I like shopping in small stores as close to home as possible. When I moved to the Fort Richmond area in late 2001, there it was: Fort Richmond Plaza. It wasn’t very big, but it held a variety of convenient stores. Best of all, it was close to home.
With our move from Fort Richmond to Richmond West in 2002, I was even closer to these shops. I could walk there in less than 20 minutes.
The two anchor stores at either end were Safeway and Zellers.
I was pleased to find a branch of the Bank of Montreal there, and a Shoppers Drug Mart.
However, over the years, things began to change. The bank moved out into a brand new, standalone location with lots of parking. Shoppers also moved out to a brand-new standalone location, with convenient parking. Both were even closer to my home.
These departures left two fairly large spaces empty. Nothing moved into either place.
The fast food counter with a couple of tables in the mall hallway closed. Gone was the smell of burgers and fries. When it did reopen, the business didn’t last. Once more the space was unused.
Now, along that side of the main mall hallway, every space was vacant.
Just around the corner from the fast food place, as you came in the main entrance, was a Carlton Card Shop. One day the closing out sign was up and another entity left the mall. The space beside it was empty as well.
For many years, my favourite place was the picture framing and photo shop. I went there often. A fantastically talented staff member framed whatever I brought in: spoons, a chunk of aluminum from Kitimat, needlework, and, naturally, artwork. Alas, it too shut its doors. A scrapbooking place opened at that site, but it also left.
Other vacancies occurred throughout this time. Now the dentist has departed as well.
Of course, there are places still open: an autopac outlet, a jeweller, Safeway, two hair salons, Cost-U-Less, a nutrition store, a tailor, Perth’s and a few others.
But, I think the biggest blow for this shopping centre is Zellers' departure. Its restaurant and pharmacy were the first casualties during its closing months that ended in February. Target will not be renovating the building and opening one of its stores here.
Over the years, rumours about Fort Richmond Plaza’s future have been flying around. One story is that the mall will be torn down and a developer will be building a condo complex.
Another rumour agrees that the mall will be torn down, but a new one will replace it. After all, this old structure is looking tired and worn.
A third rumour is that the Zellers end of the mall will be demolished, and a spanking new, larger Safeway will rise from the ruins.
I’ve talked to a couple of people who work at the mall, but they say they haven’t any idea about what the end result will be.
I do know if the mall disappears we’ll have lost part of our community’s flavour.
Jeannette Timmerman is a community correspondent for Fort Richmond. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.