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  • Writer's pictureTrevor Greenway

Let’s see your ‘robust’ bylaws, Mr. Guénard

Chelsea needs to do more to protect the village from chains, franchises and big box stores that will most certainly take a bite out of local business.

The most recent proposal is a Second Cup coffee shop to be built alongside Gatineau-based La Trappe à Fromage and Polo Vélo at the new development at 193 Ch. Old Chelsea.

While Mayor Pierre Guénard told the Low Down that this is only at the proposal stage and, if approved, would be operated by a local franchisee, the thought of a coffee chain setting up in Chelsea’s centre village where three other local coffee shops are working hard to make ends meet, doesn’t sit right with many Chelsea residents.

Guénard’s argument that it would be operated by a “local franchisee” is a cop out from a mayor who is clearly feeling pressure from both developers and citizens. If we went by his argument then what is to stop a money-hungry local from putting up a Tim Hortons right smack in the village? It’s not so crazy to think… it happened in Wakefield.

When Tim Hortons was being proposed in Wakefield, locals fought it from every angle and tried everything they could, including a ban on drive-thrus, to at least minimize its impact on the village. In the end, because of development rules and zoning, developers were within their right to erect a Timmies, complete with a drive-thru, at the entrance to Wakefield.

At that time, many argued that if people didn’t like Tim Hortons, they simply didn’t have to give the coffee chain their business. Today, there is usually an all-day lineup in the drive-thru.

And this is where that argument falls flat. Sure, us locals get it. We will see the Second Cup sign in Chelsea and keep driving to Palmier or Café Les Saisons or Biscotti & Cie, but when tourists drive into our villages – and a lot of them do – all they see is a familiar brand and immediately pull into the drive-thru.

This is what really takes the bite out of the small local shops. They’ll always have their local, loyal customers, but with the addition of big brands in the downtown core, any chance of pulling in curious tourists and making an extra sale goes right out the window. A 2021 study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses revealed that 60 per cent of consumers in Canada spent less at small businesses during the pandemic and more at big box stores and online giants. Despite this stat, nine out of 10 Canadians said they wish they could do more to help local businesses.

One way would be to limit the number of, or outright ban of, big box stores and chains within a municipality.

Guénard told the Low Down in early July that he wants to keep Chelsea’s “distinctive character of small, family-owned creative businesses,” and added that more “robust” bylaws could be created to prevent chains from setting up shop in the future. Well, okay then — time to get creating these bylaws. What are these “robust” bylaws and how quickly can they be implemented?

If you want to keep chains and big box stores out of Chelsea, now is the time to act.

With development spreading through Chelsea at an alarming rate, it won’t be long until we see the likes of a Subway or Taco Bell popping up in Chelsea’s quaint and cute centre village.

Your move, Mr. Mayor.


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