By Chad Ingram
While a few new businesses have set up shop along Minden’s main drag throughout the past few months, a number of them have also closed their doors.
Since the summer, at least four businesses in Minden’s downtown have closed, or have announced they are closing, two of them eateries, two of them retail locations. Another downtown storefront sits vacant after the owner of a longtime business there passed away earlier this year. Then of course there are the two glaring eyesores of Minden, the former Rockcliffe Tavern and the former Beaver Theatre, once flagships of the village that now sit like dilapidated ghosts along two of its main arteries.
There is an ebb and flow to the village’s commercial livelihood. Downtown Minden is anchored by a handful of longstanding, successful businesses, while other storefronts in between are more of a revolving door for commercial enterprises that, for whatever combination of reasons, are unable to last for very long.
Certainly an ongoing challenge for Minden proper is that it is bypassed by Highway 35. Every once in a while, someone will ask why it is that the downtown of Haliburton Village seems so much more vibrant than Minden’s downtown. The answer is that downtown Haliburton is at the nexus of two major arteries – Highland Street, which is County Road 21 before it reaches the village, and Maple Avenue, which to the east and west is known as provincial Highway 118. Natural traffic movement means Haliburton always has some vehicles flowing through it, while Minden has to essentially flag people down, pulling them off the highway. Certainly, during my years here, I have met a few people who didn’t realize that Minden was more than the businesses located along the corridor of the highway and that there was, in fact, an entire community located just out of sight.
The county’s seasonal economy is also a challenge. Things that may sell well during the boon of the summer season and its influx of affluent cottagers may not sell well during the depths of January. Trying to strike a balance between creating a business that is a unique shopping experience while also viable on a year-round basis cannot be easy.
Mobilizing merchants in Minden has always been a problem. There have been past attempts at the creation of business associations that have failed to pick up traction, and while the possible creation of a Business Improvement Area for Minden had been on the to-do list of Minden’s Hills’ economic development, destination and marketing officer, she told councillors earlier this year there didn’t seem to be much of an appetite amongst business owners for a formal BIA.
These are but some of the challenges facing Minden business owners. Heading into what is a busy shopping season for many, certainly as individuals we can do our part by keeping local businesses in mind. An item or two may make all the difference for the month. You never know how close a business may be to closing its doors.