The ripple effects of closed office buildings

‘Sometimes there’s no sales’

“If the offices stay closed, then nobody’s coming,” says Nutrition House’s Park. Although he’s opened the store for four hours every weekday since May, “sometimes there’s no sales”.

Park bought the franchise almost four years ago, thinking it would be an ideal business to run in retirement: its usual hours are 07:30 to 18:00 on weekdays only, and he could hire staff to open the shop in the mornings and come in to help and talk to customers in the afternoons.

“I just love this space, this location because [of] all the young people and all the full-steam energy – all go, go, go,” he says. “I feel like part of them.”

Now, says Johanna Park, a retired nurse, “What can we do? Do we have to close? That’s a choice we have to make.”

Like many small businesses downtown, the shop qualifies for a federal rental assistance programme that covers 75% of its monthly rent, 50% of which is paid by the government and 25% by its landlord. Landlords, however, have to opt-in to the programme, and while Park’s has done so, even finding the money to pay 25% rent hasn’t been possible. The shop didn’t make any sales while it was closed (as a franchise, Nutrition House’s online business is run by the company’s head office) and even now it is only scratching CAD$3,500 ($2,650, £2027) per month, down 88% from last August. Like many tenants, he’s been differing payment since March, and also doesn’t except to be able to pay the back-rent.