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Northgate business owners fret over Zellers’ closure

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Business owners in Northgate Shopping Centre are bracing for a staggering drop in business as the mall’s anchor tenant shut down for good this past weekend.

On March 30, shoppers scooped up the last of the clearance items up for sale at the Zellers location that has anchored the McPhillips Street mall for years.

Americo Delgado, owner of Bela Casa Gifts, says the loss of his neighbouring tenant and the foot traffic it brought to the mall will turn his store into a "destination business" for his regular customers.

"As soon as they close the doors, I figure 15% of my business will go down," said Delgado, who has been in business in the mall for 10 years.

"It’s just starting to happen."

Delgado believes his business will be among the hardest hit, as shoppers will start using the entrances near the Cinema City theatre and Dairy Queen, and naturally be drawn toward the Royal Bank and Dollarama at the opposite wing of the mall.

"People are going to come in by the Dairy Queen and they’re not going to look (left) because there’s no Zellers," he said.

Down the hall, Nestor and Maria Fernandez, owners of Nestor’s Aquariums & Pets say they stand to lose between 20 and 30% of their business.

"We’re worried," Nestor Fernandez said.

"We had a big influx of customers because of the traffic (Zellers) brought to the mall."

The Northgate Zellers was one of three in Winnipeg not selected to become a new Target store, as the American retail chain makes its way into the city after acquiring the Zellers chain from the Hudson’s Bay Co.

The Zellers locations in the Fort Richmond Shopping Centre on Pembina Highway, and the basement of The Bay downtown were also shut down.

To offset the drop in business, Delgado is hoping the mall’s tenants can come together and come up with a co-operative advertising and promotional strategy.

"Just to let people know the mall is still here and we’re still open for business," he said.

Meanwhile, rumours are swirling that Sobey’s may be brought in to fill the gap. There are also rumors that RONA or Giant Tiger are being sought for the space, according to business owners.

Maria Fernandez said she’d like to see a big company take over the space, adding that more grocery services are needed in the area for seniors.

Delgado agreed, adding a retailer with as wide of a selection as Zellers — from electronics to housewares to food to clothing and housewares — will be of most benefit to mall tenants.

"It would be good to get somebody in here soon," Delgado said.

"Anyone, just to keep the doors open, will be welcome."

Calls to Huntingdon Capital, the mall’s property managers and leasing agents, were not returned by press time.

matt.preprost@canstarnews.com

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