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Besieged shops gain B.C. ally

City Haul proprietor to fold after police visit

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Matthew Frost, owner of City Haul, says he is

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Matthew Frost, owner of City Haul, says he is "getting the boot from the business community" in Winnipeg Frost's long-time Winnipeg head shop and others are being forced to close because of pressure from police. Photo Store

Thanks to a recent questionable police crackdown, another long-standing head shop is going up in smoke, vaporizing a handful of jobs with it.

Matthew Frost, owner of City Haul, said he has reluctantly decided to close his business after police officers visited him and advised "you need to find something else to sell."

Frost, who has run the Corydon Avenue novelty shop for 15 years, said after the police encounter he decided not to renew his lease, which is up at the end of this month.

"This is a hard marketplace," Frost said. "It's hard for the little guy to survive. But I don't want to talk about the negativity. People in Winnipeg are very kind. They are coming in here in tears. I have supported them over the years and they have supported me by coming in and buying all my inventory."

'This is a hard marketplace. It's hard for the little guy to survive'

-- Matthew Frost, owner of City Haul, a Corydon Avenue head shop closing after a police crackdown

Frost said his neighbours on Corydon have never expressed any concerns in the past. On the contrary, he said he has brought customers to the area from across the province.

Roman Panchyshyn, owner of Wild Planet, is also planning to exit the market after more than 30 years in business in Winnipeg.

He has recently listed the Osborne Village building for sale.

"I don't want to go," Panchyshyn said. "I've put in my time. I have been working seven days a week for a long time. I pay $17,000 in property tax and $7,000 business tax, not to mention all the GST and PST I have collected."

It may be too late for Frost, Panchyshyn and Jeremy Loewen from Hemp Haven, who now faces charges laid by Winnipeg police, but efforts are underway to come up with clearer rules of engagement for these kinds of stores.

Randy Caine, a longtime activist and business owner from Vancouver, is flying to Winnipeg to speak today to local business owners about options.

Among other things, Caine said forming a trade association is being discussed. "I was asked to come in and be a facilitator and provide a voice of reason," Caine said.

"I'm at arm's length from the situation in Winnipeg, and it's easier for me to navigate through some of the emotions."

He said if there was a trade association and members operated by certain standards, it could be very useful for any city. "If everyone understands the parameters, it could act as a great guidance," he said. "If there are considerations we need to look at, like being near a school, we could make corrections for the future. None of us is opposed to that."

Although these long-standing business owners don't necessarily get support from business organizations -- a spokesman from the Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses said the organization does not have a position on the matter -- they have operated for many years, paying taxes and employing staff without opposition from their commercial neighbours.

Frost said he believed his store provided a lively alternative for the street-level retail scene.

Notwithstanding the profitable bongs and head-shop paraphernalia he sells, Panchyshyn said he's always thought of Wild Planet as more of a rock-music store, with more than 8,000 T-shirts for sale.

Stephanie Meilleur, the executive director of the Osborne Village BIZ, agrees stores such as Wild Planet and City Haul add to the vibrancy of their neighbourhoods.

"From the BIZ point of view, we have a unique one-of-a-kind atmosphere here, with shopping and restaurants and live-music venues," she said. "Lots of people go to Wild Planet because they have one-of-a-kind items you can only buy there. I think they are an asset to Osborne Village."

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 11, 2014 B5

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Updated on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 6:46 AM CST: Replaces photo

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