Photography by Mitch Coulter
On any given Saturday, the population of Old Strathcona swells considerably, when hundreds of Edmontonians flock to the Old Strathcona Farmers’ Market. Eager shoppers come to check out more than 130 local vendors crammed into the lively warehouse. Rain or shine, the market has brought people into the 101-year-old neighbourhood for 30 years now. Resident Audrey Wedewer, 27, is one of them. She meets with friends at the market at least once a month.
Wedewer moved to the area two years ago from Edmonton’s north end because Old Strathcona is close to where she works as a marketing analyst at the Alberta Motor Association. In the summer, she takes advantage of her close proximity to the river valley by going for bike rides along the scenic route or running in the Mill Creek ravine. “It’s awesome to be able to be more central and have easy access to the river valley and area,” says Wedewer.
“Summer on Whyte Avenue is amazing. Lots of people just come to stroll the avenue to shop and enjoy being on a patio. There are always the bikers meeting at Tim Hortons or random buskers doing beat boxing. It’s one of the best places for people watching, hands down,” says Wedewer. “I’ll meet my girlfriends for coffee at the Starbucks or have lunch at Famoso. And I love getting sushi at Maki Maki or Sunday brunch at B’s Diner or Route 99 Diner.”
A decade ago, the Whyte Avenue area was known more as the ideal location for a pub crawl due to a large number of bars and taverns within walking distance of each other. While some of its nighttime fixtures remain, in the past few years the area has seen a shift to more service and retail options opening up on the avenue, says Jeff Samsonow, past president of the Strathcona Centre Community League.
“I think the neighbourhood is now evolving away from that bar nightlife. There will always be some of it because of the university nearby,” says Samsonow, who moved to Edmonton from Toronto eight years ago.
The Old Strathcona Business Association hopes the area can be lively both day and night. It’s encouraging retailers on Whyte Avenue to stay open later so that visitors and residents can fully enjoy the area beyond the usual 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. hours of operation. Says Tineke de Jong, marketing and membership manager of Old Strathcona Business Association: “We’re definitely trying to highlight both the day and night economy because one can’t survive without the other.”