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BUSINESS BUZZ: Top cop and city boss meet biz owners, summer sleeps at Whitewater

All the latest in local business news from Darren Davidson
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Something’s cookin’: Pro chefs Kyle Dampsy and Aimara Ramirez are preparing to re-open the former Railtown Cafe as a new restaurant. The Block at Railtown will offer brasserie style, informal French dining. The couple have a load of impressive culinary experience from some of the top restaurants in the West. Photo: Darren Davidson

by Darren Davidson

The Buzz starts out this week with some promising news for local businesses and residents concerned over the increasingly alarming state of the city’s downtown streets.

Fifty folks got together late Monday at the Adventure Hotel for an update from Nelson’s top police, city and fire officials on what’s being done to address the surging homeless population, a recent spike in street-level crime and further, the problem’s roots in addiction and mental illness. (The later of which are sweeping problems that for the most part municipalities can’t manage without the help of the province and eventually the feds.)

City manager Kevin Cormack told the crowd that the provincial government — which didn’t anticipate the problems its decriminalization trial has created — could have legislation in place by this fall that will help municipalities better manage troubles like drug use in public areas. Nelson is looking to examples like the one in the District of Sicamous, which is preparing a bylaw to outlaw drug use in local parks.

With a rash of broken windows at a half dozen businesses over the last week and a lot of stolen property, one longtime business owner was quick to praise local police for recovering $45,000 in goods within a few days. The culprit is facing eight counts. Police successfully raided a sizeable street drug operation too, and will have details soon.

The meeting was called by the recently formed Neighbourhood Network, which Nelson Police Department Chief Donovan Fisher says is making a difference thanks to a well-organized letter writing campaign and consistent reporting of street-level crime.

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From the streets to the ski hill.

Despite receiving over 20 centimetres of late June snow a few weeks ago, Whitewater opens its first-ever summer accommodation July 7. The Hummingbird Lodge will have room for six guests, and the new campground will have 15 sites. Speaking on Kootenay Co-op Radio’s Kootenay Morning show with new local reporter Scott Onyschuck on Monday, Whitewater’s Rebeckah Hornung said work on the highly anticipated new quad is underway with helicopters and big rigs rumbling about.

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Speaking of construction, Stats Can’s latest figures on the cost of new home and apartment construction are stunning — up 54 per cent in the first three months of 2023 compared to the same time in 2019. Local per-square-foot costs are around $500. The Canadian Home Builders’ Association says the hikes translate into an extra $67,000 in building costs for a 2,400-square-foot home built today as compared to before the pandemic. Lumber alone would be an extra $24,000. Gotta wonder how that’s impacting the required sales margins for some of the new developments in town.

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The region’s culinary sector has landed a couple of great new additions.

Kyle Dampsy and Aimara Ramirez have impressive plans for the former Railway Café location, in the Chamber of Commerce building at the end of Baker Street.

For the next bit it’ll serve standard morning and early afternoon fare, including custom blends from Number 6 Coffee on Front Street, and Virtue Tea.

But within the next few months, the venue will be transformed into The Block at Railtown. The concept? A brasserie style restaurant offering informal French dining and heaps of local ingredients from farmers and ranchers all over the Kootenay region. (Brasserie, FYI, means relaxed setting, serving single dishes.)

So, to the even bigger story.

Together, Dampsy and Ramirez bring some heavyweight new experience to the city’s already noteworthy food and beverage sector.

Tofino’s Wickaninnish Inn, Victoria’s Canoe Brewpub, Vancouver’s superlative Blue Water Cafe and Glowbal, and the 80-location Browns Group. Those are some of the stops Dampsy has made over the course of a cooking career that started at the age of 17.

His training is top shelf. He learned his way around the chopping bock with a fella by the name of Gilbert Noussitou, who went on to take over the province’s Red Seal chef program. Next stop, sidekick to celebrated Canadian chef David Hawksworth — who apprenticed alongside British celebrity chef Gord Ramsay.

Born in Bogota, Columbia, Ramirez cooked at a number of high-volume venues, including at the Fairmont Banff Springs, a whirlwind of three demanding years that lead her to reconsider her culinary career aims.

“I developed a deep appreciation for the ingredients we used,” Ramirez says, “and wanted to learn more about where our food came from.”

She settled in to a more local-centric groove working along side chef Castro Boateng, owner of one of Vancouver Island’s top eateries — House of Boateng.

So. Why Nelson?

COVID-19 hit. The food and beverage sector was scorched. The pair bought a camper and hit the road looking for a place to happen next.

“We joked about doing a TikTok channel — cooking on the road,” laughs Dampsy, who’s shared his skills on Global TV a number of times.

“But we fell in love with Nelson, and winters here. We started looking around for gaps … and that’s when we found Railtown. We knew with a bit of work it would meet our vision. And we just couldn’t say no.”

Watch for the new digs to open up early in July.

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Still on the menu.

Big news for folks on the North Shore… Amanda’s is moving downtown after 21 years at its current location.

Amanda’s has a great tale. Shortly after arriving here from Kamloops via the Lower Mainland, The Kwan family purchased the well-known Seven Sea’s restaurant on Baker Street.

In January 1986 they changed the name to Amanda’s Restaurant — named after their daughter. In 2002, the diner moved across the big Orange Bridge. Following a next-door fire in 2019, Amanda’s closed, but then battled back at the beginning of the pandemic. The Kwans and their restaurant have been serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to locals for nearly 40 years.

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To Baker Street’s fun and functional Nelson Stitch Lab — turning a big five years old this month.

ArtWalk wanderers may have stuck their head in the place last weekend and seen the works of Jane Merks and Keira Zaslove. (The night was the official birthday bash.)

As co-owner Sarah Albertson tells it, business partner Deborah Achleitner opened the original Stitch Lab’s doors back in 2013, which ran after-school programs in a little blue house on Stanley Street.

“Hundreds of Nelson kids learned to sew under her guidance,” says Albertson. In 2018, she and Achleitner relocated to Baker, and expanded big time as a retail space and public sewing studio.

Today, the store sells fine fabrics (nearly all are from natural fibres), needlecraft supplies, dyes and books. The studio offers sewing drop in-classes, adult evening classes, kids after school, spring break and summer camps.

“We provide the tools and knowledge to make and repair everyone’s creations,” says Albertson. “And take great joy in seeing what our customers make.”

We’re all sewn up! See you in July.



Tyler Harper

About the Author: Tyler Harper

I’m editor-reporter at the Nelson Star, where I’ve worked since 2015.
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