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Small businesses facing threat of bankruptcy in Prince Rupert Square Mall

Mall manager Maggie Viviers worries hundreds of jobs will be lost if buying habits do not change.
Mall manager Maggie Viviers has been at her position for 10 years, though times have seldom been tougher. (Seth Forward/Northern View)

Local businesses in the Prince Rupert Square Mall are on the verge of collapse, according to mall manager Maggie Viviers.

The outspoken manager said there are hundreds of jobs at risk of being lost if the mall’s businesses go under.

Online shopping, particularly Amazon, and potential customers opting to bulk-buy in Terrace, are Viviers’ biggest concerns. Multiple small businesses in the mall are barely staying above water, according to Viviers.

“I have a possibility of five businesses that may not go past this year because people are not supporting local businesses,” she said.

Viviers argues that not only are local businesses in the mall feeling the heat, but also all over town.

“It’s not just the mall. It’s the whole town in general. Corporate stores do OK, they have a corporation behind them,” she said. “I’m talking about locally owned and operated businesses in town.”

The Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) loan was given to small businesses to alleviate the financial difficulties they faced during the devastating pandemic.

Since Viviers spoke with the Northern View, the federal government announced the payment deadline for CEBA loans would be extended for another year, which will be a lifeline for many struggling companies.

However, small companies would still need to fully repay their loan in the early months of 2024 if they want to keep the $20,000 of forgivable funds.

The large loans — up to $60,000 — are less likely to be paid back in time by small shops in rural areas, according to Viviers.

“I know these businesses that, if they have to start paying it back next year, their better option would be to file bankruptcy,” she said.

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While cruise stops bring customers to the big box stores of the mall, Viviers claimed they bring little if any cash to the smaller, locally owned stores.

“As a manager of a shopping centre, I’m not seeing that money [from cruises],” she said. “Where is that money? I will tell you where the money is. Walmart, Dollarama and Safeway. That’s not helping the community.”

Viviers pointed out that the Kaien Island Cafe has recently shut their doors. She fears this trend will continue to worsen.

There are 13 local businesses currently operating in the Square Mall, with three new companies joining them soon, according to Viviers.

Some have asked Viviers why the mall does not stay open later, but she said the mall is so empty most evenings that she has no choice but to close its doors.

“Before COVID hit, there were a lot of people in the mall. We used to be open till 9 p.m. on a Friday,” she said. “Now, at 5 p.m. on Friday we can play soccer in the mall, that’s how busy it is.”

If Rupertites do not begin to support small businesses in the mall, they will be forced to close down, she anticipates.

“I’m very proud to be part of this town,” she said. “But now is the time that people need to start waking up because if they don’t, there’s only going to be Walmart, Dollarama, Shoppers and Home Hardware in this mall.”

Prince Rupert Square Mall is owned by Pollyco, a Langley-based development company.