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.
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