WHALLEY — While some might not be keen to open up a business steps away from Surrey’s 135A Street, Simon Masoud is eager.
The longtime Surrey resident is busy putting the finishing touches on his new barbershop, Diamond Cuts, located across 106th Avenue from the Whalley legion.
“The Strip, or the tent city as people are calling it nowadays, is located just right over there,” said Masoud, pointing out his storefront window on a rainy Thursday afternoon.
“It’s not even a block away,” he added. “Sometimes the sketchiest areas are the safest areas because there are cops there all the time. I see foot patrol here all the time, 24/7.
“I see cop cars, three or four of them driving around and just keeping an eye out. There’s always a cop in the area. I don’t feel threatened or unsafe or anything. I actually feel really safe here.”
While it may not be the nicest scene, Masoud says it’s “one of the safest scenes.”
“A lot of people see this and they’re like, man, how can you open up here? Your business is not going to do well, it’s a sketchy area but… doing renovations I spent a lot of late hours and late nights here. Never kept the door locked, sometimes kept it open, and not once did I feel unsafe about it.”
Masoud’s shop is on one end of 135A Street, and his father’s Middle Eastern Friendship Centre that helps refugees is on the other. His shop is on 106th Avenue and his father’s non-profit, on 108th.
“So it’s about a minute away. We live in this area, we live kind of on the border of Guildford and Whalley so it’s close for both of us,” he said. “My dad wants to reach out in this area, and show people what he’s there to do for them. And I’m here to lighten up this area.”
Masoud expects to open his barbershop sometime in July at 13532 106th Ave.
“I’m definitely super excited,” he added with a smile.
Visit his Facebook page, DiamondCutsSurrey for more information.
Masoud is also excited to see revitalization projects materializing in Whalley. He pointed to Tien Sher Group’s proposed development a few blocks away that aims to transform the area.
A public hearing for the project, dubbed the Whalley District, is set for June 26 at city hall.
Masoud is optimistic about the area changing for the better, as a result of that project, among others.
“They are talking about having arts spaces, that kind of thing,” he noted, adding he thinks good things are in store for Whalley.
Meanwhile, one nearby business, Motorcycle World, told the Now-Leader in April that it plans to close its doors later this year due to the issues the social problems are bringing.
Eddie MacNaughton and family have run Motorcycle World on King George since 1999, but they’re planning to pack up shop and head for the Tri-Cities this fall.
“Illegal drug use right in front of us is a concern, the amount of needles every day, the human waste every single day, garbage,” said MacNaughton.
Other businesses have closed. A former furniture store at the corner of 108th Avenue and King George Boulevard sits empty, as does a more recently vacated building at 105A Avenue that housed a KFC for more than two decades.
Earlier this year, NDP MLA Bruce Ralston said the area’s issues are “grinding down” many of the area’s business owners, but like Masoud, he is optimistic about some of the changes being made.
“There are things happening,” noted Ralston.
“I think it’s just the progress is slow.”