Go local in Clayton Park

Shoptalk starts a series of explorations off peninsular Halifax to visit neighbourhood businesses.

Bayers Lake

If you start west of the peninsula and head towards downtown, it’s a little like travelling backwards in time from the 1990s to the 1960s, visiting the earlier developments of suburban rings as you go along.

The BLIP was overrun in the 1990s with international retail chains and big boxes, but you can still find the occasional local shop. TAO-The Adventure Outfitters (182 Chain Lake Drive, 481-9826) is the only location of the family owned, one-stop outdoor and adventure gear retailer. A few bare walls and display areas await 11 brands of kayaks and four brands of canoes, all of which will be trickling in by month’s end. “We’re the only company to carry that many brands of kayak and canoe under one roof in Atlantic Canada,” says manager George Zakher, who expects the walls and floors to be so full of kayaks, clothes, shoes and tents, it’ll force the store to improvise. “We use our ceiling because we have no choice, we have to display everything.”

The Bayers Lake location of photography experts Carsand Mosher (201 Chain Lake, 450-3030) is waiting on 2009 stock, too, though models by Nikon, Pentax and Cannon have already started to arrive.

Stylish Greek and Mediterranean restaurant Opa (215 Chain Lake, 876-8899) has had a second location in Bayers Lake for about five months, and has been embraced by locals looking for something different than the steaks and burgers available elsewhere in the area. “The menu is exactly the same” as the downtown location, says manager Jeff Mitchell, and “all our food is made here [on site].”

Lacewood Area

"Nothing has changed but the name," says the friendly employee at The Almond Café, recently known as The Bean Sprout Café, just up the road at 480 Parkland (404-3771). With that in mind, expect to find their lovely paninis, as well as the children's play area, kid's menu and free wifi.

If you wander down Lacewood Drive into the '70s and '80s developments, you'll eventually find a pair of plazas on the corner of Dunbrack, at 278 and 287 Lacewood.

There's plenty going on here: check out the Caribbean Party planned for Friday, March 27 at Winston's Pub and Eatery (443-7024), including contests for best beach outfit, a live band and prizes.

If you're actually heading to the Caribbean, you may want to visit Moda Colombia (443-8299), a boutique specializing in clothes imported from South America for women---with a few items for men, too. March is their most popular month for swimwear, but largely for women in petite sizes. "I don't fit anything here," says one average-sized salesperson, sighing. "Except maybe the pyjamas."

Opening just two weeks ago, a second location of Sushi Nami Royale (457-3874) brings quality sushi in a stylish, white, black and terracotta dining room with a capacity of 70.

"It's more family-style" compared to downtown, says manager Stella Yang. "We have kids' meals specials...and cooked and hot food as well as sushi." They offer takeout, with a delivery service for the local community starting soon. Check sushinami.ca for more details.

If you’re feeling a little wound up, stop in to the membership-based Massage Addict (404-3550), also a second location, with more planned to open in Halifax soon. Here’s the deal: The first time you come in for a one-hour therapeutic massage it’s $39. If you choose to become a member---there’s no fee to join---you commit to scheduling a minimum of one massage a month for $49 an hour. As a member, anyone in your family or household can take advantage of it, too. Owner Chris Harker has hired 11 therapists and expects to employ 15 or 16, though isn’t qualified himself. “I like getting them,” he says. “I don’t know how to do them!”

Free Comic Book Day on May 2 this year is a big deal at The Second Last Gamestore (457-7529), its walls lined with comics, video game paraphernalia---check out the Atari 2600 cartridges---and actual arcade games, including Street Fighter. There’ll be regular Saturday SF tourneys in the weeks to come so inquire in-store to show off your Hadouken.

Gleneagle Bakery (445-3347), with other locations in Cole Harbour and Bedford, is the place to go for cheesecakes, tarts and all manner of sweet things. Recently the owner even created a life-sized chocolate bicycle, raffled off for a fundraiser. Drop in at Zen Chinese Cuisine (457-6868) for quality Szechuan and Canadian Chinese food, lunch specials, and Dim Sum on Saturday and Sundays from 11:30am-3pm.

Fairview

Travel further back in time through the streets of Fairview towards Joseph Howe Drive and you can’t help but notice the older plazas and the cute, little homes built in the 1960s, extending Halifax beyond the railway stitches that ring and effectively define the peninsular, downtown part of the city. There’s lots happening here, too: You’ll pass Outcast Ink (14 Titus, 457-2743) with three in-house artists for all your tattooing needs. In the collection of shops on the left at 19 Alma Crescent, you’ll find a number of businesses owned by the same family: Issa’s Saj House (446-3646) was featured recently on CBC TV’s Living Halifax for its popular Lebanese cuisine, especially the ma’noosh, a savory flatbread baked on the spot. Saad Issa is the proprietor, and his sister owns the Al-Arz Pita Bakery and Lebanese Food Market (446-3625) next door, serving the Persian, Turkish and Greek customers who want a taste of the home countries.

On the other side is Issa’s daughter’s operation, Cosmo Nail Bar & Salon (404-6060). “All my friends come here for all the gossip,” says owner/esthetician Chirine Issa.

Dutch Village

Head further down the way and you can’t miss multiple Coast Best of Food award-winner Mexico Lindo (3635 Dutch Village, 445-0996) offering the best in Mexican cuisine. They want to remind customers that they’re vegetarian and vegan friendly, and they’ll be installing a patio door in April, anticipating the warm summer breezes to come. And keep your eyes open as the owners are considering a second location in the Dartmouth/Cole Harbour area.

A few of doors down is Dutchie’s Pub (3671 Dutch Village, 445-5256), with free wifi and an internet jukebox. This month is the “So You Think You Have Talent” contest, offering weekly prizes every Friday night, right up to the grand finale in May. If you can sing, dance, jam, tell jokes or do magic tricks, call the pub to register.

Keep going and you’ll pass the House of Halal Groceries (3559 Dutch Village, 455-6328) and the Corner Pocket Club (3434 Dutch Village, 445-5444) if you’re looking to shoot some pool. Turn onto Joe Howe and you can’t miss The Healthy Bug (454-2225) at number 3514, for all your vitamins and health supplement needs.

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