The Nelson Daily asked me recently to comment on how I felt about the possibility of Tim Hortons opening a franchise in Nelson. My answer: an emphatic NO.
Nelson does not have an official brand. But if we did, a big part of that brand would probably be “locally owned”.
Yes, we do have a few large chains in town already. But because there are so few, they fade into the background. (Full disclosure: I enjoy a Teen Burger every now and again, so I fully appreciate those currently operating in our community.) But stick a few more big chains on Nelson Avenue, Front Street, or Baker, and we risk killing our “locally owned” vibe. This would be bad. Here’s why.
“Locally owned” is part of our character
If you read any travel article about Nelson, they all comment on the feeling that our community is different from the rest of North America. Unique. Weird. Cool. Independent. Whatever you want to call it, a big part of what makes us special is not seeing the familiar signs you see in every other town and city on the continent.
This is not a bad thing. This doesn’t make us a backwater that’s been forgotten by progress. It’s a major feature of our community character, and something we can bank on for attracting both visitors and immigrants to this special place.
Local businesses profit the entire community
Add to this the fact that large chains are not nearly as profitable for a community as a locally owned and operated business, and the decision to discourage more chains in our town is a no-brainer. We’ve already done some good work on that front with the latest zoning bylaw, which doesn’t allow drive-through businesses. And there are other options that we could pursue, but that would involve considerable community consultation.
However, if Tim Horton’s or other franchises were to open at the mall tomorrow, there isn’t much we can do about it. And to be clear, I don’t think that scenario would be the end of the world. At the very least they wouldn’t be out on the highway or downtown, so they wouldn’t be reducing Nelson to just another drive-through pitstop on the way someplace else.
Let’s encourage businesses that add to our uniqueness
All that said, I would personally help load in the deep-fryer and burger grill should somebody want to open an independent burger joint or doughnut shop. A few of these types of businesses, if cleverly executed, could be a huge credit to Nelson. So let’s encourage businesses that add to the uniqueness of our special community — not detract from it just so we can chow down on a pile of Timbits.