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January 01, 2009

Where old meets new: Inglewood

City’s oldest hub offers retail therapy with a historical backdrop

Nicole Bross

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One of Calgary’s oldest and most storied neighbourhoods has undergone an exciting and uplifting transformation in the last decade.

From its beginnings in the 1870s as our city’s oldest neighbourhood, springing up around Fort Calgary along the banks of the Elbow River, to a turn in the later part of last century as a quieter area housing mainly antique shops, today Inglewood is thriving as both a residential and commercial district with an appealing mix of single- and multi-family housing and several blocks of unique shops and amenities along 9 Avenue S.E., Calgary’s original main street.

Once known as Atlantic Avenue, today 9 Avenue is home to an eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and services unlike any other area in the city. Part of the area’s appeal is undeniably the historic architecture that has been carefully restored and preserved by the Inglewood Business Revitalization Zone.

The main shopping district runs along 9 Avenue between 11 and 14 Streets, although all manner of businesses are beginning to spring up along side streets as the community’s popularity expands. Inglewood differs from Calgary’s other shopping districts that are mainly centred on one particular industry, such as downtown 11 Avenue is with home design and furnishing—instead, the combination of businesses and their sheer number ensures people of all tastes will find something to appeal to them.

Beginning at the western end of 9 Avenue is one of the street’s longer running businesses, Recordland (1208 9 Avenue S.E.). This massive, maze-like second-hand music store is stuffed to the brim with vinyl, CDs, cassette tapes and even 8-tracks. Manager Aaron Lipsey says he believes the store has over one million items in its inventory, the bulk of which are records.

“Vinyl is a huge seller,” he says. “People buy records for the nostalgia, and the die-hards buy them for the music.” He says the sound quality of vinyl in many cases is superior to digital formats like CDs and MP3s, making the venue popular with DJs and other musical purists. Recordland has been visited by members of the Beastie Boys and Radiohead, among others, searching for samples in the floor-to-ceiling stacks of records organized mainly by genre, with no style left out. Others are looking for music from their past, as was a man in his 80s Lipsey mentions, who was eager to find a particular song that he used to, in his words, “woo women.” Lipsey found it for him.

Recordland also stocks some rare collectible vinyl as well as a selection of DVDs. Come prepared for a lengthy session of browsing—this store will grab you with its blend of nostalgia and newly discovered treasures.

Bargain shoppers of a different ilk will find all kinds of exciting discoveries at Inglewood’s fashion consignment stores. The Pendulum (1222 9 Avenue S.E.) brands itself as Calgary’s natural fibre consignment store. In other words, this is not the place where you will find polyester suits from the 1970s.

“We try to stick with the natural fibres because they last longer,” says owner Melva Wallace, who opened the store about 25 years ago. The Pendulum stocks designer label clothing for men and women from Dolce & Gabbana, Teenflo, Anne Klein, Theory and more.

“People who buy higher-end labels like a deal,” Wallace says. She herself was a consignment shopper before opening the store. She carefully selects the items offered for sale, ensuring that they’re the current style and in like-new condition. The Pendulum also sells a small selection of shoes, home furnishings and new sterling silver jewelry.

For the little ones in your life, Lullaby Lane (1314 9 Avenue S.E.) is the place to save on kids’ clothes, toys and maternity wear. Savvy moms know that at the rate babies go through clothes, consignment is the best way to dress them in style without breaking the bank. With a wide selection of frequently restocked clothes from newborn to school-age, this is a place to visit often for great deals on items from Baby Gap, the Children’s Place, Gymboree and more.

Those who are looking for new high-end designs have several options to choose from in Inglewood, including Penelope Designs (1419A 9 Avenue S.E.). Owner Penny Main describes it as a fun place to shop for designer clothing she hand picks from collections from Joseph Ribkoff, Solola, Simon Chang and local designer Cheri Milaney. It’s also where you can find Muckies, Canadian-designed mukluks that are now a favourite with celebrities like Kate Moss. The store is popular with women 35 and up seeking contemporary, upscale clothing.

“I never worked retail before [opening the store],” Main says when describing how she came to the fashion business. “This just happened to be my niche.”

Customers are often greeted by Pepé Le Pew, Main’s maltese terrier, as they walk in the door. Main jokingly describes the dog as Penelope Designs’ PR guy.

Pepé might find himself occasionally wandering across the street to Tail Blazers (1420 9 Avenue S.E.), a health food store for pets. With a large variety of frozen raw foods, as well as dry and canned foods, each product has been carefully researched to ensure it is of the best quality, with no unhealthy additives. The store also stocks a large variety of dietary supplements for pets as well as treats and toys for the four-legged.

If goodies for yourself and your friends are more what you’re in the market for, drop by the newly-opened Savour Fine Foods & Kitchenware (1331 9 Avenue S.E.). Specializing in kitchenware and specialty foods, this small shop carries many items not found elsewhere in the city. Co-owners and friends Jane Hammink and Michelle Barby feel Inglewood is the perfect location for their fledgling business. “We’re trying to meet the needs of the locals,” Hammink says. “[Inglewood is] a character spot and we wanted to be a part of the growing movement.”

With a range of Canadian food products like La Belle Excuse oils, Lily Plain Summer preserves, Brassica mustards and Forbes Wild Foods pickled products (including the unusual, yet tasty pickled milkweed pods) and kitchenware from well-known companies like Cuisipro, Epicurean and Henckel, as well as locally made wooden cutting boards and utensils, Savour is a great place to supply yourself for an upcoming dinner party.

Inglewood is also home to many home design and furnishing stores, most catering to contemporary tastes. Among these is From the Ground Up (1229 9 Avenue S.E.), which makes its home in the former Garry Theatre, which started out as a movie theatre in the 1930s and housed various tenants before hosting the Loose Moose Theatre Company in the late 1990s and early 2000s. From the Ground Up imports home furnishings from India and the Philippines, with a focus on natural materials like bamboo, sea grass, reclaimed wood and even, in the case of one line of sofas, recycled bathing suits. Manager Chris Morrison says that many of their products are fair trade certified and eco-conscious. The store also plans to expand its offerings to include other countries. 

“We’re going global,” he says. “We’re not going to limit ourselves to one area,” although right now the store’s focus is mainly on carrying items from Asia.

From the Ground Up carries items for every room of the home, from companies such as Stonesets and Vito Selma. The large open space with its soaring ceiling also makes it ideal to showcase lighting from Vancouver company Luna Light, each handmade from recycled plastic in airy, delicate-looking shapes.

In addition to shopping, visitors to Inglewood can also enjoy the sights at Fort Calgary (750 9 Avenue S.E.), the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary (2425 9 Avenue S.E.) and the Calgary Zoo (1300 Zoo Road S.E.), all of which offer a fun, educational experience for people of all ages. CL

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