Second to None

My first year living in Fernie, I worked several jobs. One of the jobs I had was as a babysitter. One of my babysitting gigs was at a rental condo on the ski hill for a couple, Tom and Sara, who had one young child. I babysat while they skied. When the day was over, Tom offered me a ride into town, as he was heading there to get some groceries anyway. I was grateful and accepted. During the drive, I learned that Tom and Sara had been coming to Fernie for seven years. He was a skier, she was a snowboarder (but their marriage seemed happy enough anyway). I also learned they shared a passion for coffee (perhaps this made up for any divisiveness caused by their preferred methods for quickly getting to the bottom of mountains). Tom asked me where the best place in town was for coffee. I had no idea as I don’t drink coffee. I did know the coffee shops though and suggested a few places on Second Ave. 

“Where’s Second Ave?” Tom asked.

“Oh. It’s the main street in Fernie.”

“You mean along the highway?”

Turns out Tom and Sara thought the strip of highway through town was Fernie’s main street. They had no idea that Second Ave existed. Tom was shocked to hear there were coffee shops, gear shops, and even another grocery store. He dropped me off on Second Ave and went exploring while I went home.

I love Second Ave. The idea that someone could visit Fernie for seven years and never know about this vibrant, yet old-fashioned, Main Street blows my mind. Now, having lived here for ten years, my love of Second Ave is even deeper. A walk down Second Ave (or Main Street, or Victoria Avenue, or whatever one chooses to call it) usually means bumping into friends I’ve gotten to know over the years. Many of the businesses are still there, while there are also lots new since my arrival. Theatres have been renovated, movie rental shops have turned into artisan chocolate shops, and bagels have made their mark. Sure, the highway has its own gems. Yamagoya, Fernie Pizza and Pasta, and The Curry Bowl just to name a few. In addition to restaurants, the highway is home to flyfishing shops and recreation facilities like the arena, the curling club, and the Community Centre. Second Ave just seems like the heart of Fernie to me. Fernie wouldn’t be Fernie without it.

After walking home, I told my roommates about Tom and Sara. They were flabbergasted too and we talked about how so many small towns have watched their Main Streets evaporate after chain discount-stores set up on town outskirts. We talked about our favourite shops on Second Ave and some of our funny “small world” stories that occurred walking along Second Avenue. One roommate talked about Second Ave’s magic ability to present people you are thinking about. She was amazed by the number of times she would see someone and her or the other person would shout, “Hey! I was just talking about you.”

The next day, I was doing just that – walking along Second Avenue, when I saw Sara walking toward me, with a local coffee shop cup in hand.

“Adam – this place is amazing! Tom is taking care of the baby. He told me I had to come in town and check out this street.”

“Yes,” I answered, “it’s pretty awesome.”