by Brandon Mayer
Anyone who lives in North Dundas will agree that it is a great place to call home.
It is quaint, close enough to Ottawa without the hustle and bustle of city life, and filled with friendly, helpful people who make it feel like an honour to be a local.
One concerning aspect of life in this great municipality, however, is the seemingly diminishing ability to shop local.
Living in a small town, one becomes accustomed to that dreaded feeling of suddenly needing something that can only be purchased in a city or a larger municipality. After the initial denial sets in, we go through our options.
We ask friends and family if they will need to go “into town” for anything, so that we might tack on our own shopping list with a cheeky smile, rather than go ourselves. We sit and stew, twiddling our thumbs and contemplating whether we really need the “something” that would drag us into a car for at least 30-60 minutes round trip, burning gas and precious time.
Then, finally, when the realization sets in that there is no easy way out, we accept that we will have to make the journey, all the while trying to think of other things we need to do “in town” that will make the trip worth it.
Prior to all of the above steps that are admittedly rife with soap opera drama, I have a habit of my own. I go through a list in my head of all of the local shops in Winchester that could possibly, maybe, hopefully, have a slight chance of carrying the item I am looking for, and I call them to see if I can kill two birds with one stone – save me a long car ride, and support local.
The most recent time this happened was when I needed a rather obscure item – a marine whistle – and excitedly remembered Paddletales Tackle, just as I was about to give up hope and drive to Canadian Tire in Kemptville.
However, when I tried to look up the number on Google, I was met with the dreaded “permanently closed” message. A quick Facebook search revealed that the owners of Paddletales Tackle simply retired (and I wish them all the best), but my disappointment got me thinking of all of the vacant commercial properties in North Dundas.
Within the past year, we have lost the Double C Outlet, the Town Vintner, Barkley’s Shoes, and now Paddletales Tackle, all in Winchester. In Chesterville, we have said goodbye to Flair With Fabrics and the Harmony Drop In off the top of my head.
Anywhere one travels in North Dundas, there are vacant commercial properties that are begging to bring the convenience of local shopping back to us residents. The old Lion’s Thrift Store in Winchester is still empty, as are the old Double C Outlet and the newly vacated Town Vintner.
The Winchester Medical Building, North Dundas Business Centre, and the old Foodland building all have space predominantly advertised as “for rent”.
On St. Lawrence St, south of Fred St, is a long-abandoned location that I heard used to be a youth centre which, however unkept now, would have promise if someone gave it some love and patience.
In Chesterville, a “for rent” sign has been in the window of the vacant unit in the same building as Louis Restaurant for quite a while. Tours through Morewood, Mountain, and South Mountain show similar empty buildings waiting for the presence of eager local shoppers.
Why are we unable to fill these shops and offices? Is it that rent in our area is too high?
Supply and demand would seem to suggest that if a property is vacant for many months, too much money is being asked for its use.
I am not a landlord and cannot pretend to understand the financial stresses or maintenance pressures of owning land and having tenants, but one would assume that collecting low rent is better than collecting no rent at all.
What is clear is that North Dundas residents need to support our small businesses, and patronize the new ones that brave the existing market.
Together, we can bring back the convenience of local shopping!