Your Itinerary for ‘The Big Spend’

This article was originally published on Republished with permission from the author.

by Bonni Titgemeyer

Here in Canada, there is a national campaign asking residents to boost local economies by making purchases at small businesses. It is called “The Big Spend” and it takes place on Saturday, July 25, 2020. If you have the means and are looking for businesses to support, and live in the Greater Toronto Area, I am providing you with a great itinerary for a short road trip less than an hour from your home that will give you many options to support great businesses. Come to The Bench, in the Niagara region, Ontario! To get the most out of this, I encourage you to take the day, or a day in a very near future to shop and enjoy this experience.

What You Need

  • A cooler, or two. Some of the best things you can purchase on The Bench are perishable and you may be gone for a few hours.
  • Walking shoes. Who wants to take a trip to paradise and miss the scenery? This itinerary includes some options to get out and look around.
  • A mask. You cannot enter many locations without a mask.
  • An open mind. As I write this, Niagara is still in Stage 2 of reopening, going to Stage 3 on Friday. The set-up of stores may be unusual; there may be reservations required, or lines. Please be patient. You may want to peruse websites to see what you like, and potentially even order ahead to ensure your purchase with minimal or no waiting. All of the businesses I’ve highlighted have identified the terms and conditions of a visit on their websites or Facebook pages.


Segment One: Grimsby

On Saturday, leave home your home in the GTA 9:30 at the latest. Take the QEW Niagara bound, and go over the Skyway. In Grimsby, get off at Casablanca Avenue and turn right. If you need a washroom break, I recommend that you go to the restaurant hub at the northwest corner of the exit and use the public facilities there. Once on Casablanca, go all the way until it dead ends at Main Street (Wine Route), and turn left. For the next few minutes, enjoy the view as you pass by the old orchards and estates of Grimsby and marvel at the height of the Niagara Escarpment. Stop and pick up fruit at any of the stands if you see something you like. Just after the Mountain Street lights, turn left at the LCBO and find someplace to park in the lot. You are on the backside of Grimsby’s Main Street, and you have arrived at your first shopping experience.

Shopping options:

If you are into art, then consider walking 1.5 blocks west to Objects to Desire.

I picked Grimsby as your first shopping experience because there aren’t many places left where you can go into this many small businesses in a three-block walk. I have been following all their Facebook pages for months, and all of them have lots of fun things to buy. I am particularly partial to the new clothing line at Tous Jours, and also am going to head to Wicked Things soon for one of their purses. Bella and Coop, and Cocoon have great little home furnishings. I’ve listed only my most favourite stores in town but there are many more.

When you get hungry or thirsty, try the best coffee shop in all of Canada, Station One, on Main Street East across from Copper and Twine, or at the other end of the street enjoy a $5.00 milkshake at The Dutch Shop. If you have a salty licorice fan in your household, The Dutch Shop has it all.

Total estimated time: 1-1.5 hours

Segment 2: A walk in Beamer Conservation Area

No trip to Niagara is complete without a walk on the escarpment. I picked a walk in Beamer because the walking is easy, no hills and relatively smooth terrain. From where your car is parked, turn right on Elm Street (Wine Route) and left on Mountain Street. Climb the escarpment; at the top turn right on Ridge Road, and right on Quarry Road. Park in the lot. There, follow the trail past the birding platform, and walk toward the escarpment edge on the 900m loop. Enjoy the beauty of one of the last remaining Carolinian forests in Canada, and gape at the uninterrupted view of Toronto from the Bruce Trail. Take pictures of Niagara Falls from the platform facing downtown Grimsby.

Total estimated time: 35 minutes

Segment 3: Get some produce!                                                        

From Beamer Conservation Area, return to Ridge Road and head east (left) to Park Road South. Turn left, and go down the escarpment to Main Street (Wine Route). Turn right, heading east again. Follow the route for a few kilometers until you get to the roundabout and follow that around to Greenlane and stop at Hildreth Farms on the left. The cherries are nearly gone, however peaches and apricots are available. They also have pies. If it is busy, drive up the road another 300 meters and there is Romagnoli Farms. If you wish to stay on Wine Route instead, you will encounter several other stands in the next 10 minutes, but I like these two best.

Total estimated times: 20 minutes

Segment 4: Wine, spirits, beer, cheese and plants

Since moving to The Bench two years ago, I have been to every winery, distillery and brewery and I have to say that I love most of them. If you’re looking for a strong recommendation based upon wine type, message me and I will tell you what I like. I’ve put my most favourites here with emphasis on the ones that are a small business needing help.  With all stops on this trip, I strongly recommend either ordering ahead, or making an appointment for tastings. These businesses are operating on reduced staff, and for things like food production, they make only what they know they will sell for the day. The wineries are all within about 15 minutes of Hildreth Farm Market (some less than 5 minutes). Just put their address into your GPS to get there.

Less than 5 minutes from Hildreth

These are wineries and distilleries in the Grimsby/Beamsville area:

If all you want to do is enjoy a glass of wine on a patio with a stunning view, try Angel’s Gate. If you’re a serious collector of good wine, support The Organized Crime. The story of this winery’s name is my favourite on The Bench. If you want to feel like you’re right in the centre of a vineyard, enjoy Hidden Bench. And if you like spirits, support Dillon’s, as they really showed up to support the community in the early stages of COVID by making hand sanitizer.

You may have heard about the clever take-out food options on The Bench. We’ve tried them all, and our two favourites are Good Earth (link above) and Revalee Brunch Café. Order an Essentials Kit in advance in order to be able to arrange pick-up.

Or, get a Friday pick-up slot at The Bagel Oven (sorry, no Saturday right now). Seriously these bagels compete with the ones in Montreal, no question. Tucked inside an old schoolhouse, it is kind of an interesting venue as well. Be sure to order by Thursday.

Less than 10 minutes from Hildreth

These are my favourite wineries and breweries of Beamsville/Vineland:

If you truly want to understand what it takes to carve out a living in the wine business from practically nothing, make that stop to Back 10 and see how it is done. Or, Bench Brewing Company’s lunch menu is the best around (order the pretzels, and tell them to put the meatballs back on the menu!) and their new outdoor seating area is much larger than other areas. And at Malivoire, it is a 3-4-1 winner in that you get to experience Malivoire’s great wines, along with wines from Rennie Estates and cheese from Cheesy Guys. To ensure you can get the cheese you want when you want it, contact them in advance of your trip. Malivoire has my favourite wine this summer–Lady Bug Pink–perfect for sipping by the pool.

If you want views, just turn right on Cherry Avenue and enjoy all the vineyards in this area. Calamus, located in the Balls Falls area, has been serving a pizza and wine combo for $35.00 that is also something you should consider, but also the seating areas at Featherstone (which is on the porch) and Kacaba (which often has Zooma Caterers providing food) are nice. My husband’s favourite wine here is Kacaba’s Syrah and he would like Kacaba to be able to stay in business.

Closer to Vineland, also consider stopping in at the eclectic The Watering Can, or picking up chocolate croissants or other baked goods at de la Terre. There is also amazing takeout at Just Cooking Rustic Italian

For an unusual treat, consider visiting Dynamic Daylilies out near the QEW.  And if you need a little more nature before heading back into shopping, drive to the end of Victoria Avenue at Lake Ontario and visit the Millennium Forest on the same property as Foreign Affair. They have many dozens of varieties of trees, including a coveted tulip tree and cucumber tree.

Less than 15 minutes from Hildreth

These are some of my favourite wineries of Jordan:

The patios at Honsberger and DiProfio are great. The wine and atmosphere at Sue-Ann Staff are superb. In this area, also consider curbside pick-up at Upper Canada Cheese Company, and/or a stroll through the shops in Jordan Village

Total estimated time: 2-3 hours, depending upon the number of stops you make.

Segment 5: 13th Street Winery

At the outer edge of wineries in the region is the grand 13th Street Winery on Fourth Avenue. 13th Street is a must-stop for anyone taking a trip to wine country, not only because they serve great wine, but also they have the best butter tarts in the land, along with a lot of other really great baked goods. Be sure to stroll the grounds and enjoy their art installation and gallery. 

Total estimated time: 30 minutes.

Segment 6: Sausage!

From 13th Street, you will find your way back to the QEW, headed back toward Toronto. In Grimsby, (about 15 minutes down the road) get off at Fifty Road, turn right and pull into the 50 Point Market. There, pick up all the meat your heart desires. They are known for the widest variety of sausages in the region.  

Total estimated time: 15 minutes.

Segment 7: Head Home and Tell Us Your Story

In just a few hours, you possibly visited 10 places and helped dozens of families. And, you came home with things you could use and enjoy. Now it is time to share your experience. Please go to The Big Spend and share what you did, and/or share the experience on Facebook, Twitter and/or here on LinkedIn using #thebigspend or @thebigspend.

Thank you for your time and good luck!

-Bonni Titgemeyer CEBS, SPHR, CHRL, SHRM-SCP is a Human Resources Consultant living on The Bench in Niagara region.