To say that retail and foodservice business life was a little different this year is an understatement, with many changing the model of how they do things or adding services they never thought they would embrace.
We had traditional walk in and browse retailers get the push to open an online store. There were virtual tours where staff would use a video conferencing app to walk around the shop and, of course, so many retailers starting to offer local delivery and curbside service.
On the food-service side, many restaurants moved to pickup and delivery options when they had always been traditional sit-down establishments. Some cafes made a pivot to becoming small grocery pantries, while others started offering take-and bake options.
Despite the doom and gloom, we keep hearing, I recorded more openings than closings in 2020.
Many closed locations came from reducing store numbers or the complete collapse of national and international chains.
Reitman’s eliminated the Thyme Maternity and Addition Elle brands and closed all stores; they also closed one local Pennington’s outlet.
David’s Tea significantly reduced its overall numbers and only left 18 of over 150 locations, with the closest surviving outlet in New Brunswick. Carlton Cards also wrapped up all of its stores coast to coast, as did clothing retailers Le Chateau, Jack Jones, Justice, Lole, Alia & Tanjay and Jay Set.
Newfoundland Chocolate Company retreated from Nova Scotia, while giftware shop Things Engraved closed all locations across the country. American supplement shop GNC also closed all it’s Halifax region stores. There were even some single locations of giants like Subway, Tim Hortons, McDonald’s, EB Games, the Body Shop, East Side Mario’s, Second Cup, Starbucks and A&W that didn’t make it this year.
Some longtime Halifax-area spots closed this year. We said goodbye to the Newfoundland Store on Clifton Street and, coincidentally, the Newfoundland Club in Burnside Stayner’s Wharf, near the Halifax ferry terminal, closed, and the lunchtime version of East West closed in Burnside. Maxwell’s Plum also said goodbye this year, as did original Halifax microbrewery Granite Brewing and Brewery Market staple, the Red Stag.
There were also favourites like sports bar Bubba Rays, which closed all locations, but the Bedford Neighbourhood Pub has already come to life in one of the locations. Chives Bistro closed its Barrington Street doors to make way for Hopscotch Dinner Club.
The concept of local was still solid this year. There were delightful new shops like the Lemonade General Store, which opened in the Hydrostone Market. At the same time, niche shops like Lawrencetown Surf Co.opened.
The converted motel on the Bedford Highway saw the arrival of Syrian eatery Grill Way. At the other end of the plaza, Rudy and Olive’s Fish & Chips opened.
The traditional food trend was a driving force with the arrival of Redchillies restaurant and neighbouring grocery Redchillies Bazaar in Bedford. Indo Urban Junction has brought street food to Burnside. In Rockingham, Saffron Multi-Cuisine and Bombay Spices opened.
Food truck Masala Delight and SpiceHub have brought the tastes of the Indian sub-continent to the eastern edges of Dartmouth. BIGS (Brothers Indian Grocery Store) and Shahi Grocery bring ingredients to the Fairview-Clayton Park area.
Other Asian influences were at play with a new Asian grocery called Union Mart on Wyse Road in Dartmouth. There was a new location for Korean restaurant Backoos in Fairview, and Let’s Ko moved from the Bedford Highway to Bedford Common with expanded seating and menu. Its old site became another Korean chicken joint called Chicking. The chicken trend continued with Bomber Chicken on Quinpool Road.
The Dahlia, a pub from the folk of neighbouring Jukai in King’s Wharf, opened, and Kofuku opened on Robie Street near Almon. Loong 7 Mart debuted a second location, off Larry Uteck Boulevard.
Sushi was also on trend with Sushi Cove coming to Spryfield, Sushi Kawa on Gary Martin Drive in Bedford and Doraku returning with a delightful little spot on Ochterloney Drive in downtown Dartmouth.
New Brunswick produce shop Tomavo opened in Bedford Common and, with its popularity, had to move to a larger location across the parking lot. It also opened a location in Bayers Lake.
Arthur’s Urban Market, backed by Newfoundland grocery chain Coleman’s, opened on Hollis Street at Sackville, adding a grocery store to the downtown core.
We also saw new-to-market places like Flynn’s Dairy Bar, which offers ridiculous over-the-top milkshakes. Harvest, a burgeoning local chain offering healthy options, opened Bedford and downtown Halifax locations, while Casablanca offers Moroccan tastes to the Spring Garden Road district.
The pandemic has not been as bad on the local scene as I feared. Many businesses are on edge, both large and small. Hopefully, I’ll have a cheery recap this time next year.