Mall tenants weigh their options
Businesses may close or seek new space elsewhere
By: Viola Pruss
| Posted: Tuesday, Mar 04, 2014 04:30 pm
The longest-running tenant of Grandin Park Plaza is moving out.
For years, John Volorney kept his business, Alberta Radio & TV, open despite many others closing around him. Now he’s received a notice to move out within 60 days. On April 30, Vancouver-based management company Amacon is closing the mall for possible redevelopment.
Volorney opened his electronics repair shop in 1973. Since then he’s often changed locations inside the building but, thanks to a steady customer base, he never had to close shop. That will change now.
“I suppose I would have liked to get another year out of it,” he said.
The long, quiet hallway running through the centre of the mall has long resembled a ghost town rather than a once-busy shopping mecca. A few shops held down the fort over the past years. But the dim lights protruding from their storefronts can hardly distract from the sight of the vacant storefronts all around them.
Before the 1980s Grandin Park Plaza was the place to be, said Volorney. But with highway development in and around the city, customer numbers steadily declined. This slowdown prompted the departure of some businesses, which weren’t replaced, he said.
“Anybody that wanted to come in the last few years they basically said no, because we are going to redevelop,” he said. “That has been going on for years and years and years. So meanwhile it was getting emptier and emptier.”
The few businesses remaining in the mall are now considering closing or finding a new home. Volorney might open another shop in the city, but maybe it’s also time to retire, he said.
Alex and Wendy Cheung, the owners of Island Jewellery next door, opened their jewelry and goldsmith store in 1994. The Hong Kong natives have already made up their minds.
Wendy said her husband may continue his work somewhere else. But after all this time, they won’t be looking for a new location and are now selling out their inventory.
“We have been in this business for a long time so we don’t want to open in a different location,” she said. “We will miss our customers but there’s nothing we can do.”
Other business owners are more worried about their 60-day notice.
Kabul Tailoring owners Nasir and Malaka Qaderi said they’ve owned their tailoring business since 2001, and Malaka has worked there for 25 years. They want to stay in the community because of a strong customer base but worry they may have to close if they can’t find a more affordable location.
Nasir said they now pay about $12 per square foot at the mall. Other places in the city charge between $20 and $30, he said.
“We are still looking but it’s difficult. The rent is simply too high,” said Nasir. “We get a reasonable price here but when we go out and look, rent is expensive.”
Non-profits seek space
Not-for-profits located in the mall will also be looking for new homes.
The SHAVA Bookstore, run by volunteers with the Sturgeon Hospital Auxiliary Volunteer Association, was closed on Monday and Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.
But officials with the Campbell Park Bingo Association are already asking for anyone to come forward with ideas or offers for new space.
The local bingo hall is a not-for-profit organization located inside the mall. All its profits go to charities around the city that are members of the bingo associations, such as the St. Albert 50+ Club and the St. Albert Kinsmen.
If the hall closes, these charities will lose a major source for funds and regular income, said hall manager Lesley Gierulski.
“What it will do to the programs in St. Albert is going to be devastating if we don’t find a place,” she said. “We’ve got 40-something non-profit groups that can’t go raise money in Edmonton due to gaming commission rules … so this is really their only option.”
The hall has already contacted a number of leasing agents and the city for help, she added. The association now uses 15,000 square feet of space but could do with half the size, she said.
“St. Albert is a nice place to live but part of what makes it a nice place to live is because of the programs offered in the city,” she said “And people don’t realize that bingo has a lot to do with that.”