London

Old East village business incubator Baker's Dozen closes

The Baker's Dozen business incubator in London's Old East Village - which includes Odyssey Records and a handful of other small businesses -  is closing, CBC News has learned.

Letter to Odyssey Records and other tenants cites COVID-19 as partial reason for closure

Plywood now covers what was the front window of Odyssey Records, part of the Baker's Dozen business collective which announced its closure this week, effective at the end of May. Odyssey owner Justin Chasty plans to continue his business at another location. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

The Baker's Dozen business incubator in London's Old East Village — which includes Odyssey Records and a handful of other small businesses — is closing, CBC News has learned. 

Tenants received a letter this week from founder William Older stating that B13 — as the space is known — will close permanently on May 29.

"In light of recent events, most notably that of the COVID-19 pandemic, there's no options left that allow B13 to keep financially afloat," the letter says. 

In a news release announcing the closure, Older said that in evaluating the business plan all store fronts need to be open on a daily basis and "to that end B13 management had, in the past several months, begun a campaign to attract more tenants that would fit that model."

Opened in 2018, the space was conceived as a launching pad for artisans and start-up businesses, operating out of the former Chapman's Bakery, a 5,000-square foot retail space at 613 Dundas St. E., near the corner of Adelaide. 

The COVID-19 outbreak appears to have dealt a final blow to Baker's Dozen, which was started in 2018 as a community business incubator located in a 5,000 square foot space at 613 Dundas St. E., near Adelaide. (Andrew Lupton/CBC)

At one point, 16 businesses operated inside the space including art vendors, tattoo artists and a printing shop.

Older's release says five businesses have been operating in the space most recently.

Older said he owned the building when B13 was launched but then sold it and continued to hold the main lease while sub-leasing to the businesses.

Among those disappointed at news of the closure is Jazmine Morningstar, owner of Juicy Tings. The cafe specialized in smoothies and espressos. 

"I'm not surprised at all," said Morningstar. "I feel like was coming for a long time." 

Morningstar said a roof leak and a lack of maintenance in the common spaces at B13 were ongoing challenges for her business. Older, however, said the roof leak was dealt with promptly by the building's new owner and denies tenants suffered from any lack of regular maintenance. 

Morningstar had tried to continue operating after businesses deemed non-essential were ordered closed by the province  to curb the spread of COVID-19. She was able to sell drinks as a takeout operation, but in an Instagram post earlier this week was critical of management for putting plywood over B13's entry door and front window.  

A since-deleted post on B13's Facebook page said the plywood was put up to protect the windows against damage.  Many businesses in downtown London have taken similar steps to guard against break-ins and vandalism with so many businesses shut down and minimal foot traffic at night.

B13's Facebook post also said management intended to notify tenants before the plywood was installed but said the contractor unexpectedly moved up the work schedule.  

Eventually the plywood was removed from the front door after Morningstar raised a concern with the fire department, but the large front windows remain covered. 

B13 founder William Older send a letter to tenants this week, informing them that the business incubator was closing. (Chris dela Torre/CBC)

Morningstar said her time as a B13 tenant has been stressful and she now plans to take a break and re-assess her business plans.

Odyssey Records seeks new space

Some tenants are still processing the news and working to figure out what's next. 

Odyssey Records is arguably the best-known business in Baker's Dozen.

The shop sells records and DVDs and over the past two years, has also hosted in-store film screenings and performances by local musicians. 

Owner Justin Chasty agrees there were challenges during his tenancy, but said the COVID-19 outbreak has pushed him to expand his business into record deliveries. 

"It's not like having the shop open, but at least it's helping us," he said.

He also plans to find another retail space where he can again operate a record shop while hosting local bands and other events. 

'Unfortunate and sad'

Rhandi Krumins operated Krums Men's Grooming spot in B13. 

In an email to CBC News, Krumins said she also plans to continue her business in a different location. 

"This whole situation is unfortunate and sad," she said. "Like many other businesses, I too am worried about my livelihood. This is an obstacle to overcome and not the end of Krums Men's Grooming Spot" 

Older's note to tenants said payment of their last month's rent will be returned.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Andrew Lupton is a B.C.-born journalist, father of two and a north London resident with a passion for politics, photography and baseball.

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