Sasa Jurko is a Sault entrepreneur hoping not only for the success of his own Gore Street business, but also a revitalization of the entire street.
“It’s long overdue,” said Jurko, owner/operator of recently-opened Konoba Tapas & Vino at 113 Gore Street.
He describes himself as chief cook and bottle washer, deejay, dishwasher and bartender at the 60-seat restaurant.
If asked, he’ll even play a tune on the guitar for you.
“All the entrepreneurs here on Gore Street, we’re trying to keep in touch and stay on the same page, it is very much like a little European community…I walk up the street to Toni’s Cakery every day to buy the bread for my restaurant, we want to keep things as local as we can.”
Business got off to a slow and soft start for Jurko in July, as city crews reconstructed the road and sidewalks in the latest effort to breathe new life into Gore Street (work began in May).
The south side of Gore, between Queen and Albert Streets, has been reconstructed and reopened to vehicular traffic as of Nov. 4.
Crews hope to have the rest of Gore, between Albert and Wellington, open to vehicular traffic by Nov. 18.
Reconstruction has included new, wider sidewalks for pedestrians and the tearing down of some older properties.
“If we make it to the spring it’ll be great,” Jurko told SooToday.
“We’re working with the city right now to make Konoba into a Parisian style cafe, we’ll be opening in the mornings (Konoba Tapas & Vino is currently open Wednesday through Saturday, 5 p.m. to 2 a.m.).”
“Our dining mentality in North America is hustle you in the door, stuff you with these Fred Flintstone-sized portions and booze, rush you out the door, wipe the table and repeat.”
By contrast, Jurko described Konoba Tapas & Vino as a relaxed, truly European cafe.
The street’s reconstruction had an effect on its businesses, but Jurko took it all in stride.
However, Brad Hodkinson, owner/operator of Soo North Fly Shop at 132 Gore, expressed frustration.
Hodkinson said his business, located on Gore for the past eight years, was rendered highly inaccessible for customers and, as a result, he lost revenue.
“I took a beating.”
Hodkinson has now brought in his wife and daughter to sell homemade, scented candles on site to generate revenue.
Hodkinson said he feels Gore Street needs to be transformed into a unique shopping area, like those seen in downtown areas in southern Ontario and Michigan communities.
Meanwhile, the staff at Gore Street’s Neighbourhood Resource Centre are enthused about the street’s new surface and sidewalks.
“It’s focused more towards pedestrian traffic than vehicular traffic, it’s inviting, as soon as you get outside and on the street you want to walk, and I think it’s really engaging,” said George Wright, John Howard Society options navigator.
“I certainly hope it will attract more businesses to the street and provide opportunities to the people that live in this area,” Wright said.