Some business owners blame weekend road closures, others say rent hikes or a lack of other retail businesses are what forced them out of central Hespeler
There has been an increase in business closures in the village of Hespeler over the past four months, two of which are expected to leave by the end of July.
Art-Z-Gal Interiors and Ariatech Computers are moving out of town to new premises after seeing fewer pedestrians bringing customers to their doors.
Ariatech Computers has been in the village for over a decade. Fareid Ahmadi, owner of the computer store, says the expansion of the road closure by the BIA this year has affected his business. Its busiest times are the weekends, which is now when closing takes place.
“It benefits some stores but not all. It has a detrimental effect on businesses like mine,” Ahmadi said.
Last year, the Hespeler Village BIA only closed the street for one day for the city’s patio program. Now they have extended it to three days to try to attract more customers to the village.
It causes too much traffic with the way the road is diverted, Ahmadi said.
The ZAC’s three-day road closure closes downtown Queen Street, creating a convoluted detour that is often congested with traffic to and from the market on Friday nights.
“I’ve been here for 13 years and in the past few months four or five businesses have closed.”
Ahmadi said Ariatech Computers was not notified of the shutdown or extended shutdown until a large sign was put up on the street.
“A three-day closure is unfair,” he said.
“The BIA should communicate with the companies. We are not 100 stores, we are 25 stores or less. They should ask companies what we want.
Clifford Vanclief, who volunteers as president of the Hespeler Village BIA and owner of The Hub Bicycle Shop, said the local BIA sent out email notifications ahead of planning for the closures and the town also sent notices. information kits to educate owners.
“The BIA has not brought any companies to the board to raise concerns at our monthly meetings.”
“Some have quoted higher rents. Each situation is unique. The BIA is willing to work with each company if faced with challenges related to the road closure. »
Vanclief also said the BIA hadn’t noticed an increase in businesses leaving the village of Hespeler in recent months, but said high rent costs could be to blame as well as businesses at the looking for better opportunities.
“Downtown is becoming a more attractive destination for people to visit and browse. Our street closures and the return of the Hespeler Village Market have brought down hundreds every week. »
A new village shop moving in a few weeks, Art-Z-Gal Interiors, said the BIA road closure had no impact on its move.
Cindy Avila, ran the home decor store for nearly three years, and started it knowing it was her dream job.
“It’s so nice to see people here happy and joyful. It was a very good experience. I’m glad this happened before I left because after the loneliness of COVID it was nice to see this.
The store is moving to a new location on July 16, the location of which has yet to be announced.
“I feel like we don’t have enough retail space. There are too many services here for it to become a destination.
The store grew from its first to second year, then the pandemic kept people locked in and its business struggled.
During COVID, his landlord gave him six months free rent because he was able to get half of it through government funding.
Then, when things started to get back to normal, bad press came out about the owner of a local restaurant that affected his business. Popular sandwich shop Papou’s Place closed its Hespeler location in February and the Village Eatery closed this spring, with both owners citing high rents as the main culprit.
“There was a very bad press on the city center. In fact, people would come to my store and ask me how much I paid for rent and if my landlord was one of the bad guys and that was from February to April. It was just incredibly slow,” Avila said.
Art-Z-Gal did a pop-up shop in the Cambridge shopping center which was more successful in a week than in a whole year.
“I’m moving on and hopefully getting more exposure.”
Dave Olesen, owner of Art-Z-Gal and a few other local properties, was until recently a volunteer board member of the Hespeler Village BIA.
“I haven’t raised rents in over three years,” he said. “She really did her best to try her luck. Some people just open their doors and expect people to flock, but Cindy was not one of them. She worked hard to be successful, but she doesn’t seem just not able to do it.
Olesen doesn’t think the three-day shutdown had any more impact than the one-day shutdown last year.
“Businesses have come and gone in the 30 years I’ve been here. Hespeler tends to be a business incubator due to our small store footprint and lower rents, we tend to attract a lot of startups here. And with any startup, some of them fail.
Olesen knows that some landlords have had to increase their rents in recent years and knows that it can be difficult for businesses, especially new ones, which is why he has never raised rent in the last three years, even though everything else has gone up in price.
“Our insurance rates have gone up, our taxes have gone up, our utilities and everything else has gone up, so rents have to go up to compensate for that. Maintaining these old buildings is also expensive,” Olesen said.
“The last thing landlords want are empty buildings. It’s not good for downtown and it’s not good for us.
Hespeler Village has changed in recent years with the construction of new condominiums, taking up space where old stores used to be.
To keep up with the changes, Vanclief’s 18-year-old business, The Hub, had to adapt, taking advantage of local events, doing location market research, networking with other businesses for co-marketing and ensuring that their opening hours coincide with the lifestyle of potential customers.
“We’ve had some changes in the village and that poses challenges for businesses,” Vanclief said.