Westmount’s Victoria Village in trouble as one store after another closes

Westmount’s Victoria Village in trouble as one store after another closes
Krystyna Konefal has run Eatz Encore on Sherbrooke Street in Westmount for the last 13 years. It is one of the few businesses still standing on her stretch of the street.

“It’s sad because every time you pass by you see one store closing, a few months after you see another store,” Konefal said. “It’s hard.”

Two years ago, real estate giant Cromwell bought her building. Konefal is concerned her rent will soar when she re-negotiates her lease in two years and she is seriously worried about her own future.

“I am very scared. I love what I do. I would love to continue but it depends what kind of price,” she said.

Over the last few years, Cromwell has bought up much of Westmount’s Victoria Village. Merchants complain rents quickly go up, and become affordable.

All around the village, stores have closed.

The storefront that used to house Pier 1 has sat empty for almost three years. The location of the popular former bakery Gasgogne hasn’t been filled since it closed in 2017. Popular local restaurant Melrose pizza on Sherbrooke Street near Victoria closed a few months ago.

Ben and Tournesol just moved from their longtime location on Sherbrooke Street to a smaller, cheaper space. North Face is closing after many years in the area and the chocolate and coffee shop that opened on Sherbrooke St. at the corner of Claremont closed only a few months after it opened. Cromwell owns all of those buildings.

“Everyone is concerned, somewhat depressed, somewhat surprised,” said Steve Sigler. “A little everything, a little sad.”

Sigler runs Bead It Gemstones on Sherbrooke Street.

The building is owned by Cromwell and Sigler admits rents are high, but he says that is only part of the problem. He says Westmount business taxes are also too high and too many merchants in the community don’t bother with online shopping, which he says keeps his business alive.

“It would not be possible for us to exist without our website…it’s a vital part of our business,” Sigler said.

“I don’t think it’s the taxes, I think it’s more the rents,” said Westmount City Councillor Cynthia Lulham.
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