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Black Wednesday for retail in Prince George

It wasn’t a Friday, but Wednesday was definitely a black day for retail in Prince George.

We awoke yesterday to news that the Lowe’s store is closing in February. It’s another chapter in the saga of attracting and keeping an anchor tenant, or two at Pine Centre Mall. With Zeller’s and Target having come and gone, Lowe’s’ news is disappointing.

The news later in the day that truly rocked the city, however, was that one of the city’s oldest businesses, Northern Hardware, is also closing in the New Year. It opened its doors in 1919.

With the possible exception of a handful of people, Northern Hardware has been in Prince George longer than any of us. If you grew up here, you grew up with Northern Hardware. The media likes to toss the word ‘iconic’ around for lots of things, but nothing fits the iconic bill better than Northern Hardware.

It has always been family-owned and that family has always lived in Prince George.

Northern Hardware president Kelly Green was frank in her assessment of what has caused this century-old business to close: Online shopping and the state of downtown.

People picking up their phone and getting a widget they need from Amazon rather than heading downtown and getting it at Northern Hardware has taken its toll. We like the convenience of shopping online, there’s no doubt about it. However, ask yourself how many sports teams or community events Amazon has sponsored in Prince George over the last century.

Green also pointed at the challenge of operating a business in a downtown plagued with a myriad of social issues. Northern Hardware is less than two blocks from epicentre of homelessness and readily visible social issues downtown. It is, no doubt, a challenge operating there.

With two different business groups banding together to try and pressure City Hall and/or other government agencies to do more to deal with homelessness, crime, substance abuse, and mental health issues in the downtown core, the Northern’s closure drives the point home that things need to change.


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