Rising rents, evictions and a lack of available commercial spaces are putting pressure on businesses in 100 Mile House.
GBR- Craft Burgers and Poutines – closed its doors April 1 after new owners bought the building where they had been for nearly seven years. GBR owner Natalie Cox said they want to stay in the community, but it’s proving difficult to find any available space, especially with a commercial kitchen.
“There’s nowhere in town,” she said, adding even empty buildings like the old Subway appear to be leased already. “I have a following that really doesn’t want us to close but at this point I really have my hands tied. I don’t want a huge space, I just want a kitchen space.”
Cox is one of several businesses who have faced eviction, or higher rents, recently, partly due to an influx of new people coming into the community, or others selling out in what has become a fairly hot market.
The owners of the Swinstones Granite Shop are also looking for a new home after their building on Highway 97 was sold, while a strip of business owners on Birch Avenue are bracing for a rent increase after new owners recently took over their property.
Andie Giddings, of the Impossible Knot Yarn Shop on Birch Avenue, said she is currently in negotiations with the new landlord and would love to stay in the space she has held for the past five years.
“There really is nowhere to move to,” she said. “Here in town, we have a limited amount of commercial buildings the right size.”
She noted steep rent increases could have a dire effect on some businesses, who may not be able to keep all of their staff. on the payroll.
She added 100 Mile House is lot different from other communities like Kelowna or the Lower Mainland as it is smaller and its population is largely elderly and low-income.
Wages in the South Cariboo are also significantly lower. According to Statistics Canada, the median income for people in 100 Mile House in 2016 – the latest year for such stats – is $43,136 per year. This compares to median income of $84,850 in B.C. as a whole.
“It makes a difference for people in town because when our rents go up you might have to cut back on staff,” Giddings said. “It’s going to have a negative impact on the town if it’s a really drastic increase.”
Samantha Swindells, of the Swinstones Granite Shop, said her father seems to be making progress on finding a new space, and hopes they can remain in 100 Mile House.
“A lot of our customers are an hour out the other way and we want to be in the heart of town,” she said.
Cox, too, wants to stay in town, as her business caters to the lunchtime crowd. She acknowledges there is not much she can do if someone buys the building.
“It was just so sudden,” she said. “GBR is not dead. We’ll be back. It’s just a matter of finding a place.”