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Due to COVID-19 lockdown, Pickering Markets closing its doors after nearly 50 years

Click to play video 'Pickering Markets announces they are closing their doors' Pickering Markets announces they are closing their doors
Owners of the popular flea market say with bills adding up to hundreds of thousands of dollars monthly, a second lockdown became too much for them to handle. Frazer Snowdon reports – Dec 29, 2020

The Pickering flea market is shutting down permanently after 47 years in business.

As a result, vendors will have to close or find another means of doing business, much like many others over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The news was a shock to the hundreds of people who have booths inside — like antique seller Cliff Ray.

“The suddenness of it, no one had any indication that this was going to happen,” says Ray, who has run his shop for the past year and half.

The owners made a post on Facebook on Boxing Day, saying the decision was made due to the current health crisis.

“COVID-19 has taken its toll on so many small businesses and we were no exception,” it said in the post.

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Erik Tamm, general manager of Pickering Markets, says after months of cash going out with little money coming in, it wasn’t feasible anymore to continue.

“(The second lockdown) was just the final nail in the coffin,” he said.

“Recovering from another lockdown in this location just wasn’t possible.”

Read more: Consumers will choose as Kingston’s small business owners react to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions

The location is more than 140,000-square-feet in size and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars a month to run. Tamm says they weren’t eligible for any government help, making the situation even harder.

“Even after the first lockdown, we were on the verge of not being able to recover.”

“We’re a small business, we’re a family-owned business. We aren’t a large corporation that has endless pockets,” he says.

Although they agree it was sudden, they say the surprise announcement of another full lockdown caught them off guard.

Now everyone is scrambling to get out, including the owner of King Kabob, Michael Baltzis.

“It’s a little crushing, right? This has been our family legacy for a while. So we have some really, really great customers,” says Baltzis.

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The owner of the food stand says the business has been his family’s bread and butter for the past 30 years. Baltzis says Pickering Markets gave them a break on rent for the first three months.

He says that while the news comes as a surprise, he understands why and says they took care of them.

“I can see management has been doing the best that they can do to keep us going and keep us afloat,” he says.

Pickering Markets was forced to close in March during the first lockdown and reopened in June. The city’s mayor, Dave Ryan, said in a statement the establishment has been a staple in the area.

Read more: Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising coronavirus case counts

“The markets have been an integral part of our business and community landscape for nearly half a century,” Ryan said in the statement.

“It was a vibrant, eclectic, and multicultural destination for countless bargain hunters in the region.”

They even got a break from the City of Pickering on municipal licensing fees, which were reduced by 90 per cent. But the Boxing Day lockdown proved to be too much as the future is still uncertain for thousands of business owners in the region.

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“How do you survive with the unknown. We’re losing hundreds of thousands of dollars a month with no date of when this is going to reopen,” says Tamm.

Click to play video 'Durham Region businesses prepare to move out of red zone and into lockdown' Durham Region businesses prepare to move out of red zone and into lockdown
Durham Region businesses prepare to move out of red zone and into lockdown – Dec 22, 2020

But they say they are open to other options if they present themselves.

“If we can find a new home for it, I would love to give it a second shot,” says the GM.

“I believe in small business and the fact that that is what is being sacrificed is so hard, I want to keep it going.”

The city says they are trying to help find a solution for the hundreds of vendors impacted by the closure. They say they will also reach out to the business to discuss the idea of a new location.

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