It seemed like a sure thing – open a specialty food store near a grocery giant on a popular street in neighbourhood full of highrise apartments and condominiums.
But success is proving elusive for Earth's General Store's new downtown location. Before the store even opened its doors, the nearby Sobey's closed its doors, sending shoppers further out from the downtown core.
“I was expecting a slow start (until) people got acquainted with us,” said owner Michael Kalmanovitch. “I was hoping numbers would take off ... but that hasn’t been my experience yet.”
Kalmanovitch opened the 104th Street store in the summer, but three months later posted this message on his website:
“As many of you are aware we are having problems with the downtown store (lack of customers).
“The Whyte Avenue store and our bank account is suffering trying to carry this extra load. I did not expect it to be this bad.”
Emily Salsbury, executive director of the school of retailing at the University of Alberta, said Kalmanovitch did the right thing.
Now, Kalmanovitch has posted an online survey hoping to find out what area residents want.
The survey is a step in the right direction, Salsbury said.
“We don’t have enough information about who’s looking to live downtown before we can make the decisions on what retail mix is needed here.”
While 104th Street has been called a signature downtown street, businesses there have struggled.
"Turnover is the number one sign of a business area that's not doing well," Salsbury said. "In order to build loyalty to an area you need consistency."
The city has an obligation to 104th Street, 124th Street and other downtown centres, she said.
“We have to commit to helping those businesses to understand what product mix they need to serve our needs.”