by Neil Corbett
In 2010 Sears left downtown Mission, leaving a crater in the business district, and soon many other store windows went dark – victims of the global economic downturn. Business leaders voiced concern for the future of the downtown.
But that trend is reversing itself, and since January, 11 new businesses have started on the main drag.
“It’s the biggest uptake in years,” said Mission economic development officer Stacey Crawford. “You have a very strong indication of confidence in the downtown.”
Sears is being replaced by MTF Price Matters – a B.C. company that is opening its 13th location in the Lower Mainland. Manager Craig Flyman explained it is a grocer and liquidation business. MTF sells clothes, electronics, furniture, tools and automotive supplies.
“There will be a little bit of everything,” promises Flyman.
Indeed, the company’s website showed that variety, featuring Nintendo Wii Consoles, Vancouver Canucks hats and GPS systems on Friday.
Its Mission location opens the first week of July, and will employ about 10 people
Crawford said with 12,000 square feet of retail space, MTF Price Matters will provide a “major anchor” downtown. He calls its merchandise “higher end” liquidation items.
“It’s a pretty good fit for downtown.”
On the other end of the square-footage scale, Deborah Bleasdale opened The Sweet Spot Cafe.
She is a 13-year Mission resident, a chef with 20 years of high school teaching experience, and the former operator of the Blackberry Cafe at Fraser River Heritage Park.
“What really spurred me, is I fell in love with this little building,” she said of her new main street digs.
Bleasdale sells espresso, coffee and lunch items, serving a handful of tables indoors and a few more on an outdoor patio.
“It was a little bit scary, but I have confidence in myself,” she said of the business startup. “The business community has been really welcoming.”
She likes the trend in Mission’s downtown, but says there is work to be done before it is a shopping destination.
“It needs more boutique businesses that are owner-run,” she said. “It’s better than it was.”
People are also talking about Dakota Joe’s Restaurant. It will be opening near the end of June, with western style family cuisine. Dakota Joe’s take the place of Stasia’s restaurant.
Shawn Vesper moved his Vesper Board Shop from the Junction to First Avenue.
“There’s more character here,” he said of his new digs. “And Mission is one of the few towns with a main street left.”
He said the traffic has been comparable to his former location, and he has been doing a solid business, which promises to get better once back-to-school shopping begins.
“Each month has been getting better and better,” he said. “I’m happy here.”
Dr. Lyndon Balisky, president of the Downtown Business Association, said the Lougheed Highway guarantees there will always be a lot of potential customers driving down Mission’s main drag.
“To the DBA, we’re always excited to have the place looking this full,” he said. “There is a lot of life left in the downtown.”