Westboro, Wellington West BIA’s reflect on 2023

A for lease sign on a Wellington Street West business.
Rick Eisert and Judy Lincoln from the Westboro Village BIA in summer 2023. Photo by Charlie Senack.

By Charlie Senack

For Kitchissippi businesses, 2023 was all about trying to find stability after a turbulent few years caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Shopping patterns in the community have changed with federal office employees not returning to Tunney’s Pasture in large droves. 

Devon Armstrong, interim executive director of the Wellington West business improvement association [BIA] said a “new normal” is settling in. He said many retailers in the community have shut their doors over the last year, but noted there is also a high turnover of new businesses opening up. Marble Slab Creamery, Hairmosa, Fire Shawarma and Wolfe Real Estate are among some of the new tenants.

“It’s hard for a lot of smaller businesses to transition to having a digital store. If you are a brick and mortar store, you need foot traffic,” said Armstrong. “I know some people, even if they were doing ok, they were making less and decided to make a life change. We had a few businesses which just wanted to do something different after a couple of tough years treading water.”

Now with Canada Emergency Loan Payments coming due on Jan. 18, the BIA is pushing the federal government to give their members more time. 

Devon poses for a photo inside the Wellington West BIA office.
Devon Armstrong is the interim executive director of the Wellington West BIA. Provided photo.

On the other side of Kitchissippi, Judy Lincoln from the Westboro BIA said they are proud to have a low vacancy rate. Larger national footprints like Sleep Country and Mary Brown’s Kitchen now call the Village home. Independent tenants like Westboro Books and Kazka Toys have also been added to Richmond Road’s retail landscape. 

“We have had some businesses expand which has helped with the vacancy. They are reimagining what space they need to be successful,” Lincoln said. “We try to support our property owners with research and data to help them market their spaces. We support our existing members to help them as they figure out what their next steps are.”

Both BIA’s have held a number of events in their neighborhoods to help support community and interaction, including offering live entertainment. In Wellington West, Armstrong said they are focusing on returning people to their Main Street. In July, a successful ‘Where’s Waldo’ contest was held. 

Lincoln said Westboro held a popular Women’s Day event in March and expanded their pop-up movie nights to three over the summer. 

The Wellington West BIA spent 2023 rethinking, restructuring and strategizing, said Armstrong. In May, longtime executive director Dennis Van Staalduinen parted ways with the organization after more than five years. 

“A lot of the times we were doing things that were fun and nice for the community, but not always a good time for the businesses. In some ways there are areas of the BIA that were underserved,” Armstrong said. “Especially services and places not on the Main Street. The world has changed in a couple of ways and I think the BIA also needs to change to meet those new realities.”

Rick and Judy pose for a photo outside. Behind them is a post with pink balloons wrapped around it.
Rick Eisert and Judy Lincoln from the Westboro Village BIA in summer 2023. Photo by Charlie Senack.

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