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Core stores vary in talking lockout

By Laurie Snell
Guelph Tribune

Less than a week after the city locked out its transit workers, most businesses in the core say they haven’t felt much change. They do, however, predict that if it lasts much longer, riders will be less apt to find a way across town.

So far, the Carden Street terminal and city hall have served as the workers’ stomping grounds for picketing in the downtown. Being caught in the crossfire has made things a little uncomfortable downtown, according to some of the nearby shop owners.

Across the street from city hall, Ecoexistence manager Chelsea Gray said things have certainly slowed down since Monday in her shop.

“It definitely seems to be a little bit less busy,” she said.

“I’ve had people come in and complain about how the transit isn’t coming anymore,” Gray said. “It’s stressful for everybody because a lot of us rely on public transit too.” She added that the store doesn’t have a plan in place for if it starts to impact sales.

Just a few shops over, Eric Chevalier, owner of Eric the Baker, said he hasn’t noticed much change. “On the weekend people come around     . . . I just go with the flow. It’s their grievances. I’m kind of out of it so I just do my thing,” he said. The baker also said there isn’t much he can do anyway.

Just up the road on Wyndham Street, the lack of visible picketers makes things feel a bit more normal. The only real reminder is not hearing the buses drive by, and transit stops are far from crowded.

Shelly Thompson, manager of The Patch clothing store, said it has been business as usual so far. She explained that they have a fairly active online presence, and she isn’t too worried about the lockout.

“We really just depend on word of mouth. We do get a lot of people walking downtown now that it’s nice out – especially with the Saturday crowds that hit the market. I honestly haven’t seen a difference and I don’t think we’d do anything. We have our social media, but we don’t do any extra advertising. It just kind of works out itself,” Thompson said.

While most business owners or managers agreed it’s a bit too soon to predict just how hard this will hit, they echoed the same concerns for riders who rely on transit.

Janet Fountain, an employee at Jeans and Things, said this is going to impact her vote in the October mayoral election, even though she doesn’t rely on public transit.  Fountain explained that several customers have come into the store voicing their frustration about the lockout and its impact on their daily routine.

“Before the lockout two Sundays ago  when (Mayor Karen Farbridge) was threatening to lock them out . . . customers came in and said if the buses aren’t working they’ve got a long walk to get home and to work again …

I have a car, so personally I’m not impacted. It’s just that I feel a lot of the people who live in Guelph are impacted,” Fountain said.

As there is very little businesses can do to bring in transit riders from across town, the shops will have to wait and see, while hoping for a new agreement.

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