A group of business owners in downtown Trail are passionate about sprucing up their street to reclaim it as a shopping destination.
Merchants along Spokane Street such as the Gift Shop, Women’s Journey to Fitness, and Ye Olde Flower Shoppe have spruced up their exteriors with fresh paint, planters full of colourful flowers, clean sidewalks and re-tiled front entrances.
However, one very large obstacle stands in the way.
A hindrance to improving the street’s image is the untidy appearance of the empty buildings, said business owners Sabine Mann and Maureen Dilling of Women’s Journey to Fitness. In particular, the former Liquidation World, a building that spans half the block and is right across the street from their newly renovated gym.
“I can tell you that our members do say the building is a disgrace and really takes away from what we are all trying to do in making our businesses look really good,” said Mann.
“I even offered to clean it and pretty it up if that’s what it will take,” she said, adding, “It just needs to be done.”
Unless the building poses a threat to public safety, such as a loose awning, the city cannot take action against the owner.
“Responsibility for property maintenance and upkeep falls to the property owner,” confirmed Michelle McIsaac, Trail’s corporate administrator.
“While the city encourages all property owners to take an active interest in beautifying and keeping their storefronts tidy, we can’t order them or require them to do so.”
McIsaac acknowledged downtown properties making efforts to improve their storefronts, and said, “perhaps that attitude will catch on with others.”
Although Mann is waiting for a response from the building owner who is out of the country, she remains hopeful that improvements will soon happen to the building.
She suggested the possibility of mirroring Kaslo’s vacant downtown buildings, which have historical town pictures blown up and posted in the windows to create visual appeal.
“Another idea is to bring the Trail Market indoors and into this building instead of the Cominco Arena,”said Mann.
“Or maybe an art-walk or after school program for kids. We just need them to do something.”
The south end of downtown along Spokane Street used to be lively place and a big attraction for people from neighbouring communities to visit Trail and shop, reminisced octogenarian John Carter.
Carter, 40-year owner of a well known fabric and notions store, Carter’s Sewing Centre, began his business in a Spokane Street location that was originally an Eaton’s retail outlet but converted to a mini-mall in the 80’s. Most recently, the building was the site of Liquidation World, a discount retail outlet that closed its doors in 2010.
He said operating a downtown business was always a challenge, but the biggest problem back then was a lack of parking for his customers.
“People who worked downtown would plug the meters in front of my store and leave no place for my customers to park,” said Carter. “That was a struggle, but I was good at what I did and could keep things going,” he said. “And I enjoyed it, especially singing on the radio,” he chuckled.
Today, parking isn’t the issue, rather the vacant building and its less than stellar exterior is frustrating for Jean Boyczuk, 30-year proprietor of the Gift Shop.
“This was one of the busiest streets years ago, and busy all the time,” she said. “Everyone left here is really trying but it feels like we don’t have anyone on board to help us,” explained Boyczuk. “The big empty building doesn’t attract anyone down here especially when it isn’t looked after. “I don’t care what they do with it, just do something.”