I heard today the City of Vancouver wants to shut down Le Marche St George due to by-law restrictions on what a the city definition of a corner store is. It was almost a year ago Le Marche St George inspired me to start really thinking about becoming a business owner. What would that look like? How could I integrate a business of my own, into my community? I couldn’t stop thinking about it.
It was also a year ago I read about the City of Ottawa's study on rezoning specific commercial spaces in residential areas, the “small-c zoning study” some called it. The question was whether or not the city wanted to allow a more diverse selection of commercial tenants (e.g., artist studios, restaurants, retail shops) on residential streets as an alternative to the usual convenience store with chips and cigarettes. The Ottawa Business Journal described the study coming from, "[The idea] to create more vibrant, unique urban communities with amenities that are within walking or biking distance, reducing dependence on automobile transportation." I became curious, so I attended a meeting for the public at city hall. There were definitely voices of residents worried about losing parking spots, the fear of the oh-so-dreaded new, and in true Ottawa fashion, the questioning of sample sizes for the study.
Despite the climate of skepticism, I was left motivated and full of ideas.
And so, I met with a city planner who worked on the rezoning study. We had a great talk and he started asking about my business ideas. I described a place that would live between two worlds. It would be a place for late night snacks, toothpaste or emergency tampons, as well as somewhere to sit and read the news, talk to a friend about your day, or meet your sister for brunch.
I pulled up the model business I had been looking at on my phone and showed him – Le Marche St George. My boyfriend's sister had taken us there the previous summer when we went back home to visit Vancouver. We ate brunch, bought some local ice cream for their pregnant cousin, and got some gifts to take back to Ottawa. It was perfect. Although it was packed with people, the space was welcoming and, there was a placidity to it that left us there chatting and sipping on our coffees for much longer than expected. The city planner’s eyes lit up and he smiled. He couldn't believe it. He had used Le Marche St George as a model business for the rezoning study himself – as an example of what our neighbourhoods in Ottawa could be and how we could bring people together with a little space and common ground. I thought many times about contacting the owners. I wanted to tell them this story, how I had read about how they started their business on a whim, and how terrifying I found that.
And so I felt compelled to finally write this and say thank you to Le Marche for giving me and others (on the other side of the country) something to strive toward. I hope the day I do open my business, it brings people together like their space does – with style, vibrancy, and the comfort of a good neighbour.
Sign the petition to keep Le Marche St George open here