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Too many small businesses folding downtown

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Merchants respond with grassroots committee

Cathy Dobson

Nikki Warner says customer traffic in downtown Sarnia is slower this summer than it was even during the pandemic and she is doing something to turn that around.

The pandemic prompted downtown merchants to organize special events and the closing of Christina Street on weekends for car rallies and sidewalk sales. That kept the commercial core fairly busy and made up for some of the lockdown protocols.

But, apart from First Fridays, those special events are gone now and downtown is too quiet, says Warner.

She owns That’s What She Grows, a rare and exotic plant shop at 149A Christina St. North. 

“I’m seeing too many small businesses close down this year,” Warner said. “So I started a downtown business committee for business owners to work together on events.”

Since launching three months ago, the new committee has attracted anywhere from 15 to 30 business owners to each meeting.  Communication has improved among the downtown business community and there’s a new sense of cohesion, said Warner.

About 60 businesses operate along Front and Christina streets but many on Front Street don’t feel a sense of belonging, she added.

“So this is a great way to include them.”

The committee is avoiding anything political and focusing on promotion and special events.

To kick things off, the group is sponsoring a logo contest to brand the downtown.

Graphic designs depicting the downtown, the waterfront, the greenery and the “duality” of the Christina and Front streets are being accepted until September 30.

Anyone interested in submitting their idea in the form of a high resolution PDF print file can send it to [email protected]. Be sure to put “Downtown Logo” in the subject line.

“We want to use the new logo on marketing materials like reusable bags,” Warner said. “The idea is to make a visit to downtown fun and more welcoming.”

The next committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 7 p.m. at Greens Organic Café, 196 Christina St. North.

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