Road Trip to St. Jacobs

Road Trip to St. Jacobs

Go ahead and book your return trip. Once you’ve been to St. Jacobs, Ontario, you’re certain to go back!

“It’s a dog’s world” takes on a whole new meaning in the village of St. Jacobs, Ontario,an hour from Toronto, and just north of Kitchener-Waterloo.

If you are headed here for the day, bring your four-legged friend. St. Jacobs Village is a pedestrian-friendly/dog-friendly relaxed world of specialty shops, sumptuous all-style food eateries, unique one-of-a-kind shopping and quality theatre.

The village’s many picturesque walking trails are also explored by thousands of summer visitors each year. Dogs and their owners frequent the non-fenced off-leash dog park by Conestoga River. You can park for free and explore the Health Valley Trail or the Mill Race Trail. The Mill Race also features the St. Jacobs Viaduct and the 1890s Railway Bridge, where period TV show Murdoch Mysteries is filmed.

Well-behaved dogs are welcomed not only on these trails but also in shops, cafés, breweries and bars. Many storefront windows feature the familiar “Two Legs or Four Come on Through Our Door” sign.

After exploring the trails, why not grab a drink and a tasty nibble? Block 3 Brewery is very close to the trails, and many people bring their dogs to the patio for a bowl of water, plus some popular summer-style micro craft brews like German lager Hollinger Helles or flagship beer King St. Saison.

Block 3 has offered live music in the past. Check their website for the latest updates

Across from B3, Those Pizza Guys (former brewery food truck vendor) has set up a cool side-street storefront featuring Neapolitan thin-crust, wood-smoked pizza and a cozy dog-friendly patio. For those preferring a java jolt, check out Eco Cafe Village roasters, which features a robust collection of coffee and treats.

A butcher block from St. Jacobs Antique Market.  Image by Coral Andrews

Along the main street, you can sense the simpler culture of the Mennonites who made St. Jacobs home. They are a familiar sight from dawn to dusk. Waterloo Region is still the place to find the largest population of Old Order Mennonites in Canada. The Mennonite heritage lives on today, from traditional weddings to kids in straw hats on bikes pedalling along the village sidewalks, or horse-drawn buggies clip-clopping along the main thoroughfare.

In the heart of the village, beside the old post office, The Mennonite Story Interpretive Centre shares the history, culture and religion of these peaceful settlers through insightful multimedia displays, exhibits and presentations, including farming, quilting and handcrafted furniture.

To further enrich your inner history buff, take a horse-drawn tour, check out the Waterloo Central heritage railway, with its theme rides, or marvel at the full-scale 1950s model railway.

“When people come here, it is an experience,” notes Rhonda Piccott of speciality tea haven Tea, Earth & Sky. The store showcases an eye-catching centre stair railing that almost resembles a mystical metal animal, from local artisans St. Jacobs Wrought Iron, which adds to the spiritual vibe of the store.

TES wrought iron centrepiece

“People make a point of enjoying St. Jacobs. It’s part of their plan, and part of their year, to one extent or another. For many, it’s definitely a lifestyle,” she says. “It is not so much about the tourists, but the continuity of the people who keep coming back. It is based on these moments of coming in, connecting with people and creating a new experience to share that you may reflect on in the days ahead and find joy.” This sentiment echoes the “namaste” quote above the store’s front door: “To share a moment you may reflect on in the days ahead and find joy.”

“That is what this business is all about and that is pretty much what every business is about on all five blocks,” says Piccott. Don’t be surprised if you end up on a first-name basis with these amicable shopkeepers while looking for one-of-a-kind curios, as visitors typically enjoy the Cheers vibe of vendors as they mingle from shop to shop.

Artisans abound in St. Jacobs, from original pottery and weaving at the Silos Shops to handcrafted brooms made on-site at Hamel’s Brooms, once the home of John Martin’s Auld Blacksmith Shoppe.

New addition Kultrun Market sells fair trade custom clothing andjewelry, while Taste is like the United Nations of condiments—all sauces are stocked from mild to very, very hot, including popular brand Marie Sharpe.

Angel Treasures sparklee shelves

Angel Treasures is another all-season destination shop, with its unique look of “all things angel,” featuring a treasure trove of angel-themed gifts and mementoes, such as oracle cards, ornaments, mugs, coins and jewelry. This little store showcases shelves of petite wooden cherubs, elegant angel figurines and beautiful memorial keepsakes, including heartfeltlockets for pets. 

Across from Angel Treasures is Toy Soup, another popular spot. This magical shop, located in a century-old church, brings out the child in everyone. 

There’s also a must-stop double storefront perched just a little way up the hill at the corner of King and Hachborn streets, the latter named for Walter Hachborn, the late Home Hardware founder and St. Jacobs visionary. One part of the double store is home to Spoil the Dog, an artisanal dog bakery known for its iced peanut butter doughnuts, peanut butter mini bones, assorted-flavour variety packs, catnip cushions and catnip baguettes.

Greeting cards at Calling Crow Communications, located on the same floor as Spoil the Dog. Photos by Coral Andrews

On the same floor, across from the bakery’s signature diamond dog statue and dazzling array of animal treats, retail pal Calling Crow Communications offers smart giftware, intriguing tomes and custom-designed stationery, including some of the funniest all-occasion cards of all time.

Rochelle owner and Nicole Spoil the Dog

A road trip to St. Jacobs would not be complete without a visit to the year-round farmers’ market or summer theatre. Audiences love the high-calibre productions at St. Jacobs County Playhouse and the more intimate St. Jacobs Schoolhouse Theatre, just off the main street.

Spoil the Dog mini Bark day bones

Both Jacob’s Grill and Stone Crock are prime spots for a pre-theatre lunch, especially if you are one for tasty summer shareables on the patio. Nora Hrazdilek, and her two dogs Eli and Vivi are a familiar sight to many locals on the St Jacobs off leash dog trail all year round. She is a long time resident of St Jacobs and former manager of nearby Stone Crock Bakery. She says tourists and townspeople alike love the bakery’s home-baked rhubarb, strawberry pie squares, mousse cakes, Dutch apple pies and “monster” cookies with an iced coffee or soda. “You can sit on the patio and just watch life go by,” she notes as her collie Eli nuzzles her lap in agreement.

Opposite the bakery, Village Biergarten is a delightful throwback to British pubs, with its spacious multi-level patio. Here, dogs can sip water and lounge happily under huge trees while their owners sample local craft brews, tasty booze-infused cocktails, ciders, wines or non-alcoholic thirst quenchers paired with Mexican-themed street eats. The venue will occasionally be featuring live music in the summer months so dogs can wag their tails to some of the area’s finest musicians.

’Tis an old adage, but there truly is something for everyone in The Village.

Mandy Calling Crow

Well-behaved dogs welcome in The Village of St. Jacobs
1. Spoil The Dog Bakery
2. The Calling Crow
3. Spanner
4. Thatch & Fringe Hair Shop
5. Angel’s Treasures
6. Artefacts
7. Tea Earth & Sky
8. Creative Landscape Depot
9. Kultrun Market
10. Home Hardware
11. Timber Barn
12. Magnolia’s of St. Jacobs
13. Raspberry Boutique
14. The Boutique
15. The Weathered Gate
16. Xclusive Elements
17. EcoCafe
18. Block 3 Brewery
19. The Village Biergarten
20. La Creme
21. The Bath Market

Living Fresh has moved to St Jacobs!

Another new addition to St Jacobs village is Living Fresh flower and plant studio which recently moved from its Queen St South location in downtown Kitchener to a gorgeous new location right in the heart of the Village at 1382 King St. N., St. Jacobs.

Spoil The Dog paw print paper

Coral Andrews
Coral Andrews

Coral Andrews wrote a piece for Harrowsmith in 1977, called “On the Brink of Museumhood,” about St. Jacobs, Ontario, blacksmith John Martin, a man whose tools of the trade were as old as he was. Four decades later, Coral’s byline has appeared in many publications, from local newspaper articles and regional features to national magazines like Saturday Night, Take One, Graffiti and Harrowsmith. “Road Trip to St. Jacobs” is a gloriously unexpected full circle. Visit her website at coralandrews.ca.

[photo credit]
‘Coral : Nadezhda Hope Boginya – Pure Muse Portrait

Posted on Tuesday, June 29th, 2021
Filed under Canada | Travel & Culture
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