One was OK. Two was too many.
The owner of one of Squamish’s first dollar stores is closing up shop.
“It is going to be a large hole to come out of,” Justin Ferster said, while sitting in the back office of the Only Deals Dollar Store in Chieftain Mall. “We have a lease.”
Ferster has owned the franchise located off just of Pemberton Avenue for six years. The store itself has served Squamish residents for 15 years, Ferster said. But last year, after Squamish became home to two mega-chains — Dollar Tree Canada and Dollarama — Ferster said he could no longer play ball.
“Sales were way down,” he said, noting while giant chains can run at a loss, his business can’t.
For a while, Ferster worked in construction to support the his shop, but eventually the bills caught up. The store would have survived if it were up against a single chain, but not two, Ferster said. The District of Squamish council’s decision to rezone the former Garibaldi 5 Cinema, paving the way for Dollarama, was the nail in his business’s coffin, Ferster said.
Ferster and his wife Naomi anticipate they will have to leave town to find work. Commercial rent in Squamish is just too high, Naomi said.
“It’s really sad,” she said.
Council cannot prevent specific types of businesses from locating in commercial zones, Coun. Patricia Heintzman said, noting she’s saddened to hear of the store’s closing.
“We can’t prescribe what the market is going to dictate,” she said.
However, the municipality can deal with uses, such as drive-through windows. The district currently has a proposed bylaw change on its plate. The amendment would ban the development of new drive-throughs within municipal boundaries.
Residents often assume district officials have the power to decide what specific type of stores go where, but they simply do not, Heintzman said, noting the same goes for the proposed liquefied natural gas (LNG) port slated for industrially zoned land adjacent to Howe Sound.
“We just can’t prescribe that,” she reiterated.