Downtown Stouffville: Where neighbours meet
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There's a feeling in downtown Stouffville that can't be experienced in a larger city. It's a place where neighbours gather to eat, to shop and to explore.
“Stouffville has a uniqueness to it,” says Anna Rose, downtown coordinator for the Town of Whitchurch-Stouffville. “It's a friendly, small, mom-and-pop-shop type of feeling you get when you visit the stores.”
The stretch of Main Street between 9th Line and Park Drive is considered downtown. It's here you'll find restaurants including the Fickle Pickle, the Cornerhouse on Main and Fishbone Kitchen + Bar. The downtown is also home to the Latcham Gallery, a public contemporary art gallery, and the Stouffville Sculpture Walk, a series of large-scale, outdoor public sculptures.
Pat Montgomery has owned Candlelight and Memories, a tearoom and gift shop in downtown Stouffville, for more than 13 years. A Stouffville resident for almost 40 years, Montgomery gives out free soft serve ice cream during the annual Easter egg hunt and on Halloween. In summer, she chats with residents of the Stouffville Creek Retirement Residence, who come to admire her colourful front gardens.
“It's just small town niceness,” she says. “It's nice to shop local and support your neighbours rather than going to big box stores.”
Set in a century home, Montgomery's shop is half gift store, half tearoom. Visitors can have tea and scones and then browse the selection of candles, mugs, greeting cards and gourmet jam. Upstairs is a party area where little birthday girls and their friends dress up in feather boas, necklaces and hats before coming downstairs for tea and cake. Montgomery used to be a teacher and entertaining children comes easily to her. She's delighted when teens come back to tell her how much they enjoyed celebrating their birthdays in the shop as a child.
As Stouffville grows, Montgomery says, new residents may not even know there is a Main Street.
“They need to come down and have a look,” she says. “I have very reasonable prices. People think a small boutique is going to be expensive, but that's not the case. I have specialty things they don't find in the big box stores too and complimentary gift wrapping.”
Over at Inside Out Decorating, a Benjamin Moore paint retailer, owner Erin Jarvis offers one-stop shopping for decorating enthusiasts. While the store has been in business for more than 20 years, Jarvis purchased it four years ago. The current location was once a bowling alley. Although they're only visible in the back room, the bowling lanes are still under the floor.
Jarvis and employees like Linda Schell, who has worked there for 20 years, pride themselves on personalized service.
“We will spend a lot of time with customers,” says Jarvis. “People come back three or four times before they purchase paint. Sometimes they bring in fabric or bedding to have us pick out paint colours. As long as we're available, we'll spend the time to help them coordinate colours.”
In addition to paint, Inside Out offers wallpaper, fabric, window coverings, bedding and cabinetry hardware, much of it special order. The store attracts everybody from first-time home buyers to those looking to freshen up or sell their homes.
With the family-owned Stouffville Fine Furniture offering made-in-Canada furniture on the street since 1993, downtown has become a bit of a hub for decorators.
“The merchants are actually taking the time to listen to people, to give them options,” says Rose. “Once people come in to get furniture, maybe they need paint, decorations and flowers.”
Those on the hunt for unique lighting and decor options know to head to the Lighthaus Store, where manager Lee Lewis aims to fill a special niche in the market.
“I'd rather not supply something they'd see all over the place,” he says. “I try to bring in items you're not going to see in everyone's home. We would be an asset to someone with an eclectic eye.” »
Opened by Lewis's wife, Geraldine, about a year ago, the Lighthaus Store offers furnishings, decor, installation services, lamp repair and handyman services, in addition to lighting. They sell items on consignment, too. If you don't see the perfect piece in-store, Lewis says he'll hunt it down for you. Situated close to the Fickle Pickle, the shop gets many visitors taking a stroll after lunch or dinner.
With the warm weather, residents are quick to take advantage of Stouffville's small-town feel. Popular Summer on Main Street events are held once monthly from May to August, starting with a Classic Car Show and Sidewalk Sale in May. “It's one of those things that once people see the road closed and the buzz, they pull over to see what's going on,” says Rose. “It's incredible how many families are coming down, grabbing a bite to eat and meeting other people in the community. It's like the old downtowns used to be—a place where you meet your neighbour and catch up on the gossip.”
Also popular are Outdoor Movie Nights and the seasonal outdoor farmers market, held in the heart of downtown each Thursday evening in warmer weather. With fresh, local produce, baked goods, wine, jewelry, candles and, new this year, breadmaker Bread on Wheels, the market offers the opportunity to mingle and buy from farmers, bakers and artisans.
Attractions like the scenic York Regional Forest and the York-Durham Heritage Railway make Stouffville a draw for residents and tourists alike.
“People hold the doors for you and stop their cars to let you cross the street here,” says Rose. “Stouffville's a really special place.”  

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