Economic Growth / News / People / Real Estate
There’s something about downtown that keeps pulling Ben back…
Perhaps it’s the nostalgia of working in an area with over 130 years of local history.
Maybe it’s the good natured neighbours and fellow business owners who stop by to chat and check on local business. Or it could be the way the original wooden floors give a slight creak when you step, or the warmth you get from being near a wall of medalta bricks, or that comfortable at-home feeling that surrounds you when you walk into an old downtown shop. It may very well be a combination of all these things.
Ben Roscoe, an avid skier and mountain biker, is the current owner of Gravity Sports, a local sporting goods & bicycle repair shop. Located on the recently revitalized South Railway Street in Medicine Hat AB, Gravity Sports was originally located on Kingsway Avenue near downtown. Ben had worked in the store for many years, took a brief hiatus, then returned when he realized how much he missed the industry. In 2011, he purchased the business and decided to take a new lease up on Dunmore Road. However, Ben couldn’t wait to come back downtown. For him, being stuck between concrete and glass just didn’t feel right – it was too big , too retail and too out of character. In 2015, Gravity Sports returned to the downtown area where Ben couldn’t be happier.
“Downtown is a cool place. We moved back because we believed in downtown, we still believe in downtown, and we want to be a part of its growth. We want to contribute to bringing more business down here.”
Ben says one of the best parts of being downtown is the environment and the community. Communication is constant downtown where business owners often walk through the neighbourhood, stop by shops and visit with other businesses. It’s an ideal way to keep up on how the city is doing economically, understanding what is working, what isn’t, and having candid business to business conversations about growth and opportunities. In fact, that’s how they first heard about the City of Medicine Hat’s Downtown Development Incentive Program (DDIP) that helped renovate the front of their shop.
Along the 200 block of South Railway Street you’ll find Being Human Services, Bodyology, Isaac’s Barbershop, Inspire Cafe and Hemp Town Rock. It was Patty from HTR that first heard of the program through a friend working at the city and suggested it to the land owner, Andrew Fast. The DDIP provides financial assistance to downtown property owners to put their plans into action, whether it’s redeveloping an old retail space, upgrading a second floor living space, or developing a new multi-use retail/office/residential building. In this case, they used the grant to completely upgrade the front of the store.
The DDIP was a huge incentive to make the Gravity Sports renovation happen. Without it, they would have had to leave the building as is. The front now has a fresher, cleaner look and is more inviting for customers. Gravity Sports has received many compliments on it, with customers often pointing out how it assists in improving the downtown look overall.
Finding ways to create a better downtown is something Ben is passionate about. He says a lot of it comes down to the land owners getting involved the way Andrew did. As soon as Andrew started gutting and renovating the old Levinson Music building, potential tenants were immediately inquiring about the space. The shop was rented without any advertising having to take place.
Ben appreciates that the DDIP offers businesses the opportunity to expand and update. He also wants more to be done to push land and building owners to keep up their existing buildings. With the amount of potential downtown Medicine Hat has, it can be disappointing to watch buildings deteriorate or be abandoned without consequence or regulation. With programs like the DDIP though, there is hope.
“People want to be downtown, but they also want some pride of ownership. If this grant can help clean up some of these buildings and spruce up the whole block, that will bring people in.”
Perhaps it’s the drive to keep growing downtown that keeps Ben around.
Maybe it’s the dream of downtown becoming an experience, similar to the hustling & bustling areas of Calgary like Kensington or 17th Avenue. Or it’s simply the bike trails that keep leading him back.
Gravity Sports is located at 216 South Railway Street in Medicine Hat. They are open from 10am to 6pm Monday to Friday, 10am to 5pm on Saturdays, and closed on Sundays. You can reach them at 403.504.1515.