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Thursday, December 29, 2005

Music: Idea moves west

T.C. Demaresq browses for the year’s hottest trends and biggest business news.

Posted By on Thu, Dec 29, 2005 at 11:33 AM

Idea of East recording studio closed its doors on September 1 after a decade in business at 3250 Barrington. “It’s been a fabulous place to do work,” said owner Laurence Currie. “But after 10 years the building is being turned into condos, and there’s not a lot you can do about progress I guess, if you want to call it that.” Currie, who has recorded tons of east coast music acts (from Sloan’s One Chord to Another to the Jimmy Swift Band’s entire catalogue), wants to expand his horizons. “I’m embracing new technology and I’m making a studio without walls,” said Currie. “I’m going up to Toronto to see if I can establish a second home base. I’d like to do more travelling and work with artists in other regions and it will let me do more of that. I’m also still going to be working with people from here, with technology being what it is. It spreads me out a little bit, which is nice after 10 years of being in one spot.”

Nightlife: Horseshoe

The new staircase connecting The Seahorse to The Economy Shoe Shop opened in September. In preparation for the link between the two, the Seahorse experienced a facelift, with new furniture, fancier decor and complete kitchen renovations. The Seahorse now features a full menu, including a lot of the specials from upstairs, as well as some new items and the infamous Marquee pizza. “I wouldn’t call upscale tavern,” said former Argyle Cobblers general manager Gord Lapp, “but I wouldn’t call it a tavern menu either. It’s sort of a tavern menu but in keeping with Shoe Shop style.” The new Seahorse (Shoehorse?) will also see a change in its entertainment lineup, expanding its focus from a punk and metal core to embrace a wide variety of easier-listening genres, including jazz and singer-songwriters. “The metal band thing, it’s not that we’re not going to do it, but we’re going to broaden the program,” said Lapp. “I’m not being really specific because we’re not exactly sure what the long term will hold.”

Style: Foot fetish

When Deirdre MacKenzie and her roommate added up all the shoes in their house, they counted 234 pairs. MacKenzie took this as a sign, and Fanatic Footwear opened May 2 in Bishop’s Landing. “I was like, ‘why don’t I just open a shoe store’‚” said MacKenzie, “and was like, ‘you should.’” Fanatic Footwear stocks “fun, funky” ladies’ footwear, in such new-to-Halifax brands as Rocket Dog, Carlos (by Carlos Santana), Vis a Vie, MOD and SMAC. “It’s all exclusive,” said MacKenzie. “The styles will be carried in minimum quantities, so if I have 12 of one shoe, then once that sells out that’s it. There will only be 12 pairs in Halifax. No one likes to wear hundreds of the same thing that you see everywhere.”

Environment: Circle of life

Alternative Organic International Inc. marked one year in business this summer. The firm, based at 6942 Isner in Halifax, deals in organic waste resources management and converts organic solid-wastes such as food scraps, food processing, farm and high-fibre wastes like cardboard into composts and compost teas (a liquid made from compost). AOI operates on the principles of soil ecology, following the logic that healthy soil produces healthy plants. “You have the whole food web that is in the soil,” explained AOI president Dietmar Tholen. “It starts with bacteria and protozoa, up to nematodes, up to worms. All the micro-organisms are working in the soil to get our food healthy.” AOI also deals extensively in vermiculture (the practice of growing specific types of earthworms for sale or for use in processing organic-waste resources), and recently sold 500 pounds of worms to a farmer in New Brunswick. “We try to increase the bio-diversity in the soil,” said Tholen. “It is extremely important to everybody. We all live off the soil. We all get our food not out of the grocery store; we get it from the soil.”

Community: Bye-bye Y

The YWCA at 1239 Barrington sold its home of 74 years to the Lawen Group. The organization now operates out of multiple program-specific locations around HRM, including Fort Massey United Church. “In the end, a building is a tool for us to advance our mission, and the building was a tool that wasn’t working for us any longer,” said YWCA executive director Tanis Crosby. “The cost outweighed the benefit. But the bottom line for us is that it’s an opportunity to focus on programs that the community needs the most. And our focus is on programs for families, children and women and young women who are at critical turning points in their lives.” With the sale of the building, however, the YWCA (and the city) lost 16 private rooms set aside for women in transition. “We are very concerned about the diminished services for women in transition,” said Crosby. “We want to be in the housing facility service, but we have not been able to secure an appropriate funding arrangement with the government to date.” According to the Chronicle Herald, the Lawen Group plans to tear down the old building and construct a six-storey commercial/residential complex with underground parking, ground-level commercial space and upscale residential units.

Other notable 2005 trends: Goodbye bars, hello big-box stores.

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