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Greedy bastards

November 27, 2018

God, I hate greedy bastards. Well, who (other than other greedy bastards) doesn’t? There are, of course, many levels of greedy bastards: from the kid who sneaks a third piece of cake when no one is looking to Russian oligarchs and Donald Trump.

Then there are the greedy bastards who will blithely destroy small businesses and communities.

When my partner Mike and I bought a house on an island 22 years ago, there was a small strip mall not that far from our house. It was built some years before, when there was no supermarket on the island.

Back then, the government (and at that time only) liquor store was housed in the mall, as was the credit union. Plenty of reason for people to visit this small mall, and therefore enough business to support a convenience store, which boasted a wonderful deli section and a selection of first videos, then DVDs to rent. (There is a popular beach nearby, so it was always busy in the summer, not so much in the winter months.)

Just before we bought the house, a bigger shopping centre (including a supermarket) was built in what has since become the “village”, but “our” little mall continued to trade. Mike used to get his daily exercise by walking from our house to the mall through the forest to pick up his copy of the Globe & Mail. 

The liquor store and the credit union moved to new premises near the village core, but that was okay, because the doctor’s office moved in and a gym opened. There was a bakery and a second hand bookshop. A very good mechanic opened a garage adjacent to the shops. Bonus! People no longer needed a ferry to get their car repaired. Lovely little mall.

Truth be told, this wasn’t an ideal premise for the medical centre, a fact the community recognised. An amazing community project began, raising funds and applying for grants to build a new, state-of-the-art medical centre near the ambulance and fire halls. Local tradesmen volunteered their time and a few years ago the doctors moved in. As lovely as the new medical centre is, that was the beginning of the end for the little mall. The convenience store closed down, followed soon after by the bakery. The second hand book store moved into premises in the village core.

A new retail development was built in the village. When it opened for business, the gym moved there, as did the tourist information office.

The owner of the mall put it up for sale. It was a sorry sight.

Then an enterprising islander took over the lease on the gym and opened a concert and movie venue. Hallelujah! There was life in the old mall yet.

roxy

A hair salon opened, which I have frequented (for my rare haircuts) ever since. A pet grooming shop opened. There was hope.

Late last year, the worst possible thing happened. The greediest bastard on the island bought the mall. “Oh,” he assured the local paper, “it’ll be business as usual.” Yeah, right. As islanders have learnt to their cost over many years, this particular greedy bastard always has and agenda. The wellbeing of the community and local businesses is never on that agenda. We held our collective breath.

And now the hammer has fallen. The greedy bastard wants to jack up the rents at the end of January. The theatre almost certainly will not survive. Or the garage or the hairdresser or the pet groomer. The greedy bastard does not care.

He’s playing some devious long game of his own. He knows no business on the island can possibly pay the rents he wants and survive. He’s rich enough that he won’t care if the little mall stands empty for years. He wants something else out of this piece of property. Condos? A hotel? Who knows. Something, certainly, that the community does not want. And the community will fight him. The local trust will reject whatever evil plan he submits. In all likelihood, he will eventually sell the land at a loss as a tax write off. Of course, by that time he will have bulldozed the retail premises.

A much loved venue could be gone, quite possibly forever. Much loved mechanics could be driven out of work and an essential business could shut down forever. All because some prick, who already has more money than he could ever spend, wants to make even more.

I fucking hate greedy bastards.

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