The signs that the economic tsunami has hit the Beach are everywhere.
Empty storefronts along the Queen Street East strip are littered with “for rent” and “for lease” signs.
Mournful notes from former business owners are taped to inside windows, thanking loyal customers for their support.
One, in the window of a women’s apparel store that closed after 16 years, exhorts residents “to SHOP LOCAL. The small business owners need your support more than ever.”
Cathy Norman, former owner of Wisteria Way and the author of the goodbye note, says bad weather, a lack of parking and high rent contributed to the downfall of her business. The recession created the perfect storm.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes in Beaches’ businesses over the years, but this is the worst,” says shoe retailer Janice Burden. Business at her shoe store, Nature’s Footwear, was down 40 per cent in February.
“It’s actually scary out there,” she says, referring to the numerous rental and lease signs.
Deborah Etsten, executive director of the Beach Business Improvement Area, noted that some retailers don’t traditionally survive winter, when business is as bleak as the surrounding landscape.
“But this year, the recession has hit even harder. We do have a lot of empty storefronts.”
“The reality is, how the main street goes in these areas, so goes the rest of the neighbourhood,” John Kiru, executive director of the Toronto Association of Business Improvement Areas said,
Unoccupied retail strips aren’t deemed to be as safe, he says.
“In the long run, if those stores close, and there are vacancies on that strip, the value of their homes will reflect that.”