Central Plaza merchants are breathing a sigh of relief this month, with news that a grocery store will soon fill the void left by Shoppers Drug Mart nearly a year ago.
“It was my Christmas present,” Shelly O’Brien, owner of Pelican Rouge Coffee Co., said Friday.
O’Brien said she received word this month that H.Y. Louie IGA has signed a lease for the long-vacant space. The store is expected to open at the White Rock mall, at North Bluff Road and Johnston Road, by May, she said.
“I’m so grateful that they’re coming,” she said.
O’Brien was among merchants who expressed concern earlier this year about the “devastating” impact to walk-in traffic felt since Shoppers Drug Mart took its business across the street into South Surrey. The store left the site in January, 10 months before its lease expired. The space has sat empty since.
Sherri Wilson Morissette, executive director of White Rock’s Business Improvement Association, confirmed Friday that a lease was signed “in the last couple of days.”
Wilson Morissette described the news as “fabulous.”
“That’s what that Central Plaza needs, is a hook like that – build the foot traffic, bring people back to this side of White Rock, rather than PriceSmart.”
Wilson Morissette said the deal was “a few months in the making.” She did not have the lease details.
Once in place, the IGA will bring White Rock’s grocery store contingent to two. Wilson Morissette does not expect the new addition to take business away from BuyLow, which is located two blocks south, at Hillcrest Plaza.
“I think the people who shop at BuyLow are pretty loyal,” she said. “The people who are going to turn to the IGA are people who support White Rock and want to stay in White Rock.”
Wilson Morissette said that while it has been hard on merchants since Shoppers left, the IGA news has lightened the mood.
“Now that they’ve signed, I know that those businesses will hang on,” she said.
“I think everyone’s just looking forward to it. Most importantly, it’s just breathing new life into the uptown area, into the mall.”
Coun. Grant Meyer – who in February 2010 raised concern about the store possibly moving out of White Rock – was also relieved to learn a deal has been signed. He agreed it will help rejuvenate the area.
“It’ll be nice to get the building full again,” he said. “I don’t think any city wants to see vacancies anywhere in their town or city.”
Neither officials with H.Y. Louie IGA or Central Plaza management could be reached for comment.