A Kelowna small business owner say the City of Kelowna is not doing enough to help small businesses succeed in the downtown core and worries she may have to close her business in a few months.
Danielle Cross, owner of Buvez, said the city, who she rents her unit from, has been negligent in replacing her HVAC ststem, causing harsh working conditions; continuous construction has been allowed during busy season, which has given customers limited areas to park; multiple events located near or at city parks has driven potential customers to the lakefront, keeping people away from downtown to avoid the traffic. All of which have cost her thousands of dollars.
“Clearly they want me out. I don’t know why, but you don’t treat a tenant like this unless you are trying to get them to leave,” Cross wrote in an email, also stating that the city employee denied that they want her out.
She said she doesn’t think she will last much longer than a few months.
Mike Olsen, managing property manager for the City of Kelowna said he was surprised their was a story being written about this and views the landlord-tenant relation as a non-issue. He said the city is reaching out to Cross for a meeting.
The sommelier and entrepreneur said she considered the 315 Lawrence Ave. unit for three years before renting it. Now that the self-invested business is on its way out, she reflected on the City of Kelowna’s commitment to small businesses.
“Kelowna is a black hole for small- to medium-sized enterprises,” Cross said, “Tell me how they actually support (SMEs)?”
She said construction on the Chapman Parkade cost her approximately $5,000 in revenue over Pride weekend, as traffic was diverted from her storefront because of the limited parking. She said she understands construction needs to happen, but perhaps it should wait until shoulder season.
“They’re either clueless or ignorant,” Cross said, claiming she never received notice of the construction.
Robert Fine, director of business and entrepreneurial development could not be reached for comment.
Larry Smith, owner of Blue Gator Bar and Grill, said 80 per cent of business is generated at night, and explained he has no problem with the nearby construction.
“I would be more affected than anybody else,” he said. “They’ve been pretty good.”
Downtown Kelowna’s executive director Mark Burley said construction is “inconvenient,” especially during summer time, but “they are doing everything they can” to make sure problems are minimal and growth continues.
Pulp Fiction owner Max Sloam said construction isn’t affecting his business that much. For Sloam, the largest detriment to his business is the Bernard-centric mentality and the larger chain restaurants that are entering the downtown core.
“They seem to put most of their energy into Bernard,” said Sloam, claiming the city tends to leave out the side streets.
Sloam also said that much of his lost revenue can be attributed to the likes of Tim Hortons and other chain restaurants that have taken over part of downtown. He said Kelowna should consider the overall culture of downtown and implement a model similar to Nelson, B.C.
Most shops in Nelson’s downtown are “ma and pa” shops because that’s what their residents are interested in, said Dianna Ducs, executiver director at Tourism Nelson.”Those are the stores that do well here.”
“By keeping the locals engaged in the community … you will see your community thrive,” she said.
Ducs said there are a few fast food chains in the outskirts of downtown, but none that intrude on the boutique experience Nelsoners have grown to love. Residents, she said, acknowledge that allowing big chains into the downtown can “diminish a community.”
“Don’t lose the heart,” Ducs said. “You’ll never get it back.”
Ducs said Nelson has a heritage working group that enforces regulations on what signs can and cannot due to the buildings in downtown. “It’s a simple way of keeping (chains) away,” she said, referring to a Starbucks withdrawing from a building lease because of Nelson’s restrictions.
The heritage working group is a committee that is run by city council. Kelowna has a similar progam called the heritage advisory committee, but they could not be reached for comment.
“If we are going to retain the flavour of downtown (the city) should take a second look at that,” Sloam said.
For Cross, the buildup of multiple issues has caused her to begin focusing her efforts on what’s next. She said she’s proud that Buvez lasted two years but, every day is looking more and more grave.
“I don’t trust (the city) at this point,” she said. “They really hurt us.”