By David F. Rooney
Heather Hut owner Rita Stacey started putting out the “Closing Out Sale” signs months ago so the demise of her business is hardly news to most people in town, but having to close a store that has been in operation here for 41 years is a bittersweet pill for her to swallow.
An unforeseen confluence of events is bringing this about: the city’s changing demography, the recession and the relentless increase in business taxes.
The former chairwoman of the Chamber of Commerce and Businesswoman of the Year is synonymous with higher-end fashion in Revelstoke, drawing on a well-heeled clientele from Kelowna to Calgary. Now, however, she’s poised to lock the doors on her shop and is selling her stock at up to 70 per cent off. Her shop and second-floor home in the historic McCarty House at the corner of Mackenzie Avenue and East Third Street is up for sale. Asking price: $1.25 million. That’s down from $1.85 million.
“Nowadays sales of 20% or 30% are nothing,” Stacey said in an interview. “People want bargains — deep bargains.”
“There’s a younger crowd here now,” Stacey said. “I don’t find them that much into shopping the way my older customers used to be. They shop online or they do a lot of trading and hitting the consignment stores. They spend a lot more of their money on electronics and on going out.”
The recession plays a role, too. People are spending somewhat less on clothes than they did just a year ago. And then there are the taxes.
“The taxes here (in Revelstoke) are extremely high, particularly if you have any kind of commercial element,” Stacey said. “I’m paying around $1,050 a month. When you factor in your other overhead costs (like) your insurance, hydro, gas it all adds up. When I moved the business in here (after a fire at her previous location on Mackenzie about four years ago) it was a good move. Rents in town were skyrocketing. But the last few years the taxes and everything have just gone through the roof. I got to the point where I sat down and asked myself, ‘Why am I running a business that makes me feel as though I am working for the City?’ When you look at the way the city is changing and the way the economy is going and then add in increasing taxes it’s just too much.”
Personal reasons are playing a role in Stacey’s decision, too.
“It’s time for mum (Brigitte Ortwein) to retire,” she said, adding that she would also like to spend more time with her young daughters then devoting all of her energy to a business that demands her attention 24/7. With a little more time Stacey could also explore her interest in silk painting and do “a little bit of travelling.”
“I thought there would be some regrets, but there aren’t any. I’m ready.”
Meanwhile, Stacey’s house is available to someone with imagination and an excellent work ethic.
“It would make a fabulous restaurant or a wine bar,” she said.