With the intersection torn up for two weeks, we checked in with some nearby retailers to see how they’re coping.
On Monday, July 9, construction crews began ripping up the corner of Queen and Spadina, replacing the tracks to accommodate a new fleet of streetcars due for service in 2014. With the effects of the two-week-long construction radiating out in all four directions for blocks, we checked in with a few of the neighbouhood’s retailers to see how they were coping.
Moog Audio (442 Queen St. W) experienced a steep decline in business from the get-go. “Right away on Monday—I don’t have the exact numbers, but I would say [we lost] at least fifty per cent,” says co-owner Francis Delage. For many Moog customers, the major deterrent has been the lack of parking, given the size of their purchases. That’s especially true for their rental department, which provides the sound reinforcement for many big events across the city. “But people will figure out a way if they need something for rental,” says Delage. “I think that people are pushing purchases [back] for two weeks, or purchasing online, hopefully all through our store.”
For being right in the thick of things, business at Getoutside (437 Queen St. W.) has surprisingly been up and down, with no real discernible pattern. “It’s really hard to say. Monday we were really busy—I don’t think people realized what was happening,” says manager Erin Buckle. “People were coming in probably a little confused, maybe even coming in just to beat the noise on the street. Tuesday was a little slower, but Wednesday night was insane in here.” While they’ve done their best to work around the situation and plan ahead—the road closures have made for some tricky logistics with suppliers—they were unaware of just how massive the disruption was going to be. “We did have advance notice, I just don’t think we knew the magnitude of what would actually happen,” says Buckle. “We didn’t know the scale.”
Dennis Isakov at LA Fabrics (495 Queen St. W.) echoes the sentiment. “I didn’t know it was going to be this massive,” he says. “It’s definitely worse than I assumed.” He’s also noticed a significant drop in sales. “Huge difference, massive, no traffic, no walk-by clients and even regular clients want to push it off,” he says, “We depend heavily on foot traffic. But even regulars are having a problem getting down—driving, the traffic, they can’t park on the street. It’s heavy bags and they need cars.”
For Peter Levalle, assistant manager at clothing store Next Door (433 Queen St. W.), keeping customers happy in a less-than-ideal situation has been a priority. “We can’t really keep the doors open because it’s really dusty and it’s loud,” he says. “I found that a lot of customers complained because it was really loud—they were smashing the cement right in front of the store. So a lot of people would come in, hear it, and walk right back out.” Weekday business had been steady at the shop, mostly thanks to those who work in the area. “Right now, everybody is forced to be down here—they work around here.”
Goorin Bros. (320 Queen St. W.), the hat-makers from San Francisco who only a month and a half ago opened their first Toronto location, are still trying to develop recognition for their brand. “We’re a new shop, so we’re still trying to become that destination spot, we’re still trying to make people aware of our brand and where we’re from,” says store manager Jen Thorn, “so it kind of put a damper on us a little bit because now people are not travelling and there’s not as much foot traffic around here. In our shop on a regular Saturday, it would just be waves of people and we haven’t really had that today.”
As much as the construction itself is an obstacle, there are also literal barriers for potential customers, who have been steering clear of the area completely. “I even had phone call this week where somebody asked if we could ship them a hat…and it was local,” says Thorn.
Thorn has been applying some creative marketing to help moderate the situation. “We have an event happening every Thursday evening and we call it Thirsty Thursdays. We give away free drinks and 15% off of hats and stuff like that,” she says. “That had already been happening, and on this Thursday, we had three musicians playing out front of our shop, which was really awesome for business. That caused a lot of people to stop and look in and see what we were doing. But at the same time, I can’t do that every day.”
For one neighbourhood business, the construction has actually helped them increase their business. “We’re starting to notice a little bit more of a diversion coming from north and south—it’s rerouted a little bit more traffic, some new faces we haven’t seen before,” says Jay Repovz of long-term pop-up eatery Come and Get It. Even though the barriers have been diverting the lunchtime crowd through their doors, Repovz still looks forward to the project’s end. “There’s the dust we’re mopping up five times more a day,” he says.
However much of a hassle it may be, and while the economic impact is certainly significant, everyone we spoke to has maintained a positive outlook, acknowledging that the construction is a temporary and rather necessary nuisance. As LA Fabrics’ Isakov put it: “What can you really do?”