Glebe, Lansdowne Park businesses could benefit from each other

Businesses in Ottawa's Glebe neighbourhood are trying to get along with their new neighbours at Lansdowne Park, now hoping for increased foot traffic along Bank Street.

Opening of Whole Foods Market, Sporting Life this week begins battle for customers

The trendy, all-natural food retailer opened its first Ottawa location Wednesday morning. 3:05

At times tense and heated, the relationship between small businesses in the Glebe neighbourhood and those settling in at Lansdowne Park will be one of reciprocity, according to retail experts and local businesses.

"All families fight," said Gilbert Russell, vice-chairman of the Glebe Business Improvement Area, "Both parties have realized that we are going to be better if we work together."

Sporting Life, left, and Whole Foods open on the same week, creating immediate competition for smaller businesses along Bank Street. (Julie Ireton/CBC)
Some businesses have already opened at the rebuilt Lansdowne Park.

But this week is important as key entities Whole Foods Market and Sporting Life open for the public this week — Wednesday and Thursday respectively — leading to major competition for smaller Glebe operations like McKeen’s Metro, Kunstadt Sports and others.

Retail expert Darren Fleming believes the businesses will rely on each other to bring shoppers to the area. The smaller Glebe stores have the history and the clientele, while the larger stores have the uniqueness and newness.

Also, Lansdowne is not your typical retail site, said Fleming, a managing principal at Cresa Ottawa.

"There aren’t acres and acres of parking that people can pull up to in front of the store," he said. "Whole Foods has a lot of experience in these types of developments."

Gilbert Russell, left and Greg Best, right, are two key members of the Glebe Business Improvement Area. They hope a new relationship with Lansdowne Park leads to boosted business, not a cut into their bottom line. (Julie Ireton/CBC)
The U.S. retailer, known for high-end foods that are local and organic, opens Wednesday. However, Fleming does not believe it is an anchor for a retail site, instead deeming it a level below as a “banner client.”

Its reputation also helps, according to Barry Nabatien, who earlier represented the Glebe Business Improvement Area in their opposition to the Ottawa Sports and Entertainment Group’s retail plan.

Businesses could benefit from Lansdowne, expert says

He believes that and event nights will help both Lansdowne Park and Bank Street businesses. For those small businesses that have to compete with Whole Foods, such as the Glebe Meat Market and Kardish Foods, success will depend on the level of service.

"They concentrate on service, on what they do well, I think that they can basically complement Whole Foods because not everybody is going to go to Whole Foods," said Nabatien, general manager at Market Research Corporation.

The recently renovated Metro store in the Glebe could see a drop in business after Whole Foods opens, but the long-term forecast might be positive, according to expert Barry Nabatien. (Julie Ireton/CBC)
"The Glebe residents are generally quite affluent … and there really has not been a lot more competition in recent times."

Nabatien did say businesses could lose up to 10 per cent of business early on, but in the end business could actually increase thanks to Whole Foods. He referenced the impact to small businesses after the addition of Loblaws in Westboro.

Gilbert Russell, who is also the president of Brio Bodywear, says he hopes Sporting Life brings his Glebe store more business. For now, he agrees the service and selection will be key.

"I know the selection we offer, I know how well we know our customers and I think that’s the edge that a lot of our businesses have," Russell said.