Editorial: The changing face of downtown Estevan

It was one of those ideas that had to be shelved for a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but it appears to be ready to go now.  

The Estevan Downtown Business Association’s first outdoor market is slated to occur Thursday night. And while the name of the event is a market, it’s going to be much more than that.   

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People who attend can look forward to live music and food trucks, in addition to the assortment of vendors you’d expect at an outdoor market.   

We praised the idea when it was brought forward in early March of last year. Unfortunately, COVID forced the plans to be delayed until this year.  

And while this damn pandemic is far from over, the Downtown Business Association is confident that they can pull off this idea safely, in much the same way that the Estevan Farmers’ Market held their outdoor markets last year without issue. (We’re confident in the Farmers’ Market’s ability to hold markets safely this year, too, starting May 8).  

These weekly Thursday markets are another example of the overdue changes that we’re seeing in downtown Estevan.  

We have multiple shopping areas besides downtown Estevan. There are lots of businesses on 13th Avenue and Souris Avenue North, in the southeast corner, in the south end and in northeast Estevan. Our business community is diverse and spread out.  

But the downtown area is going to play an important role in Estevan and any other community, because of the concentration of businesses. Since we have a national highway that cuts through our downtown area, it makes that core even more important.  

However, downtown Estevan needs to be more than just the place where you go to shop, even though we have a nice assortment of businesses.  

The Orpheum Theatre is a big asset for our downtown. It brings people to central Estevan, including many that wouldn’t be here otherwise. After all, it’s one of only two year-round theatres east of Highway 6 and south of Highway 13.  

The patio that was introduced to the front of The Tap House a couple of years ago was a nice addition as well for giving people another hangout, at least for a few months of the year.  

And we’re seeing new businesses move into downtown Estevan. It wasn’t that long ago that you saw quite a number of vacancy signs hanging in the 1200-block of Fourth Street. There are still open spots for retailers, but not as many as there were before.  

The bonus is that these new businesses have jazzed-up storefronts. It’s not just enough to have a sign above the window and the business name on the door. KoN Artistan Ice Cream, Blonde Beauty Lounge and Kessel Run Games have all added some flair to their storefronts, enticing customers.  

If you were skeptical about the tax credit that the City of Estevan has for business storefronts, we’re seeing why it’s such a good idea. It would be great to see other businesses jump at this.   

It’s also been wonderful to see the number of people in the community, throughout the community, showing confidence in Estevan – especially during a tough time – and opening new businesses, or expanding their existing companies.   

We hear about creating a buzz in Estevan, and downtown is an important part of that. Doug Griffiths of 13 Ways – who has been contracted out by the city to help with economic development – is a vocal proponent of downtown areas. The Rafferty Rumble was a tremendous showcase of our downtown area.  

These downtown markets are just another piece of the puzzle. You can be sure downtown merchants will be staying open late each Thursday to capitalize on the added traffic.  

So let’s make sure we’re supportive of these markets. Keep the vendors busy each week. Hopefully they’ll look forward to coming. Hopefully they’ll see the value. And downtown merchants will see benefits as well.  

And in the process, there can be more buzz in Estevan. 

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