THESE days downtown Squamish is really a very down downtown. In less than a year, I saw two eating places, one coffee shop with a church, an appliance wholesaler, a merchandize store, and a start-up business support enterprise close their doors. And these were just businesses closed in downtown. For a small town this is a significant loss. Who’s next?
For two years since I moved here, Cleveland Ave is one of my favorite streets to do my strolling and coffee breaks. My long stroll up and down Cleveland is a nostalgic walk back in time to recall the simple life of a small town that I once lived. Along this memory lane of mine I’ve made some friends with local store owners and their employees. They’re super friendly, courteous, and always ready to talk with you. I love their smiles and optimism, which they flash despite the challenging way they run their businesses on any given day.
These small business folks are the frontline ambassadors of Squamish to outside visitors when they drive into downtown. I had witnessed their professional, friendly and courteous hospitality extended to tourists in the last two years. They did a fantastic job because they carry the spirit of true entrepreneurship that most of us seldom appreciate as their contribution to Squamish. I respect that they keep hanging in there for their families and children.
In recent months, the fame of Squamish has spread all over the world. Squamish has been named one of the top places of tourist attraction and even hailed as the No. 1 boom town in BC. To our municipal government and tourism, construction, hotel and real estate sectors, the global recognition and praise of Squamish must be a windfall of the century. I have a question: “Really?”
So far I haven’t seen any obvious economic or job benefit coming from our new-found international fame except there are more speedy cars on the highway going up to Whistler and not detouring here.. So far I haven’t seen any rise in the number of tourists flooding Cleveland Ave to give downtown an economic boost. It seems Squamish has got the hype it deserves but not the jackpot it needs.
So the obvious question is: If Squamish is experiencing an boom, why did stores in downtown close fast and furious in recent months?
First, I must say each of the stores closed had its own story. However, I heard the chief cause for most of the closures is because of the ridiculous doubling of rent by landlords that made operating the store impossible. If this were true, those landlords must be ignorant of the actual economic state of Squamish. So far I have yet to see tourists pouring into downtown to justify a huge hike in rent.
I’m surprised the rocket scientists we elected to the City didn’t seem to notice downtown is dwindling and the increased empty stores are mocking the alleged boom of Squamish. I would appreciate the City to do something perhaps to have an open dialogue with the landlords to educate them on the practicality of affordable rent before they chase all their tenants away. I believe sensible landlords are willing to listen.
Finally, if the dwindling of downtown businesses and stores persists, I won’t be surprised if we have to promote our ghostly downtown as a permanent film location to Hollywood. Perhaps this may not be a bad thing. Perhaps this may be the boom that downtown is waiting for. I’m just kidding.