A 'very bittersweet' last day for Lincoln Fields mall merchants
'I got about a thousand hugs from customers I had over the years,' one merchant said
Merchants at the Lincoln Fields Shopping Centre spent their last day in the mall this week, as time ran out on their leases before the building is demolished.
The mall's owner, RioCan, applied for a demolition permit in January and announced plans to redevelop the site with residential towers, a grocery store and pharmacy.
The shopping centre first opened in 1972 and is one of several malls the company has redeveloped in recent years.
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Beth Nagy opened her second P.A.M.'s Coffee & Tea franchise in the mall in 2003. She said leaving was hard because she got to know so many of her customers.
"It was very bittersweet, very sad. I got about a thousand hugs from customers I had over the years," she told CBC Radio's All In A Day on Thursday.
"A lot of the regulars have their routine, some come every week, some come every day and almost all of them came [Wednesday]."
When she first moved in, the mall seemed like a great place to expand.
"At the time, Lincoln Fields was a hopping little shopping centre. It was full, and it was full all the time."
Sam Olszynko opened his store Jewellery Encounter in the mall in 1999. He closed not long after receiving notice that the mall would be closing down.
He also said working at the mall was a great experience.
"The people there were like family, all the merchants were like family. We all knew each other."
In the early days it was busy, Olszynko said, but gradually there seemed to be fewer promotions and not as many people coming through.
At 75, Olszynko didn't want to stop working after he closed his store, but when he went to work in a jewelry store at another mall, he found he didn't have the same passion.
"I lasted four weeks. I found I couldn't work with somebody else," he said. "I decided to retire and that's what I have done."
Lincoln Fields will be a stop on the second phase of the city's LRT system when it opens. RioCan said that's partly why the company decided to tear down the existing mall and redevelop the site.
CBC Radio's All In A Day