A Thunder Bay business considers themselves lucky to be able to transition to a different business model in the wave of vagrancy, theft, staff safety and a cooler economy.
Hailey Buosi, co-founder of Ungalli Clothing Co. with her sister Brie Hollinsworth, said the state of retail since the pandemic has changed so much that they have “almost transitioned entirely” to a wholesale business.
She said they have been thinking about this for a year and they are grateful that they’re able to move the company in a more profitable direction and not have to close overall like they’ve seen with many other businesses.
“Our customer orders from all the different businesses we work with in printing their logos on our sustainable clothing is pretty much the majority of our revenue now but do still have the retail store, for now,” Buosi said.
“We’ve been keeping it open because we love it and we get to be a part of the community but there’s so many issues right now with retail being really slow everywhere and our area of downtown is quite rough. We have safety concerns.”
The sisters announced the closure of their retail store on weekends for safety issues when only one staff member works alone due to quiet sales. It will remain open Monday through Friday with the doors locked for safety reasons.
“During the week is when we’re all here, everyone’s safe to be here,” she said.
The troubles of theft and violent people coming into the store began at Christmas. Buosi said they were dealing with theft daily, from people in the area.
“We started locking our door and we installed a doorbell that you have to ring to come in,” she said. “That helped for a while but it’s not perfect. There are still people coming in and stealing and they get violent to our staff. It scares our staff and that is a major safety concern.”
She added that employees coming into work must navigate through “crowds of people” huddled around their back door.
“People are ringing the doorbell to get in and many of them are young so the staff let the people in and they’re not sure what to do. It creates lots of problems and they usually just end up getting away with stealing. And there’s not much we can do other than close our doors to prevent that,” she said.
“The minute the weather got warmer, our problems quadrupled. Everywhere you see when you look out our window looks unsafe and that massively impacts our potential profits for the day because customers are scared to come in the door.”
This May, the Ontario Chamber of Commerce released a new policy brief called Beyond Emergency Declarations: Charting Ontario’s Course Through the Substance Use and Overdose Crisis that calls upon the decision-makers to put more focus on collecting better data to drive evidence-based solutions.
Charla Robinson, president of the Thunder Bay Chamber of Commerce, says one of the reasons for the brief is the need to support collaboration between groups that are on the front lines dealing with the crisis and the business community that contend with people who are causing challenges hanging around their business.
“We are really seeing the impact in this community,” Robinson said.
“There’s increased trespassing, concerns with staff and customer safety. Businesses are investing in additional security by hiring security guards, installing security cameras and updating their security features. And then there’s the overall cost of some of the crime from theft, vandalism, etc. That is all part of this bigger, drug challenge that is happening on the front lines here in Thunder Bay.”
Robinson says the chamber has added their voice to the national conversation to assist those doing work on this to understand that there is also a business impact.

By Sandi Krasowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 21, 2024 at 10:00

This item reprinted with permission from   The Chronicle-Journal   Thunder Bay, Ontario
Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated