Ronnie G’s manager Shayne May stands near the patio of the White Rock restaurant on Friday.

Ronnie G’s manager Shayne May stands near the patio of the White Rock restaurant on Friday.

White Rock’s Five Corners business landscape has changed since fire, merchants say

Merchants in the Five Corners neighbourhood said there's been a decrease in business since the May 15 fire.

Entrepreneurs in the Five Corners neighbourhood say the business landscape has changed for the worse since the disastrous Five Corners fire earlier this year.

Shayne May, who opened Ronnie G’s Bar & Grill with his longtime family friend, Ron Gillespie, said business has decreased anywhere from 15 to 20 per cent since the fire. He said general traffic – vehicle and foot traffic – has decreased as much as 70 per cent.

Ronnie G’s, previously Geoff’s on the Corner, opened one week after the May 15 fire. Gillespie was a co-owner of Geoff’s on the Corner.

May researched the area after being asked to reopen the restaurant.

“With Laura’s Coffee across there and all the other businesses, it was such a constant flow of people. It was a bustling area, and now it’s almost like a ghost town,” May told Peace Arch News last Friday.

“The amount of people that would come over from that complex were three to 10 people a day. It can constitute $200 to $500.”

Mary-Ann Germyn, waitress at Clancy’s Tea Cosy, said the reduction of parking has played a role.

“As the waitress here and the only server, business is building up again, but at the beginning it was slow. The lack of parking spaces affected us. Most of our customers are older and they don’t want to walk a long way to get to us,” she said.

Approximately 10 parking spaces in front of the burnt-out building are cordoned off while construction crews rebuild the structure.

Colter Developments Inc., the developers in charge of reconstruction, said the project will be complete in approximately one year.

Madison Five Fashion owner, Sam – who wouldn’t provide a last name – lost “everything” in the fire.

“I’m directly across the street – right beside Damiano’s Pizza. I got totally smoked out, my store was completely empty. I was also smoked out of my house as well. I lived in a hotel with my three kids.”

Sam reopened Madison Five Fashion on Sept. 10.

“Everybody is happy that I’m back, but yeah… it’s just not the same. I look out onto a burnt building,” Sam said.

She said the business landscape now, compared to before the fire, is “a big difference.”

“And plus there’s no parking out here now. You have all the construction guys parking where they’re not supposed to be parking. All along the front of the building there was parking there and now that’s gone,” Sam said.

Sam has contacted the city about fixing the lights in front of her business. The trees in front of her store and across the street used to have lights on them.

“Now I look out and it’s pitch black. We’re talking at like 4 p.m. when it gets dark,” Sam said.

Emilio Finatti Sicilian Pizzeria owner, Tony Tabsas, said he noticed a slight drop in business since the fire.

“I wouldn’t say it’s significant. We’re a pizza shop, we rely on a lot of people calling and coming to pick up,” Tabsas said.

He said the situation might be different if he relied on customers eating inside his shop.

“A lot of the people that lived across the road were our customers. Now they’re no longer there but like I said, most of our customers call us.”

May said the community needs to come together and support Five Corners businesses during the rebuilding process.

“First and foremost our hearts go out to the people that lost their home. First and foremost,” May said.

White Rock RCMP said the fire was “deliberately set,” but have not announced any charges.

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