In the last two months, a Bargain! Shop and a Budget Rent A Car outlet have left the West End – and they are not the first ones.
“We are always aware when businesses leave,” said Gloria Cardwell-Hoeppner, executive director of the West End BIZ.
With Canadian Tire’s move to St. James two years ago and the recent closing of the Bargain! Shop on Sargent Avenue, there is now no store in the neighbourhood that sells general household goods.
“That is definitely a concern,” said Cardwell-Hoeppner, noting that it limited options for local residents and university students.
“We would like the neighbourhood to be walkable,” she said.
Attracting the customers may be one of the main struggles for neighbourhood businesses. Yves Page, a West End resident, said the options in the neighbourhood were to slim to spend time shopping in it. He would like see more diversity in the neighbourhood.
“There could be more coffee shops and a broader variety shops, not just pawn shops and discount outlets,” he said.
Because he commutes through downtown, Page said he usually does his shopping downtown.
Barry Reykdal manages the JS Furniture and More store on Ellice Avenue. He believes that businesses in the neighbourhood are suffering because the people in the city have a bad perception of the place.
“I’ve been working here for 11 years and I have never seen a worse neighbourhood,” Reykdal said.
He said his particular business suffers because the neighbourhood doesn’t have the population that purchases their products.
Reykdal believes people are largely deterred from coming and shopping in the West End because the neighbourhood has, in his opinion, a justified reputation for crime.
But there are managers who enjoy operating in the West End. Ken Kaldurlyk manages the Open Door Press on Agnes Street.
“This neighbourhood is like any other,” he said, but he added that the Open Door Press doesn’t operate in the same way as retailers.
“We don’t do a lot of walk in business,” he said, pointing out that these companies may be impacted more by the specific neighbourhood.
Cardwell-Hoeppner said that despite the businesses that are leaving, there are 15 businesses scheduled to move into the neighbourhood in the next six months.
The BIZ hopes to attract more people to the West End by promoting it as an “international village,” she said, meaning that both Ellice and Sargent Avenues are to have businesses that reflect the ethnic diversity of the community.
Reykdal is unconvinced that community groups like the West End BIZ or the Spence Neighbourhood Association can make a change in the community.
“You can talk till you’re blue in the face, it’s not going to change the atmosphere here,” he said.
Cardwell-Hoeppner remains optimistic about the West End’s future.
“We want people to be clamoring to get into this neighbourhood. We want the West End to be a place to set up shop,” she said.
Published in Volume 63, Number 24 of The Uniter (March 19, 2009)