After 90 years downtown and 28 years in its current home in the Grace Building at 285 Water St., The Model Shop is moving uptown.
Owner Lori Pitcher confirmed that the business, which she purchased from her uncle Michael Howard in 2012, will move to 415 Kenmount Rd.
The building is currently occupied by Calvary Baptist Church, but was put on the market earlier this year for an asking price of $749,900.
The current plan calls for the new Model Shop location to open in early June once interior and exterior renovations are complete.
It represents a new chapter for the popular store that specializes in wedding dresses, ladies’ fashions and formal wear purchase and rentals for men and women, but it’s somewhat bittersweet.
“I feel like there’s something sad about it because I’m taking out of downtown what’s been there for so long and some people recognize it as a fixture downtown,” Pitcher says. “It’s been something that’s been downtown forever. It’s part of our culture and heritage to have The Model Shop downtown.”
Pitcher says there are three key factors that contributed to the decision to leave downtown.
Among them is a need to make business more accessible. Currently the bridal floor is on the top floor of the four-storey building, which sometimes presents a problem for customers with mobility issues.
“It’s a massive undertaking to get to the top floor,” Pitcher says.
“The building we’re going to is mostly on one floor. There’s a small couple of steps going into bridal, but it’s still not what you’d have down here.”
In terms of the factors beyond their control, parking, she says, has always been an issue and many people stay away because of the hassle.
“If you come downtown … sometimes you’ve got to drive around for a half hour to find parking and when you do find parking you don’t know how to parallel park and then you’ve got to go out every two hours to feed the meter.
“If you’re a bride, generally, you could be here more than two hours.”
Compounding the parking situation is the city’s upcoming Water Street Infrastructure Project — the Big Dig — slated to begin this spring and continue in four phases over a five-year period.
As part of the move, Pitcher says, they will adjust the hours slightly to be open more evenings, making it more convenient for customers to come by after work.
Over time, she also plans to introduce a retail section for men.
“Most of our business comes from rental, but we are going to start retailing suits and accessories like socks, ties and stuff like that.”
Calvary Baptist Church, meanwhile, has purchased a plot of land in Paradise near the Kemount Road-Karwood Drive roundabout, where they plan to build a new facility to accommodate a congregation that has doubled in size in recent years and more ministry work.
Pastor Stephen Bray says they’ve been trying to get off Kenmount Road for the last couple of years in hopes of establishing a presence and integrating into a community.
Calvary Baptist Church has secured a deal with the Seventh-Day Adventist Church to share their Aldershot Street church while they fundraise and await the construction of their new facility.