Starbucks closing ByWard Market location; other businesses look to survive during pandemic
OTTAWA -- The COVID-19 pandemic has had a devastating impact on Ottawa's downtown.
Few people are heading out, which has businesses re-gigging their models, leaving big gaps in an already fleeting area.
In Ottawa's popular ByWard Market, very few people walk the streets, which means the Starbucks boutique coffee shop on York Street has little traffic.
COVID's crushing effect on sales has the Seattle-based brew chain accelerating its transformation strategy. They plan to close as many as 300 locations across Canada by March.
The popular Starbucks in the ByWard Market is closing at the end of the month.
Starbucks plans to refocus their business on drive-through and curbside pickup locations.
Boarded up buildings and closed shops in what should be a bustling downtown sector paints a bleak picture. While billion-dollar businesses can back away, that is not the case for everyone.
For 23 years, Le Moulin De Provence has been an anchor in the area, baking breads and treats as well as preparing meals.
While looking through the floor-to-ceiling windows towards an empty market, Le Moulin De Province owner Claude Bonnet says it's been tough, and knows more shops will likely close.
"We are still there every day at 5 o'clock in the morning," says Bonnet. "We have to be inventive about the future life to create an interest for people to shop in the market ... artisanal business and small business."
The ByWard Market relies not only on tourism, but on workers filling nearby office building. Across the capital, office vacancy rates have risen dramatically over the last year.
However, there are still entrepreneurs relying on a post-pandemic rebound.
JP Gorley opened Opulence Coffee on Dalhousie Street days before the provincial lockdown began.
There was little pomp and circumstance for the executive chef who has travelled the world creating menus for hotels. Gorley does plan to have a grand opening after the lockdown, but for now he's happy to be serving his own fragrant and rich blends of bean.
"If we survive the next few weeks will survive the next few years," says Gorley. "Every day there are new customers coming in and business is picking up, word is spreading."
Gorley knows new shops opening now need new sales models.
His hand made a small batch roasts, made twice a week, will be available to buy online.
His outlook is positive and his product has customers returning for more. Corley grew up in Ottawa and wants to help build back the lush landscape of Ottawa's downtown core, adding there are still new restaurants and shops that have the guts to go for it, even during trying times.