With three Canadian Italian Restaurant Group (CIRG) restaurants closing their doors at the start of the month, and after the CIRG claimed it was longer economically viable to remain open in Cochrane, many have questioned whether or not the Town should impose some kind of rental cap on retail spaces for local small business.
Vice-president of the Cochrane and District Chamber of Commerce Jag Thind, who also owns a few businesses in town, said this is something he and many other business owners have asked about for a long time.
“Everything is crazy expensive right now,” Thind said. “Cochrane is not like Calgary. It’s not a huge city.”
The problem, according to Thind, is that it’s not in the Town’s hands. He said investors who own many of the retail spaces in town have their own criteria when it comes to how they decide rates.
With future plans to open a third business in Cochrane, Thind said rental prices are almost untenable for any prospective business owner.
“That is another big reason why small businesses are not surviving,” Thind said. “Three restaurants closed down – those aren’t small businesses, they were [restaurant] chains.
“If they can’t survive, how can small businesses survive?”
Like other business owners in Cochrane, Thind said many stay afloat solely due to the hard work their owners put in. From his personal experience, he said it is common for many small business owners to log long work days to keep their business alive.
“As a small business owner, I know that many businesses are making less than the minimum, and that’s for sure,” Thind said.
Thind said despite continued rapid population growth, Cochrane is nowhere near where the point where small businesses can thrive, despite a higher potential customer base.
“Cochrane is expensive, no doubt,” said Thind. “Businesses surviving is never easy, and with this kind of rent, it’s not going to be easy.
“I can’t say for how it is [in] Calgary – it all depends on the location – but in Cochrane, it is expensive.”
Thind said the average cost per square foot to rent a retail space in Cochrane can average around $30 and up. With the arrival of new commercial spaces in Cochrane with new communities in development, Thind said he expects the cost to easily rise above $35 per square foot in the future.
Although he is unsure whether the Town is directly involved with rent prices for retail spaces in Cochrane, he thinks it is time for the municipality to look into the topic and see if they can have any course of action on the subject.
“Even if they don’t cap it out, they should talk to these companies,” Thind said. “They don’t listen to small businesses, they don’t listen to the small people, they listen to the bigger people coming to Cochrane.
“If the small businesses don’t survive, how will the landlords make any money, right?”
Thind believes that no matter where they're set up, small businesses are the backbone of the economy, and Cochrane is a prime example.
“Come on, we are creating our own jobs and we are creating other jobs, and it is all linked to the different businesses,” Thind said. “I think it is very important for small businesses to survive.”
In an email to The Cochrane Eagle, Mike Korman, interim director of planning and development services for the Town of Cochrane, stated the municipality has not considered a rent cap on retail spaces.
Providing a bit more information on the average commercial rental rates using information from the Town, Korman said it ranges from $15 to $40 per square foot. He noted the rate varies due to several conditions, including location and building condition.
In comparison to rent costs for retail space in locations in Calgary, he added there is also a factor of supply and demand to consider when compared to Cochrane.
“The level of demand and supply for rental properties in Cochrane plays a role in how landlords determine prices,” Korman explained, adding “Calgary, in comparison to Cochrane, “has a much greater inventory of available rental spaces.”