There will soon be another vacancy close to the Parliament Buildings as a two-decade chapter in the history of Sparks Street retail is set to end this September.
By David Sali
The SmithBooks near the corner of Sparks and Elgin streets is closing its doors on Sept. 13 after serving book lovers for more than 20 years at the downtown pedestrian mall.
Michael Casey, vice-president of Arnon Development Corporation, which owns the building that houses SmithBooks, said he’s going to miss the store’s staff members, many of whom have become friends.
He’s had discussions with a number of potential tenants about taking over the space, he said, but would not divulge any names.
“We’ve talked to a number of folks, and there is nothing that we can announce yet,” Mr. Casey said. “When we do have something that we can talk about, we’ll be glad to.”
SmithBooks is owned by Chapters/Indigo, which has a major store just a few blocks away at Rideau Street and Sussex Drive. Officials from the company were unavailable for comment Monday afternoon.
Sparks Street Mall business improvement area executive director Les Gagne, whose group is trying to breathe new life into the mall, told the Ottawa Citizen his vision for the street includes high-end retailers such as Chanel, Coach and Louis Vuitton.
A recent study commissioned by the authority showed the area near Sparks Street has a high per capita income but doesn’t have the stores to cater to that market, he told the newspaper.
Mr. Casey said he’s not sure Ottawa has a large enough population to sustain a stand-alone store run by one of those brands.
“I’m suggesting that in a market our size that the Chanels and Coaches tend to go into a store and take a portion of a store like Holt Renfrew,” he said.
He said he doesn’t have any one particular type of retailer in mind to replace SmithBooks.
“We’re wide open,” he said. “If it’s the right fit, we’d gladly look at it.”
While it’s not known who will be taking over that space, at least one new business has confirmed it will be moving to the mall in the near future.
Toronto-based restaurant and bar chain Bier Markt will crack open its first Ottawa location next year in the former Zellers at Sparks and O’Connor, the company announced last month.