Toronto

Popular hair salon to close as rising taxes, soaring rents change face of West Queen West

The scissors will soon be silenced at a popular Queen Street West hair salon because of the changing neighbourhood and the seemingly ever-increasing rents along the street, its owners say.

The city put a 10% cap on property taxes but it's not enough to save storefronts, says BIA

The street fashion-inspired cuts Coupe Bizzarre is known for no longer reflect Queen Street West, says its owner. (Coupe Bizzarre/Instagram)

The scissors will soon be silenced at a popular Queen Street West hair salon because of the changing neighbourhood and the seemingly ever-increasing rents along the street, its owners say. 

"We will be happy not have such a big overhead," said Robert Pieter, one of the owners of Coupe Bizzarre, located at 710 Queen St. W. near Niagara Street.

According to the salon's website, its current team will be disbanding by the end of July, but will continue their work at other salons or in a home studio.

It's partly a life decision to downsize after 23 years of business, but Pieter says he's also feeling discouraged by the neighbouring shops that are closing and the big chains that are moving into the neighbourhood. 

"I think because we have been around for so long that perhaps we are faring better than some," he said.

Some of the local shops that have closed over the last two years in the West Queen West area include several longstanding clothing stores, fruit stands and cafes.

"It's definitely becoming a lot more corporate," Pieter said, referring to the chain restaurants and stores that have swooped in when there's a vacancy. 

'Nothing to do with greed. It's just to break even'

Rising property tax costs are partly at fault for the area's rising rents. 

These costs are determined by the tax rates set by the city and the valuation determined by the Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC). It uses recent sales of comparable properties and income potential to asses a property's value. 

In the last four years, the total MPAC assessment for commercial and industrial properties in the West Queen West area has increased from $250.2 million to $382 million. 

As a result, landlords are faced with higher taxes, and many are offsetting their costs by raising rents. 

It's "nothing to do with greed," says Rob Sysak, executive director of the West Queen West Business Improvement Area.

"It's just to break even," he told CBC Toronto. 

Rob Sysak, executive director of the West Queen West BIA, says if property tax assessments keep rising, costs will be passed along to small business owners, who won't be able to pay. (Andy Hincenbergs/CBC)

In early 2018, city council approved a 10 per cent cap on tax increases to provide some relief. 

Sysak says that's largely thanks to the collective voice of struggling merchants, backed by their BIAs that argued the city was losing its soul with every vacancy. 

"The sad part is, it's not going to erase what has happened," he said. 

BIA's hands are tied 

Sysak says he's been doing what he can to suggest the types of business the BIA would like for the neighbourhood, but that's about all he can do.

He says his organization has been trying to help small businesses like Coupe Bizzarre, but that its job is to help everyone, not just mom-and-pop operations.

"The BIA is there to support any member who comes in to West Queen West," Sysak said, "whether it's a Rexall or an A&W or a Coupe Bizzarre."

About the Author

Ali Chiasson

Reporter, CBC Toronto

From teleprompter to Associate Producer, Ali Chiasson worked many desks at CBC News Network before stepping in front of the cameras at CBC Toronto. Ali covers a wide range of breaking and feature stories and has a special knack for people profiles. Off the clock, Ali is happiest walking through Bloordale with headphones on, picking through local produce markets, sipping bubble tea and snapping pics of street art.

With files from Ilina Ghosh