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Penticton downtown merchants dealing with changing consumer habits

Jon Cote of Penticton's former Craft Corner Kitchen Restaurant poses for a photo on Friday, Jan. 10, 2020. Cote says his culinary future is in a food truck rather than a brick and mortar restaurant.
January 15, 2020 - 3:15 PM

Changes are happening to Penticton’s downtown business section as the city’s entrepreneurs deal with the challenges of the internet and changing consumer habits.

The Craft Corner Kitchen, located at 557 Main St., closed permanently late last year.

Owner Jon Cote says he has decided to leave the brick and mortar business and get a food truck.

“I’m going to continue to be based out of Penticton and I’m in going to be building a business plan with Community Futures next month,” he says.

Cote says he opened up the Craft Corner Kitchen to fill a missing market niche in Penticton.

“When we first got here eight years ago, you couldn’t find any classic cocktails anywhere. Now everyone’s doing it,” he says. “The market opened up and everyone got into it. At a certain point, the market gets saturated and you’re starting to see it in your numbers. I’ve decided it’s time to move on."

Patrick Ireland owns Roothouse Lifestyle, located at 218 Main St.

The lifestyle store that sells jewellery, spa products and homewares has been operating in Penticton for eight years, but Ireland will be closing the doors for good at the end of the month.

“There are a variety of issues affecting the retail sector, and not just in Penticton. Fifty per cent of Canadians do a lot of their shopping online and it has affected our business,” he says.

Ireland says the last straw for his business was HomeSense opening down the highway in West Kelowna.

“We’re in a very price-sensitive market, we were always a mid-end shop, and we noticed it when HomeSense opened in West Kelowna,” he says. “I overheard people chatting in the store, ‘don’t get it here, go to HomeSense, it’s only a half hour away.'”

When HomeSense location opened in time for Black Friday, that was 30 per cent of our business right there,” Ireland says.

Other factors contributing to Ireland’s decision to close included the high cost of leasing a store front in downtown Penticton.

“Lease rates are quite high, and leases never go down,” he says.

In spite of tourism efforts to bolster the shoulder season trade, there is still a seasonality issue to business on Main Street.

"We were quite busy at Christmas, but from now until April when tourists start to come back, there’s no traffic,” Ireland says.

Recent reconstruction and revitalization of Main Street also came at a cost of the loss of parking spaces and he calls it a “bit of an issue.”

He believes the City has been proactively working to improve the homeless situation downtown, but that issue could still be a deterrent to some.

“It’s not one thing, it’s a myriad of issues that I think is impacting local business,” Ireland says.

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