Retailers in the white

By Payge Woodard
@PaygeWoodard

oey Robinson, owner of Put Me On!, says snow is piling up outside her shop on Queen Street (Photo: Payge Woodard)
Joey Robinson, owner of Put Me On!, says snow is piling up outside her shop on Queen Street (Photo: Payge Woodard)

Glen Walker posted another sale advertisement to his store’s Facebook page this week.

The 30 per cent off sale will continue for a third month at Walker’s vintage shop, Dress in Time, located on the corner of Spring Garden Road and Brenton Street in Halifax.

Walker has also extended his hours in an attempt to drum up more business. He says the store is still suffering after slow business last winter.

“I never really recuperated from it.”

Last year, Halifax received record amounts of snow – 278 centimetres. On-street parking was banned in parts of the city to help equipment clear roads.

Joey Robinson is watching snow pile up outside her second-hand store, Put Me On!, in downtown Halifax.

She says last winter was tough on businesses on Queen Street, a few blocks from Walker’s store, because snow wasn’t cleared. She remembers seeing ten-foot banks of snow from her shop’s windows.

Robinson kept her store open but says no one was able to get up the street due to ice and snow.

As for this year? “You can see right today out there what they’ve done,” Robinson says, looking out the window from behind the cash register.

“They’ve piled the snow, they have not removed it. The street is blocked, there is only one lane of traffic now.”

Robinson is hopeful this year will be different but so far she says she hasn’t seen any change.

“They don’t clear the snow properly. Last year they didn’t clear it at all and this year they are already starting to pile it.”

In an e-mail, Jennifer Stairs, a spokesperson for Halifax Regional Municipality, says the city spent the off-season reviewing its snow clearing plans.

Halifax has now secured access to more snow removal equipment, including more graders to break up ice. Stairs says with the extra equipment the snow removal crews should be better positioned to improve service.

The city will also be using tracking technology on all equipment to monitor where snow removal equipment has been.

Some businesses are prepared to dig out if bad weather hits.

Kelsey Crewson, a manager at Black Market Boutique, a clothing and home decor store on Grafton Street, says staff worked to keep the area around the store clear last winter. She says they shovelled daily as well as put salt down.

“Whenever they do plow the sidewalk . . . It doesn’t get right to the ground,” she says.

But digging out isn’t easy for 61-year-old Walker.

“There is only so much a man with a shovel can shovel,” he says.

Back on Queen Street, Elsie’s Used Clothing owner Maureen Court, says staff dig a path in the snow banks to help customers access the store.

Court has spent 17 years on Queen Street and is used to the struggles winter brings her business. She says she isn’t worried about the piles forming around the store.

“This is the first time I’ve started to notice it’s looking a bit like last year,” Court says. “I’ve been here long enough and I’m established enough that I can probably survive a couple of weeks of bad weather.”

Stairs says the city meet with the representatives for the Business Improvement Districts before the season started to discuss any concerns and changes put in place for this season and how it might affect businesses.

With more snow forecast for the weekend, Stairs says crews have begun cleaning up downtown and will continue throughout the week, using salt trucks, plows, snowblowers and Bobcats to clear the sidewalks.

In the meantime, Walker is making the most of the good weather while it lasts.

“I’m taking advantage of this week and having a sale to see if I can draw some people to make some purchases,” he says.

Stairs says to help respond to public concerns, Halifax’s 311 information line now has a designated Winter Operations role to handle service requests. Residents and businesses that have concerns about snow removal can contact 311 or email contact@halifax.ca.