Tag Archives: small-business

It’s a Mad World! View from a Carleton Place Bench

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Yesterday when I drove down Bridge Street in Carleton Place I saw a woman sitting on a bench in front of Capital Optical staring at Ballygiblin’s across the street. It was 11 am and I knew she had been a regular as I had talked to her the night the restaurant closed.

Saturday night she told me she shared her newspaper with Derek each morning and at closing Sherry faithfully gave her a “night night”. I had asked her where she was going to go when they closed and she told me she would find somewhere else. But seeing her sit on that bench yesterday morning looking across the street told me she had not. I could have stopped to talk to her, but decided to allow her to mourn in peace.

The faithful customer can lose out when a business closes. Most times the customer does not realize small business owners are becoming discouraged and exasperated- because they never tell you. Caught in a perfect storm of a bad economy, and little traffic, local independent businesses are having a tough time keeping afloat. It doesn’t take a professional to realize that any small business adds character to any street, and banks and chains dull it. A failure to any small town would be 10 windows in a row that look the very same.

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The shoppers of Carleton Place have to realize that by standing up and being counted they have the power to turn Bridge Street around. As a consumer you can always choose where you shop and, if you don’t want another box store in your area, then support mom and pop down the street. It’s the small, independent businesses that makes your town and its various neighborhoods different. I could go on for hours about the plight of small business in our town, but I am sure you have heard enough of it from me. You’re only going to hear the same kind of language over and over again. It’s kind of a fatalistic despair, but the math is quite simple.

A restaurant at best might make a 15 percent profit, or 18 percent if it’s wildly successful. There are a lot of expenses connected with running an eatery: labor, food, insurance, taxes, and much more. On the other side of the fence McDonald’s can afford its rent easily and has vast resources. Their restaurants don’t take up much space, has minute food costs, and does a ton of take-out business. Remember, it sells food all day long, and not just for a few hours in the afternoon and evening.

We have to bang this into our heads that the quality of  any neighborhood drives up the value of property, and the fundamental driver of neighborhood quality is a great small business. That would be the same small-business owners like Derek Levesque who have put their sweat equity and life savings into keeping these businesses afloat. The late Okilman’s store in Carleton Place was once called the pioneer store in the Ottawa Journal in 1965 after a fire. I say these present day store owners and restaurants are also pioneers in this community, and something has to be done to support them. I never want to see someone looking at an empty storefront from a bench again.

“I find it hard to tell you
I find it hard to take
When people run in circles
It’s a very, very mad world, mad world.”

Update- Saw Derek on Bridge Street today and he told me saw the woman too and invited her in while they were cleaning up. Good people.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

The Willy Wonka Blues of Carleton Place

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“St. James Anglican Church in Carleton Place is hoping to proceed with the sale of its old parish hall to the McKeen family, owners of Manitoulin Chocolate Works.“It’s a conditional sale, which hinges on a severance and zoning change,” Rev. David Andrew told the Canadian Gazette in an interview last week.” –Tara Gesner – Carleton Place Canadian Gazette

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Last night it was St. James Anglican Church versus the town of Carleton Place at our town hall. For a few hours the pros and cons of having Manitoulin Chocolate Works open in Carleton Place were debated. Some words were heated, and some made no sense. In the end no decision was made. Personally, I felt like it was hopeless for the purveyors of exceptional hand made chocolates to bring their business to town and restore Elliot Hall.

What I don’t seem to get is why we just can’t bend over backwards sometimes for progress in Carleton Place. It’s not the first time this has happened, and it won’t be the last.  Of course I understand about traffic and neighbourhood quality. Some suggest it would be a death knell to the local neighbourhood with new increased commercial traffic. But doesn’t that in effect slow or completely stop the inevitable and necessary growth we need? If Carleton Place does not have the innovation and challenge, we will not only lose future financial gain, we will lose our brightest and best to larger communities for better opportunities.

To withstand economic forces that are compressing our economic growth in small towns we have to fight hard for our community to prosper. If we turn away innovative entrepreneurs like Manitoulin Chocolate Works it says a lot to other companies that might consider coming to Carleton Place. Some individuals say “we made our life here because of its quaintness and tranquility“. That’s fine, but, if you do not accept new business here, it will die a slow death, and then you won’t have to argue over the amount of spaces for cars ( 7 )  or those needed for bicycles (8)— or whether an area should be zoned for commercial.

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Carleton Place is losing their retail base to big-box stores less than 30 minutes away and now we could be rescued in part by attracting inventive entrepreneurs. We have a dying downtown, and empty manufacturing plants that nobody wants. If everyone could get over their differences and work together we might finally realize that small specialty businesses are in fact the key drivers of future wealth and employment in our economy.

It’s a sad state of affairs– but either except change in Carleton Place or watch your towns dollars go elsewhere. I hate to be Darwinian or melodramtic, but it’s either compete or die. Think about it.

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Photos by Linda Seccaspina

If you want to now some history about that area and the different commercial  and non commercial places of Bell Street and area read here.

Buy Linda Secaspina’s Books— Flashbacks of Little Miss Flash Cadilac– Tilting the Kilt-Vintage Whispers of Carleton Place and 4 others on Amazon or Amazon Canada or Wisteria at 62 Bridge Street in Carleton Place

Snapshots of Small Town Main Street — What Makes a Newspaper Humm? – Zoomer

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Snapshots of Small Town Main Street — What Makes a Newspaper Humm? – Zoomer.

Snapshots of Small Town Main Street — Once Upon a Child – Zoomer

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Snapshots of Small Town Main Street — Once Upon a Child – Zoomer.