Jackie Veinotte’s days behind the cash register are numbered.
Her business is the latest casualty in the number of small businesses closing in Fredericton’s downtown core. Her last day is next Saturday after nearly three decades at Things, The Hippie Boutique.
“When it became legal, everyone jumped into the pond. Then you have JD Irving and Circle K is selling pipes, it’s a sign of the times,” explains Veinotte, who says her stores livelihood went up in smoke when marijuana was legalized.
“We had a surge, but when it dropped it dropped terribly fast to the point where you just can’t make a living at it anymore.”
Customers have recently been filing into the Head Shop, cashing in on a store closing sale of 50 per cent off.
“I was really surprised when I saw that it was closing, but I was also surprised when Read’s was closing and the Owl’s Nest,” explains Jill Girourad, a longtime customer at the store.
It’s been a perfect storm of misfortune leading to the crop of closures. A tough year of construction, a spring flood that wreaked havoc on the downtown core, and limited parking all come into play.
The closures aren’t impacting only retail stores. There’s a growing number of restaurants in Fredericton’s downtown core sporting a “closed until further notice” sign in their windows.
McGinnis Landing closed during the holidays, and earlier this week so did King Street Ale House after more than a decade in the business.
“It just seemed like the right thing to do, to honour their gift cards and help those folks out. They’ve got enough on their plate, they don’t need to be worrying about that,” says Andrew Dawson, the owner of Brewbakers and landlord to the Ale House.
There’s a host of reasons why businesses are feeling the pinch, according to the Fredericton Chamber of Commerce.
“The increases in WorkSafe, as of Jan. 1, an increase in CPP, we’ve had minimum wage increases, this past year we’ve had the addition of the family holiday,” adds Krista Ross, the CEO of the organization.
There is, however, some optimism on the horizon. Two new office complexes are planned for the downtown core. It’s hoped the influx of people will also bring a much-needed influx of cash into the downtown core.
Meantime, some of the dining space at the Ale House will be used by Brewbakers and the owner is tossing around a few ideas for the back bar area, like a pop-up bar every Friday night.