Capital Iron in Sidney will close its doors for the last time on Jan. 18, with the store’s lease expiring at the end of the month. (Black Press Media File)

Capital Iron owner says decision to close Sidney store is not a verdict against community

Mike Black says Sidney remains the region’s retail hub as he continues to look for suitable locations

The owner of a company closing its Sidney location after more than three decades this month says he will continue to look for retail space in Sidney, but it might be a while until it returns to the region.

“Is it [a return to Sidney] going to happen in the next three to four months?” asked Mike Black, owner of Capital Iron, a local retail chain. “No, that would not be realistic. But if the right opportunity comes along, I would certainly look at it. But as of today, there is nothing there that is being built or available that would work for us.”

Black made those comments as the company prepares to close its Sidney location with Jan. 18 being the last day of sales.

When asked about the closure, Black said it should not be read as a verdict against the municipality as a retail environment.

“I think Sidney is still the hub [for the Saanich Peninsula],” he said. “I haven’t looked at Keating Cross Road.” Available research shows Sidney is a good market, he added later. “I can’t comment on how successful Home Hardware, Canadian Tire and Slegg are, but they seem to be chugging along.” As for smaller businesses, some open, and some close, like anything else, he added.

RELATED: Sidney Capital Iron closes its doors in January

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Denny Warner, executive director of the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, sounded a similar note. “I would say that the community is in transformation,” she said, pointing to the arrival of The Farmer’s Daughter, a cheese shop and wine bar operating on Beacon Avenue, as evidence of its attractiveness. Other recent arrivals on Sidney’s Beacon Avenue include Anytime Fitness, occupying a former convenience store, and a new gallery for photographers.

This said, she is also aware of proposals, who are holding back because of the lack of attractive retail space.

(By way of background, Sidney and the owners of Happy Buddha Cannabis find themselves in court after the municipality denied their application for what would be Sidney’s first cannabis retail store. Proponents of the store on council as well as the community-at-large have argued that it promises to revitalize Beacon Avenue. However, not everybody has accepted the premise that Beacon Avenue requires revitalization).

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Ultimately, Black said Sidney’s Capital Iron is closing because the current store lacks outdoor space for items that are selling well in the company’s Langford and downtown Victoria locations, including barbecues, patio furniture and hot tubs among others.

“We need outdoor space for that, and we just don’t have any there,” he said.

It was not always this way. For several years, the Sidney location had successfully operated a seasonal store just off Beacon Avenue by renting space from a local garden nursery, space that has since disappeared when Home Hardware took over the location, said Black.

“Then we tried another place, then we tried another place, and the sales in those areas just weren’t working,” said Black. “So that was impacting that side of the business, and as I said, it is a big part of our business in Langford and in downtown [Victoria].”

Accordingly, the company chose not renew its lease at its current location. “We are still going to keep our nose out there, looking [for space] in Sidney, but we don’t think it is the right time to sign another lease in that spot.”

Black said Capital Iron is leaving its current location after more than 20 years. It had first operated out of a location on Bevan Avenue in 1988.

That was also the year when Black, a former naval officer, joined the company after his military service in the Canadian navy. His first job with the company took him — you guessed it — to Sidney. While Black only worked in that location for a couple of months to learn the retail business from the ground up, the pending closure goes beyond the bottom line.

“It was a tough decision for me,” he said. “It was not a choice that I made easily. But at the end of the day, you have to do what you think is right.”

Black said all staff at the Sidney location — anywhere between 10 and 12 individuals — received job offers at the other locations. “Two people have taken that,”he said. “Some people decided that they rather try to look for work closer to home.”

With the Sidney store closing and the spring season on the horizon, the company’s focus will shift to its two remaining locations, said Black.

This said, Black travels to Sidney on a semi-regular basis and remains in touch with leasing agents. In other words, a return is not out of the question, assuming the right location come along.


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