Original ads in the Cranbrook Courier for the opening of Juniper Lanes in 1962 — the hottest new recreation facility in the East Kootenay. Sixty years later, the reborn Juniper Lanes will be part of a great downtown Cranbrook renaissance. Thanks to David Humphrey/Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

Original ads in the Cranbrook Courier for the opening of Juniper Lanes in 1962 — the hottest new recreation facility in the East Kootenay. Sixty years later, the reborn Juniper Lanes will be part of a great downtown Cranbrook renaissance. Thanks to David Humphrey/Cranbrook History Centre and Archives

The Roaring Twenties, and the great downtown Cranbrook renaissance

The recent wave of local risk-taking youthful entrepreneurship will transform Cranbrook’s downtown

The caterpillar that is Cranbrook has crawled into the pandemic chrysalis, spending two years in the torpor of metamorphosis. At least, we hope it will only be two years.

What creature will emerge from the cocoon? A resplendent butterfly? Well, no — the new downtown Cranbrook will be personified as a languor-loving, patio-lounging, rock-and-rolling, fine-dining (with a taste for organic food), beer-appreciating bowler.

How much like the old Cranbrook we will be, yet how much greater than before.

The recent wave of local risk-taking youthful entrepreneurship will transform Cranbrook’s sleepy downtown core into something that will help launch a post-pandemic Roaring Twenties. The good kind of Roaring Twenties, not the Roaring Twenties with prohibition and tommy guns.

Pandemics are nothing new to humanity. And they have always created enormous changes in society. We can see throughout history that during a pandemic, people become more withdrawn, less social, more suspicious of each other. Conspiracy theories and millenarian (or apocalyptic) thinking is more common. People become more isolated, and more fragmented.

But the other thing about pandemics is that they end. And following a pandemic, people’s mindsets reverse, and we start to seek out a more intense social interaction. Think of the original Roaring Twenties following the Influenza pandemic (not to mention the Great War). Or, for that matter, the Renaissance that came to Europe in the century after the Black Death.

So it’s safe to predict that a year or two from now, with all the changes we have undergone, we will be ready to roar into a downtown that has been transformed to accommodate us.

Think of the purchase and upgrade of the Armond Theatre into a live music venue, the purchase and upgrade of Juniper Lanes Bowling Alley into a brewery and high-end indoor entertainment facility, the sudden irruption of restaurant and bar patios all throughout the downtown core, the establishments like the HeidOut, and Fire Hall Kitchen & Tap, the Mount Baker Hotel and others which have transformed downtown immeasurably over the past few years and more recently. Think of the plans for the old lots between the Choice and Cranbrook Photo on Baker Street, plans for the former Andre’s building at the corner of Kootenay Street and First Street North, and plans for the former RV campground and Baker Park (whatever they may be). Plus, all the small business owners who worked to keep downtown core economically alive and “cool” (I use that word unironically).

So we can see, as mentioned above, that downtown Cranbrook in a couple of years will be a ground zero for organic food, fine dining, craft brew and live music. Seems to me that the local entrepreneurs that have had these visions and are taking such risks to bring them to life have tapped into the spirit of Cranbrook’s past, and are recreating that personality for Cranbrook’s future. Almost like they got together and planned it.

Downtown Cranbrook will be a destination. No longer will travellers want to pass through on the way to the West Kootenay or the coast. Downtown will be the place to hang out, and I for one can’t wait to time travel there and take part in the heart of my community.

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