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Downtown Grimsby suffers fire hangover

On-street parking open regularly

Anyone who is a regular visitor to downtown Grimsby will know the great feeling achieved when you find a parking spot right in front of the shop you are about to visit.

Regulars will have noticed a difference in recent weeks as on-street parking is much easier these days.

Bryan Macaulay, one of Main Street’s longest serving merchants setting up shop with his Village Studio in 1993, has seen downtown at its best and worst over the years.

“You just have to look out at the street at any time of day, every day. It is not uncommon right now to see 10 or more spots open for some length of time,” said Macaulay.

“That is the first indicator. I am sure the Farmers Market getting pushed down the street will have impacted some more than others, but this goes far beyond that. This is a daily issue.”

The issue Macaulay speaks of is the partial Main Street road closure which has been in place since the July 6 fire, which claimed four businesses and an apartment on its way to causing $2 million-plus in damages.

Mary Jo Clements is at the opposite end of the retailer scale with her practically “new born” store The Happy Baby, which opened in December 2015.

Clements, too, has felt similar foot traffic reductions.

“While the loss of the market and festivals certainly has a significant role, I agree that it’s definitely the overall loss of traffic downtown due to the road closer and perceived inconvenience of coming downtown that’s hitting us the hardest,” said Clements.

“Traffic is down everyday not just market days, and that has a direct impact on sales as I can’t sell to people who aren’t here. Small businesses can be made or broken on very small numbers and even a few hundred dollars difference a day can mean the difference between making rent or not.”

An example of the impacts felt in recent weeks is Melissa Gilruth-Zammit’s From Creation & Beyond shop.

“It is with tremendous sadness that we announce the closing of our store. Effective Aug. 29 we will be closing our retail operations located at 43 Main St. East in Grimsby,” wrote Gilruth-Zammit.

“A decline in sales and the loss of foot traffic in the downtown core has made it impossible to keep our store running.”

At this point, there is no end in site for the closure of Main between Ontario and Elm. Only west bound traffic through the light is permitted, which vehicles heading east on Main have to detour north on Ontario Street.

Grimsby Fire Chief Mike Cain and town manager Derik Brandt have yet to hear from the Ontario Fire Marshal’s office on cause or Niagara Region regarding the eventual re-opening of Main Street.

The tender for the demo closed last week, so it is expected to be awarded any day, but a permit still has to be applied for, noted Brandt.

“The fence that is set up delineates the fallout area in case the façade of either building tumbles. Once what is left of the buildings come down that won’t be necessary any more and can be removed,” wrote Brandt in an email on Tuesday.

“Once construction starts, that becomes a different scenario. I have seen permission sought to occupy the sidewalk during construction. I’m not sure if that will happen here, but it is often necessary. At this point I can’t see any need for the road closure during construction.

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