. Yes, I still go to Bent's as well. I have to confess, though, that the apparent disappearance of film from Bent's was tough to see, if inevitable.