A long-established skateboard shop which helped foster the sport in Brandon closed its doors this week, delivering a shock to the city’s boarding community.
Co-owner of the now-closed Senate Skate & Snow Jordan Ross said there were a number of market factors conspiring against the business, but a 40 per cent hike in rent was the final blow for the Brandon store.
"A very last-minute rent increase sealed the deal for us," he told the Sun, adding talks between the store and the Yorkton, Sask.,-based building owner broke down this week.
"We unfortunately signed a short-term lease."
Senate will be immediately moving all of its stock to its sister location in Jasper, Alta., and Ross said there are no plans right now to move the store to a cheaper location in Brandon.
"We’re going to take some time to re-evaluate the situation in Brandon, the market for us was pretty tight as is, our smart business move right now is to have our stock in Jasper where the market is still pretty good."
Last spring, the shop moved from its 18th Street South location to the smaller downtown digs on Princess Avenue in an attempt to downsize the operation while being closer to its "roots" near the skatepark, Ross said. When the store moved downtown, Ross ditched most of its snowboard inventory and sent it to Jasper, making the local shop largely a summer-only business competing against shopping mall chain giants.
"The philosophy behind our shop has always been to support our skate community and keep those core roots, but at the end of the day you need that mass market as well," Ross said.
The skateboard business as a whole is in tough times and the popularity of the sport ebbs and flows.
"It definitely goes through cycles," Ross said. "It definitely gets to the point where it gets a little over-saturated and it makes it harder."
Senate’s closure will leave behind a gap in locally-owned retail outlets for "core" skaters to pick up new hardware and clothes, but Ross said his intention isn’t to leave the city’s skaters high and dry. He suggested an online, mail-order store might be created under the Senate brand in order to "keep the scene alive in Brandon."
With its focus turning to its Jasper expansion, Senate leaves behind a legacy in the city, including its key role in creating the Kristopher Campbell Skate Plaza.
And for some boarders, it was more than a store.
"It’s more of a lifestyle for most people," said local skateboarder and snowboarder Dustin Knapp.
"It’s just a place to go and hang out, go buy a new board.
"It’s sad that it’s gone. You don’t like to see this happen, you always support your local club and your local shop ... it sucks to see that happen."
Renaissance Brandon chairman Shaun Cameron said he regrets seeing any downtown business shutter, but said he doesn’t think high rent is an issue for stores in the area.
"I believe it’s comparable, I’d say, to other areas in the city if not more affordable for startups to make an impact or get their business off the ground," he said.
"It’s always unfortunate when a business decides to close in the downtown, especially a business that catered to one of the focal points of our hub," he continued, referring to the skatepark.
Out-of-city and out-of-province landlords remain a sore spot for Ren Brandon with which it continues to contend.
"You have landlords that maybe aren’t aware of where the market is at or are just holding onto these building for other purposes," Cameron said.