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The coolest corner in Sudbury: Kathleen overcoming its challenges

Three hipster-friendly businesses have now been opened by Mark Browning and Jessica Nadel in area

Etched on the door to the new Kathleen Street cafe and bakery Beards, right below its hours of operation, are the words “NO HIPSTERS.”

It's a joke, of course, as the business, which opened two months ago, is a Sudbury hipster mecca.

So are Cosmic Dave's Vinyl Emporium, the record store located in the same building that opened a decade ago, and the Mexican restaurant Tuco's Tacos Lounge, which opened across the street in 2014.

All three businesses are owned by Mark Browning and Jessica Nadel. 

Parents to four-year-old Woodrow and two-month-old Juniper, the entrepreneurs are are certainly busy, as they also own a fourth store — Cosmic Dave's Guitar Emporium on Elgin Street. They employ about 40 people.

“When you open up a hipster coffee place, you end up with guys with skinny jeans and plaid shirts, and they sit there on their Macbooks, and they drink coffee and soak up the Internet, and they all have beards,” said Browning.

“That was kind of where the idea of calling it Beards came from.”

Browning is originally from Sudbury, but lived in Vancouver for years before moving back to the Nickel City a dozen years ago.

He bought the building where Beards and Cosmic Dave's Vinyl Emporium is located, and renovated it — his young family also lives in the building.

Tuco's occupies a former Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant that closed about five years ago. Both Tuco's and Beards have entirely vegan menus, inspired by the couple's vegan lifestyle.

It's not that they're intentionally trying to start a hipster empire on Kathleen, they're just opening businesses offering services they want in the place they live and work, the say.

Browning and Nadel say they love their neighbourhood. That includes the owners of nearby businesses — including Sweet Nothings and Skakoon Home Hardware — who go out of their way to help them.

It's an affordable place to live, said Nadel, which means there's a lot of young families, and kids for her children to hang out with.

But Kathleen has a reputation for less-than-desirable activity, including prostitution. 

The couple say they've noticed the sex workers and Johns have moved further down the street since they opened Tuco's, and the area has become a more happening business district.

“There's people coming into the neighbourhood to go eat and come shopping for records,” Browning said. “It's just not the kind of neighbourhood you want to necessarily be a prostitute on a corner.”

Carol Pugliese, who's owned Sweet Nothings bakery on Kathleen with her husband Ted since 1996, said agrees with Nadel and Browning about the area's appeal.

“Everyone said 'Oh, you won't last six months,' and here I am 20 years later,” she said. “We love it here. It's way more accessible than people think, and it's a beautiful. It's wonderful. The people are awesome. Everybody's awesome in this neck of the woods.”

While Beards would seem, on the surface, to compete with her business, Pugliese doesn't agree. 

“The more businesses you see on the street, the busier the street becomes, and the more fruitful everybody is,” she said.

Dennis Epp, who opened Northern Exotics pet store on Kathleen three years ago, echoes Browning's thoughts on more business traffic making the area less attractive to sex workers.

“When we started, Tucos was just that old KFC, so it was an empty parking lot,” he said. “More businesses brings more people and changes things.”

Monique Mercier, president of the Donovan Elm West Community Action Network, said her group championed projects to improve the neighbourhood, including a splash pad opened two years ago and a skateboard park set to open next year.

Mercier said she's a senior, but she loves the fact that Kathleen is attractive to 20 or 30-something hipsters.

They “breathe a different life in the community” and “are working and opening businesses and finding their own voice,” she said.  “I think it's just wonderful.”


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Heidi Ulrichsen

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