For the past month and a half, I’ve been busy working away on one of my side-projects, the Hamilton Flea. You may remember our very first event in July that took place at the beautiful and historic Treble Hall. The idea for Flea happened when my sister, Erika and I were given the opportunity from Treble Hall owner, Jeff Feswick, to put on an event in his space. With Erika’s skills for facilitating events and cool happenings (she’s the founder of The Academy of All Things Awesome and most recently one-half of the brains behind Sous Bas) combined with my love of community, small business and all things retail, we made the perfect team! Because Treble Hall had been closed to the public in so long we decided that this would be our inspiration for this new joint-effort. Our main goal with these events is to open up spaces that are mysterious or have been unused for years and show their beauty and history off. The idea behind bringing vendors in is to infuse the spaces with the creative culture that is currently going on in Hamilton.
This time around we were excited to discover and open up a new location. One day when asking around about a location, Susie Braithwaite from the International Village BIA sent me the contact info of someone she had met who recently purchased a building at the corner of King William and Wellington. As soon as she mentioned the building, I knew exactly which one it was. It’s right in my neighbourhood and I had passed the building countless times and always wondered about it. More recently I had noticed that the old vacuum store that was there (and had been closed for ten years) had been cleared out and you could, for the first time in ages, see into the windows. The history-lover in me knew I had to get into the space and so receiving the contact info to the owner felt like a higher power shining down on me. I quickly emailed the owner and expected I’d have to wait a while to hear anything back. But to my surprise, I got an email pretty much instantly back from the owner, Kevin Wride, that said “YES! LET’S DO IT!”. We made a meeting for that evening and I felt that it was almost all too good to be true.
Meeting Kevin was a very memorable experience for me. As soon as I arrived at the space, he welcomed me with such warmth and excitement. Up until this point, the space hadn’t been seen by many people and had been a passion project he had been working on to get it fixed up. Kevin purchased the building with a partner and is still trying to figure out what he wants to do with the space. He started telling me about his dreams for the building as being something for the community and a positive space for the neighbourhood. I couldn’t stop staring at the building’s beauty with giant eyes (and maybe even my mouth hanging open in shock for most of my visit). I knew it was the perfect space for the next Flea. Kevin loved the idea and from there we started working hard to get the building fixed up and started looking more into the history of the space.
One of the coolest parts of this whole process has been learning about the history of the building. Most notably it was the business “Brown’s Tire Ltd.” through the 40’s and 50’s. One day when we were walking through the building we found a receipt book from the 50’s up in the rafters. But other than these small snippets, we didn’t have much concrete information. One day, Kevin came into the store, after a long day in the Library archives with some exciting news. He had tracked down one of the only photos of the building- and it was perfect! The image, from 1949, shows the beautiful old façade of the space with the Brown’s Tire lettering and the Firestone tire logo (they were a Firestone dealer when the factory was just down the street in Hamilton). Seeing this image made me so excited! Now all the stories I had been hearing were given such an amazing visual. I love the left side of the photo where you can see one of the workers entering the building. To imagine the buzz that used to go on through the walls of the building and all the people who were going about their business here. I can’t wait to fill its walls again with people for the event and feel it come to life all over again!
Kevin also found out some information about some of the other businesses that used to be there, even before Brown’s Tire. The first business dates back to 1925 and was “Farr and McManus Furniture Finishes”. From there, he found listings for “Bamford Tire Service”, “Classic Athletic Club”, “Wentworth Hall”, and “Wellington Tire Service”. While we’ve only begun to delve into it’s rich history, it’s obvious that this building is something special and has been such a part of Hamilton’s business community.
Being in the space, I've fallen in love with so many details- The beautiful peeling paint in various colours, the rich woods floors, the vaulted ceiling on the third floor, and the many artifacts discovered. We've had some amazing people to help bring the space to life. Dee, also known as "The Story Girl" is a sign-painter and calligraphy expert who did a wonderful job in beautifying two of the large boarded-up windows and drawing people's attention to the space. Craig and Lesley from Circa Projects were given the task of installing some window art and used some wonderful blown-up automotive-themed photos from their collection of vernacular photography combined with classic auto-shop bunting. I love how they interpreted the "Brown's Tire" history! I feel like everyone who has been working hard on the event is engraining a piece of themselves within the walls of the space. We feel so lucky to have been able to meet Kevin and bring the Hamilton community into this beauty of a project he’s working on.
And I’m so thankful for everyone who has supported Flea thus far, though still in it’s early stages. I love what I do with the shop, but this event has become such an important part of my life. Working with other creative visionaries to put something together for our community is not only fun but has taught me so many important lessons. I can’t wait to share the space with all of you and the amazing vendors! This time round we've got some special out-of-town vendors coming in, combined with some classic Hamilton favourites. You can expect vintage and retro-wares, handmade objects, art work, records, yummy treats, plants and more! Big thanks goes out to everyone involved. A special shoutout to our presenting partners and sponsors: Young Lions Music Club, VarageSale, Kevin Wride, SoBi Hamilton.
Check out the event flyer and RSVP here.