In the last few years, the importance of supporting our local communities has become evermore clear. Gone away is any impetus of me shopping at big box stores or franchises that have no personality. Replacing that conditioning is my desire to use my dollars to support the creative classes that add such an element of cool to my city and its surroundings.
Oshawa has been home to some very cool markets, including the Punk Rock Flea Market last November. Hosted at the Biltmore Theatre, this pop-up market attracted swarms of cool, sub- and countercultural vendors and those seeking their oddities. Some vendors even sold goods that supported local causes, such as music programs. I made sure that my money went there first. The amount of ingenuity that went into the crafts, stickers, swag, zines, bookmarks, and so many rad peculiarities are a maximalist’s dream and a socialist’s fantasy. For that reason, I can assert that Oshawa’s cool factor is a hidden gem that only the initiated can navigate.
As theorist Ocean Howell reminds us, “the creative classes” and their “bohemian lifestyles” are profitable, attract business, and eventually get pushed out by city developers. I think it is important to remember those creatives, support them, and keep them afloat at home. So, if you plan a day trip to Oshawa, here’s what you might find.
I recommend starting your day at Berry Hill Food Co. (or, if you’re a local, we call it Berry Hill). It’s a quaint restaurant with an extensive menu, excellent portions, reasonable prices, warm settings, and delicious international foods. Owned by Sarah (an Oshawa resident) and Jorge Chiaparro, Berry Hill has been in business for the past eleven years, serving the community, catering events, and being a staple for people who know the real gems of Oshawa. Berry Hill also supports local breweries if you are in the
mood for a pint.
A few blocks east, stay on King Street, and you will find Baby’s Basement, a vintage shop that sells some of the best perfumes I have ever inhaled at excellent prices. They also sell tote bags, candles, clothing, sunnies, and other finds you can only buy locally. I got a friend of mine their birthday card, and another friend some postcards, all from Baby’s Basement and made by local artists. Its retro vibe and very chill staff are welcoming and knowledgeable as you peruse the shop and thrift for alternative looks or décor. I always leave Baby’s Basement looking good and smelling even better. I also return for their events, including denim workshops or bead and wine nights.
Keep heading east, and you will stumble upon The Atria (Cocktail Lounge and Eatery). They have been “entertaining Oshawa for over 30 years,” seven nights a week. Like Hamilton – or likely any university town – Oshawa has so much homegrown talent. Keeping the bill full every night is no easy feat, but The Atria does it. Check out their Diezel Room for live acts and good eats. There is something about this intimate venue that you cannot get in many other places, and it is a feeling not soon to be recreated by bigger spots.
And while you are visiting Oshawa, doing a culture crawl along King Street, keep your eyes peeled for the latest issue of Wunderlit. This local magazine profiles some of Oshawa’s photography and literary artists. It’s glossy and totally a cult classic. See photos of performers at the Atria, read poetry from the curious minds of the youth, and wander the imaginations of Oshawa’s cool community. We are here, in plain sight.
Oshawa has grit, and the arts put it on full display. The bustling streets tell the story of so many of us – that we stumbled into someplace in Oshawa and discovered that it has something special to offer, people we want to be around, and a vibe tuned to self-expression. On your way home, check out the Old West Cannabis Company, a boutique dispensary that does not feel like an Apple Store or like they are
selling you stuff as far removed from nature as possible. Every local shop along the King Street strip makes you feel welcome and like you want to come back. Like the people want to meet you and make you a regular. The city is vibrant, with places to hang out for those who identify as boxless. Saunter a bit, and see what you find.