Keeping the Beach vibrant is up to all of us

PHOTO: Contributed

For a while there have been rumblings of the Beach’s slow demise. Despite the recent media reports, we continue to see new businesses open and others expanding. The Beach business community is resilient, and with the many community-based projects filling the calendars of the spring, summer and fall, the Beach is offering more for its residents than many other communities in Toronto.

One of the primary concerns has been the closures of favourite restaurants and stores. The reality is that Queen Street is an ever-evolving hub of business and opportunity. This means that the closure of one store, despite how sad it may be, makes room for another to have their shot. New openings like The Beach Market and Yum Croissant, across from the fire hall, have already drawn in curious residents. Two pop ups have filled in a few gaps, like The Gargoyle at 1932 Queen St E, and The Chufa Co, a shipping container retrofitted to shell out vegan soft serve at Queen and Waverley. Rowe Farms was bursting at the seams and moved three doors west to a much larger space, and we look forward to welcoming Slate restaurant at Queen and Wineva, and The Yard, an expansion of the popular hot spot, Hogtown Smoke.

It’s foolish to deny that empty storefronts are not a problem, however the issue isn’t unique to the Beach. Cities as big as New York are undergoing rapid amounts of change as high rents, foreign investors, and online shopping (and a slew of other complex forces) are driving out everything that once made neighbourhoods alive with culture, small business, and all the idiosyncrasies of a vibrant community. Of course, telling that to a struggling business owner doesn’t help, and is also rather insulting. So, what is the solution? What do we do, and what roles do each of us play in making sure we don’t become a street full of empty stores or cold, chain restaurants and retail giants devoid of character, where nobody knows your name?

Businesses can listen to their customers’ needs and adapt. This may be by testing out later opening hours, utilizing promotions and deals to entice customers, or improving their digital media presence. Businesses can take advantage of the help provided not only from the BIA, but also from the City, as well as their fellow business owners. Networking, collaboration, and the ongoing promotion of neighbouring businesses will only benefit the overall health of the business community.

Residents can shop, dine, and use the services right on their doorstep. Our neighbourhood is extremely walkable, and a lot friendlier than that Smart Centre or strip mall. Residents can check in-store before they check online. Residents can form groups and brainstorm their own strategies to alleviate problems (just look at DECA’s pop up program). Beachers are passionate and fiercely loyal to their neighbourhood, and that support will help to keep us strong.

The BIA promises to undertake more creative engagement, make data driven decisions, and utilize our Marketing Committee to continue to promote the area and the activities of our member businesses.

It will continue to drive people to the strip with favourites such as Movie Nights in the Park, Music in the Park, Halloween on Queen, and brainstorm new and different ways to bring animation to the streets.

We all have a role and responsibility in making our community a vibrant and dynamic place to live, work and play. Change takes time, change takes patience, and most importantly, change takes support.

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