Upon first arriving at Queen’s two years ago, I had a very narrow-minded idea of how my time at Queen’s would play out – outside of the classroom. ‘Stage Rage’ Thursday and weekend brunch at Tommy’s were among two of the most talked about things to do. And as a young, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, yellow lanyard wearing first year, who was I to know any better? So I did as many first years do in an attempt to make friends and have a ‘typical’ Queen’s experience, I followed the status quo. I’m not here to put myself on a pedestal and seem as though I’m above these experiences. Believe me, I’ve had my fair share of Tommy’s burgers and nights out at Stages. But as the weeks trudged along, the shiny idea of ‘classic student life experiences’ at Queen’s started to slowly fade away. I was no longer interested in confining my life outside the classroom to the same three bars and restaurants. I was lost in the idea of what everyone else was doing, without actually taking the initiative to create my own experiences for myself. 

It wasn’t until late into my first year and early second year that I truly decided to start exploring Kingston for myself. Musiikki Café and Whisky Bar was one of the first hole-in-the-wall businesses that I stumbled upon outside of my usual trio. Walking up their steps to the second floor and listening to the live music, while sipping on a Black Cherry Bourbon hot chocolate, felt like a cozy dream. The following day, while reflecting on this experience, it finally dawned on me how ignorant I’d been to shy away from the local businesses that are the crux of who Kingston is and will continue to be. There’s just something so exciting about finding that little shop down the street, hidden in that nook that you’ve never wandered down before. And more often than not, these small businesses will not disappoint. 

It’s no surprise that COVID-19 has played a huge role in negatively impacting many of these small businesses, in a multitude of ways. According to Stat Canada, “32.0% of businesses with 500 or more employees reported declines in revenue of 20% or more” due to the pandemic. In speaking with some of the small business owners in Kingston, many of them mentioned that the forced shutdown in March, and subsequent reduced business regulations, forced them to lay off staff members and completely alter the way they operate their businesses. From shifting their marketing strategy to offering more outdoor experiences, there is no doubt that small businesses in Kingston and beyond have responded to the pandemic with resiliency and optimism. Though COVID-19 is far from gone, one thing is clear: supporting small businesses is vital to reviving the Canadian economy during the pandemic. Such businesses account for “more than half of global employment” and cannot be left behind, as our community tries to build a ‘new normal’. 

To all Queen’s readers: if you have the means to do so, use this time to reflect on the intentions behind the businesses you support in order to make conscious consumer choices. Now is the time to invest in our communications, our peers, the heart of our city. The impact of the dollars you spend last beyond the tap of your credit card on the machine. In the capitalist society we live in, money is power. And let’s be real: billionaires like Jeff Bezos don’t need any more of it. At MUSE, we’ve spoken about the intersection of systemic racism and capitalism, and conscious investments in Black- and Indigenous-owned businesses are another vital step as we restart the economy. 

The images and businesses listed below offer a glimpse into some of my favorite local businesses in Kingston and the aftermath of my falling in love with the city I now call home. This list is not exhaustive by any means. However, it’s meant to act as a starting point for your own exploration of Kingston – so you too can find your own hidden gems. 


Tie One On Creativity Bar

As someone who loves a good crafts night, this female-owned business is great for a chill night out with friends, any day of the week. This bar has everything from knitting to cocktails, painting and more. Having opened three weeks before COVID-19 hit Canada, Tie One had a bit of a slow start. But the owner was quick to bounce back and leverage her creativity to present an experience like no other. 

Instagram: @tieoneoncreativitybar

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/tieoneoncreativitybar 


Musiikki Café and Whiskey Bar

This list wouldn’t be complete without my favourite bar in Kingston. Located near Brock Street and King Street, this hole in the wall bar serves amazing drinks with nightly concerts by local Kingston musicians. 

Instagram: @musiikkicafe

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/musiikkicafe 


Mc Mahon’s House of Flowers Inc.

Everyone who knows me, knows that I am addicted to flowers and this flower shop is certainly one that fuels that addiction (and content for my plant care instagram @plantbabbies). Mahon’s is one of the oldest flower shops in Canada and offers everything from cut flowers to succulents, perennials and more. And, as if that wasn’t enough already, they offer 10% off to all students! 

Instagram: @mcmahonsflowers

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mcmahonsflowers 


Sally’s Roti Shop

Family owned, authentic Carribean cuisine, great vibes, what more could a person want? Located on Wellington Street, Sally’s serves some of the best jerk chicken and plantain chips in Kingston, alongside their signature coleslaw. The inside of the store may seem small but the staff is super friendly and caters to everyone, as they offer both veggie and meat options in each section of their menu!

Instagram: @sallysrotishop 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Sallysrotishop 


Delightfully Different Tea Room

Located in Martello Alley, this cozy tea room takes you into an idyllic world of assorted painted tea cups and the most delicious smelling baked goods. Stop by for a take-out morocan quinoa salad or arrive dressed up for afternoon high tea – this shop certainly offers something for everyone. 

Instagram: N/A

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/delightfullydifferenttearoom/ 


Tara Natural Foods

Do you love fair trade coffee? Daily vitamins? Local fruits and veggies? If yes, make sure to hit up Tara’s for all your go to health and nutrition needs. Trust me, your body will thank you later. 

Instagram: @taranaturalfoods

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/taranaturalfoods 


The Screening Room

Conscious consumerism not only includes supporting local businesses, but also independent filmmakers. Lucky for us, The Screening Room offers the best of both worlds! Make sure to keep an eye out for their famous yearly Halloween screening of Rocky Horror Picture Show – the perfect night to get dolled up with friends, red lips and all. 

Instagram: @screening_room_

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheScreeningRoom 



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