Stratford tips from Collin Gibson

Collin Gibson is representative of the youngish class of creative professionals in Stratford - self assured, bright and passionate for community. He left his native Scotland enticed by a beautiful Canadian girl, the wide open spaces of Canada and the big ideas of a relatively new country. Greener pastures were part of the allure but Collin also points to better customer service where each consumer seemed to matter. Perhaps growing up in the crowded United Kingdom was part of Collin’s inspiration for building their tiny house: an efficient house constructed on wheels. Funny thing was that prior to building the house he had not considered buying an automobile to pull it. He did have a place to park the house and that is what let them to Stratford. In spending some time with Collin, you quickly realize his profound wisdom on humanity’s big issues, softened somewhat by his playful personality.

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE STRATFORD?

All the essential pieces of a big city without the traffic jams. It is a place built on character. Initially, I was bothered by there not being a Starbucks in town but then I realized that genuine stories form in the local cafes that have been built through the sweat and tears of locals. These cafes are built of brick and the 'warm hugs' of their owners. Stratford is an interesting collision of the railroad and the festival. A collection of technology, arts and food - all things that I enjoy.

WHAT HAS DIRECTED YOU IN YOUR LIFE?

I have learned to stop and pay attention to life's pivotal moments. Even small things can mean so much when we stop, listen and feel. I have also placed a spotlight on friendships. My decisions have been based on God’s peace. A peace of gold my Mom left me with.

WHAT ARE YOUR SECRET STRATFORD PLACES? 

The movement to a throwaway society has made me realize the value of small shops not focused on volume but on the quality of their products and the service they offer. The Artful Badger is a men’s grooming store that I stumbled upon while walking down a street I wouldn't have normally taken. It was immediately evident that the owner knew what the place was all about and that there was no need to be pushy. Instead, I quickly embraced the romantic notion of a vintage razor. It seemed that the owner’s interest was not in selling something but in sharing his passion. I left the store thrilled having purchased a razor and brush set. 

DO YOU HAVE ANOTHER favourite place?

Martingale Vintage is another shop off the beaten path. I recently found it on a leisurely stroll with my young children through the downtown core. On my first visit, I was barely through the door when Kelly, the shop owner, started to entertain my young children - making it much easier for us to browse the racks of curated vintage clothing. I was delightfully taken aback by the no hassle experience. 

WHAT WOULD YOUR PERFECT SATURDAY CONSIST OF?

It would start off with my sketch pad at one of the locally owned cafes - Revel, Edison’s or Balzac’s. Creative ideas would naturally flow while snacking on a croissant and enjoying the flow of the people. In the afternoon, I would hit up a show at one of the five theatres celebrating stage in town. On the way home, I would stop in at Pazzo’s. I love the thin crust pizza and the quality of the toppings baked carefully in a brick oven. It’s as though the toppings were intentionally chosen just for me. They have a private room surrounded by glass walls and wine. How cool is that?

WHAT’S YOUR RECOMMENDATION FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL?

Travel to the extreme, dynamic landscape of Scotland. In Glasgow, search out Saratoga Trunk. It is a weird and wonderful place tucked inside an old riverside industrial area. Once you’ve made your way through the puzzle of getting there, you will be buzzed in. You will come across a massive room with hordes of vintage clothing and other stuff piled to the ceiling.

WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR VISITORS TO STRATFORD? 

Avoid anything that looks familiar. Follow your curiosity. Be inspired to explore new experiences and places by walking down windy lanes and behind buildings.

Collin Gibson is the owner of Collin Gibson Creative, helping clients through the journey of design and the web. Check out some of his artwork at Edison’s Cafe Bar and Inn.