‘We feel like High Street’s ugly cousin’
Main Street business owners Tom Pinsent (left) and Wayne Chow are among a number of business owners on the Grand Falls-Windsor street who are forming a business group to bring their concerns forward to the municipal, provincial and federal governments and promote the area as a unified business zone. — Photo by Krysta Colbourne/The Advertiser
Grand Falls-Windsor —
A number of business owners in the Main Street area in Grand Falls-Windsor feel the area is being neglected.
The reasoning behind the Main Street Area Business Group which is being started is two-fold, according to spokesperson Tom Pinsent, who’s had businesses on Main Street for five years — G.L.A. Audio Visual and GL Moving and Storage.
“We feel the area is not being promoted the way it should be,” Pinsent said recently. “We’re not blaming anybody. We’re not blaming the town or anything else like that. We just feel that the area is being neglected.”
Pinsent said there is a number of advantages the Main Street business area has over other areas in the community, such as access to the Trans-Canada Highway and that it feeds directly into the Queensway industrial park and into the Cromer Avenue/Duggan Street business area.
Another advantage, he added, is the diversity of the close to 40 businesses on the street.
“If you start from the far west end, you have Beothuk Park, which people don’t even consider to be part of the street, but it is,” Pinsent said. “That’s a huge tourist attraction.”
Moving up the street, he said, there is a daycare centre, a strip mall that now has five businesses, a gym, barber shop, music school, restaurant, night club, indoor mini golf, electronics/music shop, furniture store and the list goes on and on.
Most of the businesses in the area are behind the idea of the formation of the group, he said.
“Some of them are a little leery because they want to sit back and say ‘let’s see where it goes,’” he said, adding G.L.A. Audio Visual, Wayne’s World, Roy’s TV, Grant’s Footwear Ltd., Windsor Pharmacy, Fabric Boutique, Beothuk Park, Teazers and Hiscock’s are among the businesses behind the idea.
The aim of the group is two-fold, Pinsent said.
“First of all is to bring our concerns forward to the municipal, provincial and federal governments,” Pinsent said. “I can’t fault what’s going down in High Street. Their MHA (Innovation, Trade and Rural Development Minister Susan Sullivan) has stood behind them, for example. We have a separate MHA (Conservative Ray Hunter) out here, although we are one town, we have two MHAs. So the High Street group had their MHA fighting for them. What’s going on with our representative here in the provincial government? Maybe we should bring our concerns directly to him. So when we say we bring our concerns to municipal (government), they can only do so much. Your MHA has to be involved on a provincial and federal level.”
The second aim is to take it upon themselves to promote the street and the area as a unified business area, which he said a number of people have been talking about.
The group’s plan is to make the announcements now, and have its first meeting after the holidays to decide what concerns to bring forward before requesting meetings with the provincial representative in the district and the municipal government to bring the concerns through.
Wayne Chow, owner of Wayne’s World, said in his 18 years owning the business he has had a number of issues, one of them being the lack of available parking. He said at one time, it took him two years to get a bench on the sidewalk in front of his business, and he has to constantly call about the lack of snowclearing.
He also at one time wanted to build on a patio to his building and was told he wasn’t allowed. Yet, he said, another business was permitted.
“Why is it that somebody else is allowed to do it, and I wasn’t allowed to do it,” Chow said. “There are a lot of simple problems to solve. We’ve been neglected for a number of years and I think one of the main problems is that council doesn’t understand business. They can read all the books they want and say what they want, until they actually run a business, for instance, having parking and having traffic and when you cut off a traffic area there is no one coming to your business.”
Pinsent said a lot of the concerns from the business owners in the area were the same.
“What are you going to do, keep complaining amongst yourselves or put something together to try to change it and move it forward yourself?” he said. “We don’t expect the town council to solve all of our problems. But they should be there to work with you.”
“We feel the area is not being promoted the way it should be. We’re not blaming anybody. We’re not blaming the town or anything else like that. We just feel that the area is being neglected.” Tom Pinsent
Pinsent said there is not one specified reason for the group’s formation.
“It’s just been a catalyst of a whole pile of things,” Pinsent said. “I won’t pretend that what’s happened on High Street and what we’ve seen on High Street didn’t have an effect, to a certain degree. I guess that was finally the straw that broke the camel’s back, for me anyway, was … the façade program.”
The council of Grand Falls-Windsor created the High Street façade program is part of the riverfront development plan. Businesses on the street could apply for funding to aid and improve the outside of their buildings and increase the overall value of their properties. With no preconceived number of business that would take advantage of the program, the council went with a 60-40 arrangement, with the town contributing 60 per cent of the cost of the program and the businesses footing the remainder. Pinsent said he couldn’t get a straight answer from the town about its share of the cost.
“We feel like we’re the ignored child,” Pinsent said. “We feel like High Street’s ugly cousin.”
Strength in numbers
Pinsent said instead of one business owner going forward with concerns, now the heat will be put on the government — not just municipal government — by the whole group.
“United we stand, divided we fall type of idea,” he said.
“We just feel that there is a disparity with the way we are treated and there is a disparity with just the whole attitude. (The council says) it’s not intentional, but it seems to be implied.
“There is a lot of history on the street, and that’s the other thing that is driving us, too.”
Wayne Chow’s father, Harry Chow, was a prominent and respected businessman who came to Windsor in the 1940s and began what was called the Globe Restaurant and Globe Café. The business is still in the family.
Pinsent said Wayne’s World is one example of the work being done in the Main Street area.
“That’s our own pay, nothing from the town, nothing from no one,” added Chow. “So it’s debt that we have to pay.”
There are other businesses with façade improvements, expansions and even new buildings.
“What we’re seeing now is a revival,” Chow said. “A revival done by the people out here. Yet, where is all the money being spent? Where is all the attention being spent?
“(Council) takes credit for it to a certain degree. They are pushing it, ‘hey, we’re doing a great job,’ but where is that 70-80 per cent of it coming from? Main Street businesses.
“Main Street is everything that High Street wants to be. They would like to get a hotel in the downtown area, we have a hotel in this area. They would like to have more retail — well, hello.”
Pinsent said one of the responses from the council has been around the money spent in the Main Street area in 1991.
“There was $1.3 million spent here in 1991 which the town manager says that would be worth $3 million in today’s dollars,” Pinsent said. “I’m not disputing that, time value of money. But, that was done in 1991 as part of the amalgamation plan to bring the standards up to the town. Since that, what have we seen? It’s not that we’re jealous of High Street, but it just seems like we’re forgotten.
“This is not any of a vindictive thing, at least from my perspective anyway, towards the town, the municipal government or the town management.”
He said he has respect for a lot of the business down on High Street, and doesn’t begrudge what they are getting.
“That’s great, but here, nothing,” Pinsent said. “I think we deserve better.”