Monday August 8, 2011

Business 

Downtown Chilliwack's A Bust

BIA falls short in downtown revitalization

Submitted by Terry Holt, Holt Marketing

 

ell, here we are finally enjoying some overdue summer weather… the flowers are alive with their intoxicating aroma; a ride in the countryside shows farmers busy in their fields attending their crops; in the downtown core of Chilliwack the “For Lease”, “For Sale” signs shine in the rays of the afternoon sun……. what?

As a marketing consultant, and one who has spent 35 years in multi media and marketing, not to mention being born on a farm in Rosedale; I am amazed at how the issues of the downtown business core are being handled. I think it is time for local retailers to say “enough is enough”.

When I heard the Business Improvement Association was pulling out of the Christmas Parade…. I almost fell off my office chair. Even if you don’t believe in Christmas…. for the association to eliminate a seasonal event at a time when retailers depend on high profile promotions to survive… is like cancelling Mothers Day. What were you thinking?. Hats off to STAR FM for coming to the plate and saving Christmas from Scrooge.

The response on the internet was swift and negative. Perhaps it is time (after 10years plus) to look at “why the BIA” exists? Perhaps retailers in the downtown area should ask “where are the results from the tax dollars levied on my business to support your operation?”.

I want to be positive, but it is hard to do after talking with retailers over and over again (the ones who still exist) hanging on by their boot straps in many cases, fighting their own battles to continue in business.

I commend the independent entrepreneurs for “hanging in”. It is their efforts in my opinion and not the BIA which keep the “bulldozer” away from downtown. Or is that what the City of Chilliwack and BIA are actually waiting for? I’m sure developers would be interested in building more townhouses?

After the years of BIA existence… is it time for retailers to ask: “are they getting the job done?”, “are we getting our moneys worth?”

I want you to drive through downtown and add up the empty storefronts … my last count would fill one side of a city block. In my opinion, if you see any storefront improvements or entrepreneurs “taking a chance” and opening up a new shop… it is their spirit, and financial commitment that is “allowing” the remainder of downtown Chilliwack to exist.

I agree their needs to be some regulations, BUT… don’t give the city or downtown anymore bad PR. I am of course talking about the latest paint controversy with Cornerhut Fashions painting the trim of their shop pink (on the corner of Young and Princess). Twillia (the owner) is an example of downtown entrepreneurship at its best, which should be applauded. Next to being one of the nicest people you could meet, she has overcome hard times with the shop; and drawn satisfied customers from throughout the Chilliwack area for ,simply put, having “a great shop”. The paint complaint was from a BIA member….. why not put up a sign downtown, “sorry temporarily out of business”. Did you see the report on CTV News Vancouver?

Another negative shot in the arm of Chilliwack with even the TV crew giving a thumbs down to the BIA and City reaction to Twillas pink paint. Also just a note, happy to see Stavi’s opening up next to Twillias pink shop… the owner over the years is known for great food, “Stavi’s Pizza & Spaghetti House” NOW OPEN in downtown Chilliwack and ready to deliver 604-392-2020. Another great example of local entrepreneurship committing money and effort to improve downtown.

BIA, why not get your buddies at City Hall to stop vacant downtown property owners from boarding up their windows? Oh, sorry, you better not…. the City still owns the Paramount property? Nice plywood, great tourist attraction; I hope (at least) you bought the plywood and nails from Home Hardware, another example of a local business owner committing to the downtown area. And please don’t let me get started on the owners of the old Safeway building being allowed to leave their property in its current condition. Shameful site for tourists passing through town. Guess the old phrase is true; "its not what you do, its who you know”.

I keep hearing from BIA people, “we have great things ahead but can’t say anything right now”. Sounds like a press release from the U.S. White House, “don’t worry, it will get better, honest”. Struggling businesses don’t have the luxury of the drawn out time of waiting for support, and still paying the business improvement taxes.

And please don’t blame the economy over the past two hears. The BIA has been in existence for over 10 years. If it took me that long to get results in the private sector I would be fired.

I had the choice of moving to Vancouver or Atlanta to work for larger marketing companies and of course substantially larger money; however, decided to stay in my hometown. I to have to survive as a business, but on many occasions have offered my services (at no cost) to smaller businesses who new they needed help, but could not afford the expense of my service(s). Is it time for business owners in the downtown core of Chilliwack to ban together and form their own group to promote not only the downtown area but the City of Chilliwack?

Like I said, prefer being positive, however, I am only reflecting conversations with many local businesses. If you don’t believe me, go for a stroll through the downtown shopping area and ask owners their thoughts on this issue. When you do…BUY SOMETHING. Or visit the BIA website www.downtownchilliwack.com 

Be sure to check out the Calendar of events (or lack there of ) for the year.

Oh, and BIA, I have been an artist for years…. What is wrong with the color Pink? Unless your colour blind the vacant building (formerly known as Kings Corner) on the corner of Yale and Young is coral pink?

Well, enough said, time to go in my backyard in shorts, lay down and let the mosquitoes draw the life out of me….. SAME FEELING.

Until next time, BUY LOCAL.

Terry Holt

Terry Holt & Associates

www.holtmarket.com