The upcoming shutdown of a longtime downtown business has more than a few people talking, once again, about the future of downtown Summerside.
After 124 years, Crockett’s Jewelers is planning to close up shop after the holiday shopping season. The store has been a fixture of Water Street for generations and was first opened by current owner Lynn Crockett’s great-grandfather in 1889. She is the forth generation of Crockett to run the business.
Crockett says there are a number of factors playing into the decision, but didn’t elaborate on specifics.
As could be predicted, however, the closure has increased the chatter about what needs to be done to revitalize the downtown. There is no simple answer to this question and it is not a problem unique to Summerside. There are cities and towns, big and small, all over the country facing the same dilemma.
Here in Summerside the city has been proactive, taking many steps to make the downtown visually appealing and more user-friendly for pedestrians and cars alike.
Some of the moves have been controversial, and even unpopular in some corners, but the reality is there has been a lot of taxpayers’ money spent to boost the fortunes of the city’s core.
Between these and other ongoing initiatives it could be argued the city is playing its part.
In addition to infrastructure, such as paving, sidewalks, lighting and even trees and flowers, the city has even made the very controversial step of becoming landlord of the Holman building; all in an attempt to bring people and wallets downtown.
For its part, the provincial government has moved Department of Education offices and all the employees that go along with it to Water Street. Holland College opened up its Waterfront Campus downtown, bringing faculty, support staff and students to the area.
And let’s not forgot the downtown businesses that have been operating for years and those that have opened up in more recent times and even more recent initiatives to increase housing in the area.
Yes, there has been a lot done. These moves have not solved the problem, but really they ought not be expected to. They are initiatives to get the ball rolling; the rest needs to come from the citizens and the private sector – government is never the answer. Its job is to set the policy that allows us to be the answer.
What is needed now is co-operation between the private sector and the citizens of Summerside and Prince County. At the risk of oversimplifying, we need to shop in the stores that are already here and we need businesses and entrepreneurs to take a chance on the downtown. It will be the actions of the people that make or break downtown Summerside.