Despite the City’s efforts to crack down on gang violence and improve living conditions in the Malvern region over the past couple of years, many locals still feel a sense of stigma attached to their neighbourhood’s name.
“If it’s not safe to live here, why would people go out of their way to shop here?” said Kay-Ann Rattray, manager of the women’s clothing store Best Choice at Malvern Town Centre. “Business has been dying down ever since the crime rate went up in December.”
Conditions in Malvern have significantly improved since the Toronto Police Service website issued Project Impact and Project Pathfinder, both undertaken on behalf of GTA officers to eliminate possible gang-related problems in the region.
But on Dec. 2, 16-year-old Keyon Campbell was shot outside his home, marking Toronto’s 80th homicide of last year.
Rattray and her employees, as well as many of the other stores in the small shopping centre, have noticed extra low sales this year. She feels that it’s not only due to the overall low retail sales around the city but especially because of the particular location of the mall.
“Most of the customers went to higher-end malls,” Rattray said. “Customers would rather go to Vaughan Mills instead, even if we have the same items here.”
This has been the worst winter for sales she has seen during her 15 years of working in retail, and she says over the past five years, other store owners had sold their business at least twice in order not to breach their contracts, but at the same time avoided having to stay in the mall .
“There isn’t any trouble during the day but my husband wouldn’t let me come here at night,” said local shopper Cathy Kennedy. “This is where the trouble is at during the nighttime.”
Kennedy was not the only customer to point out how the mall had lost a lot of its regular shoppers since the closing of the Zellers department store several months ago. Kennedy’s hairdresser and Best Choice’s Rattray also commented on this change.
“It’s not that bad here,” Rattray said. “It’s just the name that scares people.”
Her personal response has Best Choice moving to a new location at Scarborough Town Centre in about two months.