Key store lost to Shops at Don Mills

Winnipeg bookseller closes local branch

McNally Robinson’s stay in The Shops at Don Mills has been abridged.

In late December the Canadian bookseller closed its doors in Toronto after only nine months in operation.

The company simultaneously ceased operation at one of its two Winnipeg stores, after weathering a brutal market that it said left the stores substantially unprofitable.

The closures amount to a halving of the company’s fleet and the loss of 170 jobs.

“This has been a heart-rending process,” reads a statement posted on the family-owned company’s website the day they announced the closures.

That same morning, a sign appeared on the front door of the Don Mills store informing customers and even some employees of the store’s demise.

In an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press conducted the evening before the Dec. 29 announcement, co-owner Paul McNally heaped some of the blame for the Don Mills store’s failure on mall developers Cadillac Fairview, complaining about the lack of occupancy in the mall and inadequate signage.

Contacted for comment Cadillac Fairview marketing director Alan Gomez, defended the mall.

“Most tenants are very happy with what’s going on at the mall,” he said.

As for the charge of a lack of tenants, Gomez admitted that even with McNally Robinson, the 100-unit mall only had 75 percent of its retail units occupied.

In another statement McNally cited the current economic climate, competition from easy-discounting giants Amazon and Wal-Mart, as well as the increasingly popular move to digital readers like Amazon’s Kindle as causes for the shop’s end.

Simone Gabbay, head of Don Mills Friends, a community group that has been a harsh critic of the mall, says that the closure has been a shock to the community.

“It was the one store that made up for all the nonsense here,” said an impassioned Gabbay.

She contends that while the Don Mills community is made up of middle- to upper middle-class families and seniors, The Shops at Don Mills mall was designed to cater to what she calls an upper class Yorkville crowd.

And that’s a big problem, she says.

“There’s nothing there that we can use,” she said. “How often do you need to buy a $500 handbag?”

She also said that when the mall was imposed on the community it displaced or eliminated many of the community’s useful services and has so far failed to replace them.

Gabbay said residents rejoiced when the bookseller opened up shop and became a major anchor at the mall nine months ago.

“It was just beginning to be the kind of place where the clerks knew your name. It reminded us of the old mall,” she said.

As for what’s next for store’s former space, the mall isn’t sure yet.

“We just learned about (the closure) last week,” said Gomez. “We’re in the process of seeing what out options are.”

About this article:

By: Christopher Reynolds
Posted: Jan 19 2010 3:33 pm
Filed in: NEWS
Edition: Toronto