Belleville’s Pop Ups on the Bay

Record water levels force a change of location, but did not dampen spirits

The City of Belleville’s Pop-Ups on the Bay got off to a rocky start with its launch date delayed by a late spring, and flooding forcing an eleventh hour location change, but in a serendipitous turn of events the outcome is a perfect combination of seasonal pop-up businesses the City hopes will attract more people to Belleville’s parks and waterfront trails.

Pop-ups are businesses that go up quickly and usually for a limited time, explains Elisha Purchase, Development and Tourism Assistant and on Economic and Strategic Initiatives for the City of Belleville. She says Pop-Ups on the Bay fits right in with the City’s development priorities.

“The idea came around as a short-term fix to activating our waterfront and certainly waterfront development is a priority for the City long term. This is a way to generate activity, to encourage business interest at the waterfront, and to get more people down there.”

Victoria Park was the first choice location for Phase 1 of the pop-ups project, a popular fishing spot for locals, home to Ontario’s second oldest yacht club, the popular Belleville Dragon Boat Club, and the Victoria docks, it was already a hub of water-based activities and easily accessible from the downtown core. But water levels beyond any local control – the International Lake Ontario St. Lawrence River board determines outflows from the lake determining Bay of Quinte Water levels and levels all the way down the St. Lawrence – meant launch delays, and flooding eventually forced a last minute change of location from Victoria Park to West Riverside Park on Moira Street East.

Fortunately for three of the four pop-up businesses the busy Riverside Park location is still a good fit. The Brick Oven Pizza’s new truck will feature traditional stone fired gourmet pizza, pastas, desserts, and non-alcoholic beverages. The Golden Scoop, owned and operated by local dairy farmer and athlete Jackie Jarrell, will serve up Canadian made and locally produced ice cream, as well as protein and energy products. Visitors can burn off the treats and explore the area by renting a bike from the Doug’s Bicycles pop-up. In the business of selling and repairing bikes for more than 40 years and run by a group of avid cyclists, the pop-up expands their business with its new rental venue. The Riverside location is great for cyclists. “You can connect from the Riverside Trail to the Parrot Riverside Trail which takes you down to the waterfront and Victoria Park,” says Elisha. “If you’re really ambitious you can continue on to the Kiwanis Bayshore trail.”

The pop-ups offer a “nice mix,” continues Elisha, with something for just about everyone, whether you want to grab a bite to eat, get some exercise, or just relax and watch the river run.

The fourth pop-up, unfortunately, was dependent on the Victoria Park location with its Bay of Quinte access. Cruising Canoes is a Belleville-based adventure tour company. They had hoped their pop-up would expand their business by offering pontoon boat tours launched from Victoria Park, partnering with the downtown to incorporate a historical tour before getting on the boat. They had also planned to be running day camps and renting kayaks, canoes, and paddle boards from this location.

“Although Cruising Canoes has been unable to secure a suitable and safe location for (pop-up) operations, the project team will continue to promote all events and activities activated by Cruising Canoes as the season progresses,” says Elisha.

Besides working on their own businesses, the pop-up vendors are working together on ideas to attract more people, “We’re talking about all kinds of things like park games, giant Jenga, horseshoe pits, propane fires, and there will be live music. It’s really going to be a hub of activity, a fun spot to go to in the summertime.”

The pop-ups will be able to take debit or credit. “We’re investing in better infrastructure at the site, and we have modems to allow transactions to happen electronically and adequate Wi-Fi in the park. It’s a big part of our budget because it’s very difficult for businesses to operate without that kind of infrastructure in place. They could potentially be missing out on all kinds of sales and we don’t want that to happen.”

The pop-up vendors pay $300 per month to the City to lease the space to offset some of the project costs. Just by doing business they will be collecting valuable data for the City to help with future planning.

Elisha says the success of Pop-Ups on the Bay this year should help to raise the project profile for next year.  “My hope is with Phase One it will be a good opportunity to get the word out and create some brand identity for the project and then when we go out for Phase 2 we’ll have that many more people understanding what kind of activity is happening down there and what the opportunities for businesses are. I think it’s a great opportunity for students, so hopefully we’ll see some interest from that demographic.”

Along with the support from City Council, the project has had a great deal of interest from the broader community as well. “They are excited about it, and we’ve had great support. The Belleville Downtown Improvement Area, our local Chamber of Commerce, Bay of Quinte Marketing Board, Trenval Business Development Corporation, and City Council are unanimously supportive of this project.”

City council has already approved the $150,000 budget for Phase 1 and Phase 2 of Pop-Ups on the Bay. The pre-approved budget for next year means City planners have the luxury of a year to plan for Phase 2.

Of course, no one can predict the weather, but Belleville’s waterfront pop-ups make even a rainy day a fun adventure.