After previously announcing it would be forced to shut down, S.W. Welch bookstore in Montreal’s Mile End says it will stay open for another two years.
In a social media post published on Monday, the bookstore’s owner said his landlord had a “change of heart,” and that the two had renegotiated the rent increase. The shop’s landlord, Danny Lavy of Shiller Lavy Realties, was previously asking for a 75 per cent rent hike.
Lavy, the owner of multiple commercial buildings in Montreal, said last week that that increase was long overdue as the bookstore has been locked into a long-term lease with minimal increases. He told Global News that even with that increase, the shop owner’s lease would have still been less than the market value for the area.
“I went up a little and he went down a lot,” said Stephen Welch, the bookshop’s owner. “We have negotiated the lease for two more years, at which point I will retire.”
The used bookstore has been in business for 37 years.
Welch’s business started out in Montreal’s west end, moved to Saint-Laurent Boulevard for 15 years, and has now been on Saint-Viateur Street in the Mile End for about 15 years.
When news got out that the popular neighbourhood business was going to be pushed out, many in the community — including renowned Montreal author and longtime Mile End resident Heather O’Neill — expressed grief about the fate of the small independent book store and shared their concern and support — something that Welch said helped save the business for at least another two years.
Several other Shiller Lavy Realties’ tenants have been pushed out by a rent increase in the Mile End in recent years. The pastry shop next door to S.W. Welch was put out of business in 2019 and remains empty. Le Cagibi cafe was also forced out of its space by a steep rent increase after coming under Shiller Lavy ownership.
Lavy said rent increases need to be demanded due to the high taxes commercial property owners need to pay in the city.
Lavy told Global News the only person who should be called about commercial rent hikes is Mayor Valérie Plante.
Mile End’s borough councillor Marie Plourde said the City of Montreal is trying to get Quebec to address excessive commercial rent increases in Montreal, and that recommendations were recently made to the province.
— with files from Tim Sargeant and Dan Spector, Global News