A recent conversation on one of our local listservs got me thinking. The conversation started with the closing of a local restaurant. There was disappointment from many angles and the inevitable call out to support local businesses. The back and forth switched gears with a bad review of another business. Now, some of this critique went a little too deep, but it essentially revolved around poor business practices.
We have long been looking for the magic pill that will attract the businesses we want to Beechwood. Theories on how to do it are abound; cheaper rents, better infrastructure, more parking. All of these are valid points and should continue to be priorities.
In the immediate, maybe we could focus on something that is closer to our control as customers. Demanding more from our existing businesses. Before you rise up and say that we have the best businesses in the city… I am not saying our shops and services are no good. I am suggesting that we could ask more of them.
Whether it be façade upgrades, approachable management or a consistent, friendly hello from staff, a higher standard of business would raise the bar. As regulars of any given establishment, we can sometimes become blind to its shortcomings. A few simple, but consistent moves would have newer customers visiting more often and perhaps even draw a few from other parts of the City.
There is also room for far more cohesion. Through some of my efforts, I have come across those that play better in the sandbox than others. Running a small business presents little free time, but local efforts should be embraced. Not attending an area event or supporting an established charity often results in negative optics for the whole business community, not just the business that opts out. A business community that works together will flourish accordingly.
As consumers, we are not innocent of the current situation. Encourage your local businesses to take it up a notch. Let them know you’d like to see them put on a sidewalk sale, sponsor a local event or host a children’s group.
Our main street is flanked by an NCC path system, one of Ottawa’s largest urban forests and two heritage districts. Throw in a cohesive business community and increased service standards and you may find Beechwood becoming a destination. Perhaps then, we could more effectively address things like lowering rents, improving infrastructure and increasing parking.