By Charlie Senack
After more than 25 years in Westboro, West End Kids has closed its doors.
The popular children’s clothing and outerwear store first opened at 373 Richmond Rd. in August 1995. In late 2020, owners Sheba and Gordie Schmidt opened a second store at 376 Madison Ave., behind the original location. The 3,000-plus square feet of extra space allowed them to have a duplicate retail front, warehouse and small office. It was also designed to provide more in-person shopping opportunities at a time when COVID-19 capacity limits were in effect.
Earlier this year, West End Kids closed both locations. The Richmond Road storefront now sits vacant. The store’s website and Facebook page have been taken down.
The Schmidts did not respond to multiple requests for comment, but documents available on the website of Raymond Chabot Inc. indicate Sheba Gordon Sales Inc. filed for bankruptcy on May 1, 2023.
The documents show that the company owes creditors just over $900,000, including $22,119 in rent. Company assets are valued at almost $400,000.
Speaking to the Kitchissippi Times, in 2020, Sheba Schmidt said business was at its best just before the pandemic. Then, during COVID, Gordie Schmidt said they relied on the newer second location to survive.
“Without it (the second store), we cannot succeed,” he said at the time. “There’s not even a chance because the store normally does in the hundreds of thousands of dollars (in revenue) over the next couple of months and, physically, we can’t get the people in the store to do that kind of volume.”
Westboro’s changing retail landscape
Judy Lincoln, executive director of the Westboro BIA, said it’s always sad when long-standing businesses leave the community.
“They are always important members of our community and we are going to miss them,” she said. “Some may be reimagining the space they need, some may be reimagining what they want to do. We always try to respect their privacy around that.”
While some Westboro businesses have closed since the pandemic, it doesn’t take long for vacant storefronts to be leased, Lincoln said. In June, Seven Tea Miles, Playground the Pilates Collective, and Kazka Toys Westboro have opened.
“People are very creative about what a commercial space can be,” Lincoln said. “In some situations, we have two businesses sharing a space. In (other) instances we have new owners come into existing businesses and that’s a new trend we are starting to see.”
Rick Eisert, president of the Westboro BIA, said more service-related businesses have moved in recently, including nail and hair salons and fitness facilities.
As Westboro continues to evolve, trends and demographics in the community will start to change, Eisert said.
A number of residential buildings are slated to be built along Scott Street, which Eisert said will bring more singles and young couples to the area. Phase 2 of the LRT will also be a game-changer for the community when it’s launched in a few years, he noted.
“The next five years are going to be a wait and see,” Eisert said. “There is no doubt that (development is) happening very quickly. We have to be very careful that we can manage all of the people going in to make sure we have enough jobs for people and transportation.”