The former Central Supplies building, the vacant Home Hardware buildings on Westville Road and in Stellarton, an empty YMCA building and the unused John Brother MacDonald Stadium.
Work is well underway on the new location for Toyota Anchor Motors. The business has outgrown its current location on Westville Road. ADAM MACINNIS – THE NEWS
As businesses move to Albion Power Centre and the surrounding area, it’s hard not to notice the large empty buildings left behind. For business owners, they see the move to new locations as a chance to expand their businesses and be better situated for today’s customer habits. While the Town of New Glasgow may not like the fact that there are empty buildings, they say it shows how old businesses have grown and also creates opportunities for new businesses to start in town.
Business owners shared their thoughts on their moves and how things have gone so far.
Company president Kevin White said Central Supplies had realized that their location in the former K Mart building wasn’t ideal for their business and when the chance to build in Albion Place came, they jumped at it.
“It’s a substantially more visible and recognizable area,” he said.
While they had to remodel their old building when they opened there, the new building they were able to build it the way they wanted.
“It’s night and day in efficiencies,” White said.
With visibility from the highway, he said “the location is an advertisement every day.”
Sales have remained steady in the new location, which is significant for an industry that has been hit hard over the last five years. Central also owns the shopping plaza in the Albion Business Park. While only half the spots have been rented in it, White is optimistic that they will find tenants for the vacancies.
“We put that building up in probably the worst possible timing you could have,” he said. “The whole economy went into a tank.”
Few companies want to risk a new location when times are tough. He said they do have some people looking now though including a couple food service companies. With other business moving to the area, he said the potential only increases.
Home Hardware was another company quick to move to the Albion Power Centre.
Jim Proudfoot, co-owner of the local franchise, said they needed more space. For years they also had two parts to the business, with one part on Westville Road and the other in Stellarton. Now they’ve been able to combine everything into one location and it’s been a good move for them.
“I think our customers definitely like everything under one roof,” he said
Unlike Central who rented their previous location, they’ve been left with their former buildings to try to get rid of. More than a year after the move, both of the old locations are still for sale.
“Things are slow, but there’s interest,” Proudfoot said. “We know that it takes time. You need the right buyer.
He said their location on Westville Road for example has a high visibility with good traffic. It’s also very structurally sound, so it could be divided and used by several stores.
Toyota Anchor Motors Ltd.
For 39 years Anchor Motors’ location has been on Westville Road, but in July their new location will be in the Albion Power Centre, simply because they have run out of room.
The company celebrated their 45th anniversary in November and would love to not have to move, but after two renovations there is little they can do to adjust as they’ve outgrown their space.
Their new location sits on 4.12 acres, while their current location is approximately two acres said owner Marc Comeau.
“It’s huge for us to have that space because for displaying cars right now we have them on the lot and by Proudfoots old building right now,” he said. “We’ll be on one level and all in one lot, which will be a lot better visibility for our customers to see the cars.”
He said their building and service department will double in size, plus they will be able to display cars towards the highway and Lawrence Blvd.
“We just have no room in New Glasgow right now, so this is the place to be,” he said. “There’s easy access and lots of traffic will be going through there as the park continues to grow.”
Greg Burrows, owner of the Pictou County Subway franchises, said they had been looking at the area close to where the Wellness Centre now stands for a while. “We had always looked at Westville Road, but there wasn’t enough attraction to any locations we looked at,” said Burrows. “Once the Wellness Centre came this way we felt there would be enough traffic to sustain another store.”
Unlike most businesses that moved to the business park, Burrows didn’t close any other store to open at his new location. He said it impacts sales at the New Glasgow stores on East River Road and in the Westside Plaza, but the Pictou store hasn’t had much if any change to sales.
“It definitely affects the other stores sales because being where we are now seems as though it’s a more convenient place than going to Westside Plaza at lunch because there is more flow in the business park and it’s easier to get in and out of,” he said. “We’re still happy overall and if I could do it over again I would still do it. The projections of sales have been met and a little over what this store would be doing. We knew it was a long-term business plan and that it wouldn’t be busy all the time to start.
“It will get better each and every year as it’s more of a five-year plan to hit the growth curve where you will see it as a sustainable business.”
When asked if he believes he will have to close a location he said that both still have strong sales and each serve their own areas.
He says he can’t see them ever having to close one of their old locations.
The Pictou County Wellness Centre falls into the mix on the outskirts of the Albion Power Centre as a new standalone location, having not moved from another area in the county, although New Glasgow Minor Hockey has moved there from the now closed JBM.
Although there was a single ice surface in New Glasgow and now two in the Wellness Centre, which makes them different facilities to begin with, the location of the new facility alone makes a big difference according to general manger and former JBM manager Mike Adam.
“It’s very centrally located and is very accessible from the 104 and the major arteries like Westville Road, so coming from either direction it’s very easy to get to it,” he said. “The greater space we have here also allowed us to have increased parking, so a lot of the issues we used to have at the John Brother have been alleviated.”
He added that having the YMCA as part of it is also a plus, making it a “one-stop shop.”
The Wellness Centre being on the edge of town means that it isn’t "centrally located" as somewhere that people can walk to, but in his experience managing the John Brother he said the only people that might be affected by that are those who attend events such as the Weeks Crushers games.
“Even at the John Brother, not many people were walking to the rink with a hockey bag over their shoulder, so in terms of people that walk to hockey practice or other skates you typically don’t see much of that,” said Adam. “In order for it to be accessible for walking you typically need it to be located in an urban area, but typically that doesn’t leave you room for parking.”
When it comes to money he said that he doesn’t think it makes a major difference where the facility is located when it comes to the bottom line, although he said if the facility wasn’t surrounded by anything and away from where most people live that location would then come into play in affecting money.
YMCA CEO Dave MacIntyre is very happy with the move of the Y into the Wellness Centre. He said membership continues to grow despite some growing pains along the way in the state of the art new facility.
But they also have been left with the burden of their former building, which has yet to sell. In order for it to be sold commercially it would have to be rezoned, he said, because it’s in a residential area and people who would use it for non-profit use are few.
Last winter the Y kept the building heated with an upkeep cost for the first year between $40,000 and $50,000, but this year they decided it was too expensive to keep heating and drained all the pipes.
“It’s a pretty huge experience, we’d rather not have,” he said.
He hopes that soon, they’ll be able to get something resolved there and is optimistic they will.
In Monday’s Paper: CAO Lisa MacDonald shares her thoughts on the vacant buildings and the opportunities they create for the Town of New Glasgow.