They say a friend in need is a friend indeed.
That might be a good way to sum up the tone of business owners on a quiet strip of Mount Pleasant south of Eglinton Ave.
Neighbours had always chatted to one another casually and even formed friendships. However, it wasn’t until this past February that a few of them decided to formalize their quality time with a monthly gathering to chat casually and discuss how to go about boosting business on the flagging stretch.
“It’s about lending each other a friendly shoulder,” says Lucy Kokalov, owner of Boj Décor. “We do this once a month. We just sit, we have some treats and we talk about how to help each other. Right now retail is in very bad shape.”
Hit by the recession as well as declining pedestrian traffic, business owners say commerce on the street has been looking grim for at least the last year or so.
Last Fall, Neil Siomra, head of the Mount Pleasant Business Improvement Area told the Town Crier the area has an uphill battle.
“Pedestrian traffic has disappeared … Everyone is feeling this economic crunch,” he said. “It’s the tenth year since I’ve been here and I’ve been working harder than ever before.”
Having started the BIA to try and give the area a leg up, Siomra said the organization was working on projects such as streetscaping, improved signage and a website to list and promote area businesses.
But Kokalov stresses that the people coming to the meetings are not part of a formal group, but rather constitute a regular, informal gathering of neighbouring business owners who enjoy one another’s company and want to help each other succeed.
Nor are the meetings, hosted by a different person each month, meant to be an expression of dissatisfaction with the fledgling BIA, says Kokalov.
“They do what they can, but we’re not just sitting and waiting for the sun to come out,” she says. “We’re trying to push the clouds away.”
That means referring customers to one another and trying to pool client feedback to find out how all businesses on the strip can do better, Kokalov says.
“The market is changing, the consumer is changing and we have to change as well if we want to survive,” says Kokalov. “We’re trying to work hard and find other sources that will be helpful through our network, through our friends, through our ideas.”
Aside from customer referrals, though, Kokalov says there’s another benefit for business owners who socialize with their neighbours.
About this article: