Sudbury

Downtown Sudbury business closes in wake of fatal stabbing steps from its door

A simple white sheet of paper taped in the doorway of Pita Pit announced that the downtown store was closing, permanently.
Penny Peterson owns 4 Pita Pit locations in Sudbury. She says her health, and concerns about the safety of her staff, are the reasons she's closing her location downtown. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

 

A simple white sheet of paper taped in the doorway of the Pita Pit in downtown Sudbury recently announced that the store is closing, permanently.

Owner Penny Peterson's decision to shutter the location comes two weeks after a violent stabbing just a few steps away from their entrance left a 17-year-old dead. 

In the note, owner Penny Peterson said she has "staff to consider and keep out of harm's way."

It went on to read, "We have tried to do so by changing the hours allowing [staff] to be out of the downtown core at a decent hour. In light of recent events, we will remove them completely and provide them with work at one of our other locations."

The downtown has been under scrutiny due to public complaints about an increase in drug use, and a perceived sense of danger.

Some of that has focused on a two-square block area containing a Tim Horton's, an LCBO, and the Sudbury Transit Terminal.

In 2017, the city's transit director submitted a report to city council calling for a security review of the area.

Pita Pit owner Penny Peterson posted this sign in the window of her Cedar Street location. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

But Peterson said she had never felt threatened on Cedar Street, even during lucrative, late-night shifts after the bars closed. She said it was sometimes like being "in a frat house."
 
Peterson said another factor in the decision to close is her health. She said she is recovering from a heart attack three years ago.  She had even considered closing this location before the stabbing. She took the incident as "a sign."

"With the circumstances that happened recently, and I don't want to get into it, it just said to me 'you know what? What's more important to me? The dollar or the staff?'" Peterson said. 

She added her staff did not complain about the location, despite it being close to the Sudbury Transit Terminal.

"It was homey, it was our training store," she said. "It was everything you'd want a store to be.
 Unfortunately it's just a difficult time downtown right now."

"And I just think I'm making the right decision to pull out," she said. "Move on, disperse the staff into the other locations, and let's make these guys flourish.  

Maureen Luoma is the executive director of the Sudbury BIA. (Casey Stranges/CBC)

Maureen Luoma, director of Sudbury's downtown Business Improvement Association, said she wasn't going to sugarcoat the situation that business owners in the city core are facing.

"Absolutely there are safety issues downtown," Luoma said. "But the issues that we're facing downtown are not unlike those facing any downtown. They're not unlike those that are in every every community within our city of Greater Sudbury."

"There just seems to be a larger headlight, I think, on the downtown." 

Luoma said business owners are working with community groups and Sudbury Police to find ways of making the downtown safer. 

But Luoma added that the downtown is still thriving. She pointed to the number of small businesses that have opened up in 2019, despite the ongoing concerns.

"There are a lot of very, very good things that are happening downtown and there are the not-so-good things," she said. 

"I've been doing this job for a long time and there's always going to be those, not to wear rose-colored glasses, but there are very strong issues that need to be addressed," she said. 

"It takes a lot of people, and a lot of people are working on things." 
 

About the Author

Casey Stranges is a reporter based in Sudbury. casey.stranges@cbc.ca

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