The new faces of the Glebe BIA

By Ben Bulmer

A second, third and even fourth generation of Glebe business owners are taking over the reins as the new Glebe Business Improvement Area (BIA) board of management. The fresh board, new at the beginning of this year, is chaired by second-generation Glebe business owner and veteran businesswoman Judy Richards from Davidson’s Jewellers.

“There’s so many of us that are second and third generation, so I think that having that history, I think I know the business community in the Glebe very well,” says Richards, who has been running the 76-year-old Davidson’s Jewellers since taking over from her father in 1972.

Judy Richards. Photo by Ben Bulmer
Judy Richards. Photo by Ben Bulmer
Her four-year post as chair comes after sitting on the board for the last seven years. Richards has seen change in the Glebe more than most. “When my dad opened up here, this was a suburb and all the jewellers downtown said, ‘Are you crazy, going all the way out there to open your store?’” says Richards. Now change is coming with Lansdowne, but as Richards says, “Nobody’s quite sure what that change is meant to mean.” Richards is positive about the Lansdowne development and sees the development as a draw to the area.

Richards says she is excited to be working with CityFolk Festival (formerly Ottawa Folk Festival), which will be held at Lansdowne in September, and the many community music events being held throughout the week of the festival. Parking is a major concern to businesses and residents alike, with the BIA’s strategic plan focusing heavily on this issue. “There are a couple of committees, from Lansdowne, the City and ourselves, all working on traffic patterns,” says Richards.

Second-generation business owner and board member Stéphane Sauvé from The Glebe Meat Market will sit his second term on the board and although he sits with Rebecca McKeen from McKeen Metro Glebe and Liz Slater from Whole Foods, Sauvé says being in the middle isn’t a problem. “It’s a very productive board,” says Sauvé, adding there’s absolutely no animosity between competitors.

“Changing the board every four years is always a good idea because you get fresh ideas,” says Sauvé. The last board focused a lot on the street construction on Bank Street and the Lansdowne development, says Sauvé, so now that both projects are complete, the board can put their energy into the on-street experience. Sauvé says that Lansdowne has been good for his business, because it’s increased walk-by traffic and now he sees lots of new faces in the store – and after 31 years working there, he recognizes a new face.

If the elephant in the (board)room is Lansdowne Park, Lisa Slater from Whole Foods is more than well aware of that. “Everybody has been extremely welcoming to us,” says Slater, adding that she’s definitely not the elephant. The former New Yorker, who moved to Canada over 30 years ago, says coming from the outside – Toronto – with a fresh pair of eyes gives her a positive insight into the community.

“The BIA has the best interests of the Glebe, trying to balance all the concerns of residents and business people, in such a way as to maintain the character of the Glebe, while recognizing that things have to change,” says Slater. Everybody’s perspective from the standpoint of being a business is the same, she says. “We want our businesses to thrive, we want [customers] to have easy access to our business, we want to have a great relationship with the City, because it’s great for both of us,” says Slater.

Rebecca McKeen. Photo by Ben Bulmer
Rebecca McKeen. Photo by Ben Bulmer
Rebecca McKeen is the fourth generation of her family to run McKeen’s Metro and one of the youngest members on the board. Having grown up in the Glebe, McKeen says, “My customers are mostly residents from the Glebe, and I have a big connection with what the local community likes and wants from the business community.”

McKeen sees her age, and the enthusiasm that goes with it, as a strong asset for the board. “It’s a matter of energy and willingness to change and adapt,” she says.

“I think when you have been running a business for a long time it becomes harder to make changes,” says McKeen. “From the young perspective, it’s easier to see the change and see the benefit.”

About Lansdowne and Bank Street, McKeen says, “It would nice if there was some integration, as they are two separate entities at this time.” McKeen hopes the Glebe will catch up with some of the other areas in the city that are booming right now, notably Westboro and Hintonburg. “I think there’s a lot of potential to reinstate the trendy vibe that we had going back five or six years ago.”

Eva Cooper. Photo by Ben Bulmer.
Eva Cooper. Photo by Ben Bulmer.
Eva Cooper has run her Bank Street store, Delilah, since 2011 and is stepping into the position of vice-chair. “The future is extremely exciting. We have a very fresh board, and we’re led in a sound, positive way with Judy’s leadership, and we have a very dynamic executive director,” says Cooper.

Making the Glebe more of a tourist destination and having a better connection with downtown is all part of the strategic plan the BIA is in the process of implementing, says Cooper. “2017 is a big goal for us and the Glebe is where we want people to come. The strategic plan is very focused on making the Glebe an area in which people are extremely engaged and proud to be a part of, whether it be business or residential.”

A couple of ideas the board is looking into are having some kind of signage welcoming people to the Glebe, and a possible trolley bus taking people directly from downtown to the Glebe, says Cooper. “The Glebe has a lot of offer. We’re making sure it’s a beautiful part of Ottawa and a tourist destination.”

Ben Bulmer is the business writer for the Glebe Report.

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