– Some Cambie Street merchants still suffering loss of business

The Province

Vancouver

By Suzanne Fournier

With Canada Line running for a month, customers slow to return

The Canada Line has been carrying commuters for almost a month, giving a big boost to some businesses but not much to those who bore the brunt of almost four years of construction chaos in their midst.

“So many customers left the Cambie Village because of the construction chaos and forgot about us for so long that it’s really hard to get business back,” complained Karyee Yip, who has owned Honey Gifts in the 3400-block Cambie St. for eight years and is trying to support her sons Jaden, six months, and Xavier, 2.

“The government says they support small to medium-sized businesses, yet we’ve had to bear the costs ourselves and we don’t get EI [employment insurance]. Many businesses are gone and now that the Line is running, it doesn’t help Cambie Village because there are no stops between Broadway and King Edward Village.”

Small boutiques, new restaurants and specialty wine and cheese stores are slowly moving in, which could make the area a destination shopping area, notes Yip.

On Nov. 4, 81 property-owners representing 271 businesses that lost an estimated $20 million will go to court to try to launch their class-action lawsuit against TransLink, noted Cambie Merchants association spokesman Leonard Schein, owner of Festival Cinemas that runs the Park Theatre on Cambie.

“So far, we haven’t noticed any improvement in business from 16th Avenue to 29th Avenue because of the Canada Line — it’s a long walk. Businesses that did well before the cut-and-not-cover then lost money while there was a giant hole on Cambie are not seeing much improvement now.”

New businesses that have perked up Cambie Village and seem to be doing just fine are Mt. Pleasant Cheese, Firefly Fine Wines and Stella’s on Cambie, a new version of the popular Belgian resto-bar on Commercial Drive.

“We’ve seen an increase in business since the Canada Line opened — we find customers, especially beer afficionados who know us, are willing to walk a few extra blocks to have a beer, before their flight, then get to the airport safely by transit,” said Sean Cannon, Stella’s day manager. “There’s a lot of camaraderie, a real neighbourhood feel here.”

TransLink spokesman Ken Hardie said the $1.9-billion Canada Line carried up to 85,000 people in its first week of operation, which included many “sightseers” but is projected to be loading 100,000 passengers a day by the 2010 Olympics.

The rapid-transit spur takes passengers from downtown Vancouver to Richmond, with connections not only to the airport but to big shopping malls such as Oakridge at 41st Avenue, several Asian-themed malls in Richmond and the River Rock Casino Resort. Oakridge’s website trumpets the new stop for shoppers, as do River Rock ads.

“We’re very pleased at the increased business we’re already seeing from the Canada Line and we anticipate even more growth,” said Howard Blank, vice-president of Great Canadian Gaming Co., which owns the casino.

“We’re attracting a whole different demographic — some of the seniors from the Oakridge area aren’t willing to drive, but they will take transit.”

sfournier@theprovince.com

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