Over the past week, three small businesses have announced they’ll be closing shop on Halifax’s Quinpool Road.
The COVID-19 pandemic has been a factor but there are also other economic elements at play, like the rising cost of commercial rent and eager developers interested in building up the street.
Lucky Penny Cafe is a favourite for many along Quinpool Road and one of three businesses that announced they will be closing. Clay Cafe Halifax and the Athens Restaurant are the other two.
Barb Kaill, owner of Luck Penny, says the business is at the end of its five-year commercial lease. She says the pandemic has played a big part in the decision to close, but it’s also made her look in a new direction business-wise.
“Currently with spacing and distancing it’s only possible to have a really small fraction of our normal seats,” said Kaill, who will officially close the cafe June 25.
Along with an increase in rent and the ongoing uncertainty around the pandemic and provinces reopening plan, it’s led to a lot of unknowns around what the new normal will look like post-pandemic.
“There could be up to a five-year recovery period for the sector,” said Kaill. “It’s really scary and it makes it really hard to make any concrete plans for the future.”
Many small businesses are feeling that angst and question how soon the economy will rebound and whether the customer base will there when the province emerges from the pandemic.
“COVID has made things a little tougher this past year,” said Evangelos Panopalis, owner of Athens Restaurant, a longtime establishment that first opened on Barrington Street in 1982 and then moved to the north end on Quinpoool Road in 1996.
Panopalis says COVID-19 wasn’t the only reason they were closing its restaurant, as they’ve decided to sell to local development company Dexell and the Lawen Group of Properties. They plan to build a multi-residential and mixed-use development at 6234 Quinpool Rd., which is currently home to the McDonald’s and Fitness FX.
Over the past decade, Panopalis said he’s been approached by several developers looking to purchase his Athens Restaurant property and now was the right time. COVID made the decision easier, he added.
“Things were changing along Quinpool Road before the pandemic,” said Panopalis. “I always said if the right offer came in, I would have to consider it and I did.”
The face of Quinpool Road is changing, there are many development opportunities in the area with several construction projects underway or in the planning stages.
Although it’s painful to see local small businesses close their doors, the new developments on the street signal future business opportunities, says Karla Nicholson, executive director of the Quinpool Road Mainstreet District Association.
“As sad as it is that these businesses are closing and I’m sure they wouldn’t if it weren’t for the pandemic, many people are coming to me looking for spaces on Quinpool Road,” said Nicholson.
Councillor Shawn Cleary who lives on Quinpool Road says he’s seeing a slow transformation on the street and says it will look much different in 10 years.
It’s a desirable location for business, said Cleary and has now been designated as a pedestrian-oriented main street. It caters to developments like the TED building that’s currently under construction by Facade Investment Ltd., and will feature a mix of commercial and residential uses.
“You have pretty much everywhere in the urban core that kind of commercial on the main level and residences above that,” said Cleary. “We don’t want that in all our established residential neighbourhoods but on our main streets like Agricola, Gottingen, Quinpool, Robie, Spring Garden, Barrington — that’s the feel that we want those neighbourhoods to have.”
As for the Lucky Penny Coffee Co. Kaill says to expect a new online business announcement coming soon which will feature pop-up locations at local markets and subscription services.
Panopalis said Athens Restaurant has sold its property but they haven’t sold the business, hinting that they could be opening in a new location at some point down the road.