The Community Market is going to have a new look this weekend, and while some changes are on the way, some businesses have felt left out in the cold.
At Monday’s Penticton city council meeting a new plan was presented to put community market vendors in the centre of the street, back to back, creating foot traffic on the newly widened sidewalks.
“We really want to have the merchants have the foot traffic come into their stores as well as visiting the (market) vendors they want to see as well,” said Lynn Allin, the new executive director of the Downtown Penticton Association.
The separate Farmer’s Market is moving to the 500 and 600 blocks of Main Street on Sept. 10 for the rest of the year.
Owner of Sirius Science and Nature on the 200 block of Main Street, John Patterson, is excited about the changes.
“Human nature says go up the middle and people were going up the middle. They were not going on the beautiful, brand new sidewalk. It was totally being ignored. (The market) has been a huge boon for my business whether or not the (vendors) were in the middle,” Patterson said. “The market’s always been good for my business.”
However, some business owners on the 500 block feel the focus of the Community Market on the 100 and 200 blocks of Main Street has put a drain on their numbers.
Mystery Toys, run by brother and sister Angel and Sandy Kamps, are closing their doors at the end of August, currently clearing their stock with a closing out sale.
While keeping the store staffed was a major burden, they aired concerns that the market took people away from their store.
“I saw when they started the market, our business declined noticeably on Saturdays,” Angel said. “Other business owners on our block have really noticed that a lot of the focus is on the 100 and 200 blocks.”
This past spring was slow for most downtown businesses, Sandy said, mostly due to the construction on the 200 block, part of the downtown revitalization project, with future construction for the 100 block coming soon.
Mark Edwards, owner of Canadian Grill in the 500 block said he has also seen a noticeable dip in business when there are multiple food trucks parked at events in the 200 or 300 blocks, as well as the Community Market.
He’s run the Canadian Grill for about a year and a half in Penticton after relocating from Kelowna.
“It’s a huge drain,” Edwards said. “Everybody above the 300 block, it’s every man for himself up here.”
Edwards notes the owner of his building, former Penticton councillor John Vassilaki, like all downtown building owners pays a Downtown Penticton membership fee. For Edwards’ building it is $1,500 per year.
“Are they going to do a big celebration up here? (Vassilaki) just opened nine stores. But nobody has told me if they’re doing anything for the man. That is a big thing, he’s trying to bring businesses to downtown, especially the 500 block,” Edwards said.
Market vendors pay anywhere between $600 and $1,200 to cover 23 Saturdays, essentially for the summer season.
“That number is, on average, higher than all the businesses pay in DPA fees,” Allin said. “It’s substantial, and the DPA sees that the building owner’s pay can be higher or less than that amount and they have all year of course.”
Sandy feels that the brick-and-mortar businesses have to invest a lot more in the community financially while a lot of the attention gets paid to the seasonal vendors and promoting the market.
“You don’t have to get insurance, you’re not renting a building. You’re not sticking around in the slow time of the year, paying taxes. They’re selling the same stuff down there that all the shops are trying to sell,” Sandy said. “They want to build up Main Street and the businesses here, but they also want to build up the market.”
Both the Kamps and Edwards said their businesses were negatively affected by the construction zones, though some things were out of anyone’s control.
“It’s the perfect storm, ever since they started the (downtown) revitalization. It didn’t help that for two months it rained every weekend. That being said, we need more help than ever,” Edwards said.
Allin said that some store owners reported that their sales were better during the first phase of the revitalization construction.
“Not everybody, but I have heard those stories too, so there’s a real mixture. Some people were parking and had a destination in mind, but were dropping into different stores they didn’t have a chance to get into before,” she said.
Allin took over for Kerri Milton this month, and admits she is still getting out and shaking hands with business owners as she gets adjusted to the role. She has essentially been on the job for two weeks. (Read more on this here: New Downtown Penticton Association executive director)
“I’m relatively new to this position and I still have to get out and get into the 500 and 600 blocks to meet with them, to talk about different things they’re looking for going forward,” Allin said.
I recognize we need to get on some of that stuff. Even simple things like flower baskets and that, we’re kind of working on those issues right now,” she added. “It is something the DPA is looking at, to just bring that sort of whole look from the start to the finish of the DPA property area.”
She said she has plans to improve communication between business owners, building owners, the DPA and the board of directors.
“I really want to get out and meet the people in that block area that I don’t know, a lot of people I do know, and sit and talk to them and get some information on what we can be doing going forward,” Allin said. “Bit by bit, hopefully we can make everybody happy.”