‘Unless (Bayview) admits it has a problem, stores will continue to close’

KettelvsAshworthBayview’s problems are of its own making. In fact, it’s a lot like an alcoholic. Until it admits it has a problem, stores will continue to close, perhaps in record numbers.

While it’s convenient to blame First Capital Realty, SmartCentres and all the other real estate people looking to develop the outskirts of the Leaside industrial area, honest reflection will show that blame lies within.

The scuttlebutt on the street is that in addition to the stores closed there are a number of shops currently open that are suffering like they’ve never suffered before.

Geoff Kettel would like you to believe there are external factors at work here, including a lack of parking, and high rents. If this is true, how do you explain the tremendous success of both Mom’s to be… and More, and Hollywood Gelato, two of the more popular stops along Bayview?

As I see it, there are several reasons for the problems Bayview faces, and none has anything to do with Laird development.

To start, there are simply too many shops offering the same products to a population that can’t or won’t sustain them.

When Hollywood Gelato opened in 2001 it brought to the neighborhood something new and exciting for kids and adults alike. Thirteen years later, business continues to be brisk.

In 2010, The Mad Italian jumped into the gelato fray followed by Yogurty’s (Sunnybrook Plaza) in 2011 and Yeh! in 2012. All the while Baskin-Robbins sold ice cream from its store at Millwood. Five businesses selling a warm-weather product in a cold-weather climate.

Something had to give.

Yeh! and The Mad Italian (original owner Allesandro Settimi sold in August 2011) paid the ultimate price, closing within three months of each other.

Parking has been a problem along the street for years. But in the end, customers want to be wowed. If you do that, I guarantee they’ll beat a path to Bayview.

With a handful of exceptions there’s little on the street that stands out as retail excellence. Mediocre is a more apt description.

Ultimately, it seems odd that Leaside, a neighbourhood suffering under the weight of Laird development and crying out for a sense of direction as Geoff contends, is one of the few historical Toronto neighbourhoods without a Business Improvement Area.

Currently, Toronto has the largest number of BIAs in North America, creating 35 in the last 12 years alone. Lawrence Park, Forest Hill, Rosedale and the Beach have them, too.

Store owners in these communities have wisely concluded that their businesses are stronger operating collectively rather than as a bunch of independent entities with no master plan or sense of cohesiveness.

Those opposed to the formation of a BIA see it as another tax grab by the city using the BIA levy to fund street beautification projects that otherwise would have been undertaken by the city itself. However, it’s hard to argue with the fundraising capacity of BIAs.

Bayview could use some of the funds to improve the quality of snow removal on the street. Walk Bayview shortly after any kind of snowfall and it’s a hodge podge of shovelled and unshovelled sidewalks. A simple thing like clearing the snow and Bayview gets it wrong. You wouldn’t shop at Don Mills or Leaside Village if they didn’t shovel the sidewalks.

In my opinion a BIA would force the street to look at itself as a single entity where tenant mix is vital to its future. You can’t get from point A to point B without a map. A BIA gives you that map.

About Will Ashworth 51 Articles
Will Ashworth contributes to Leaside Life.