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Hespeler BIA to shorten summer Walk Queen road closure

Queen Street will be closed on the weekends from May 31 to Sept. 1 but not all businesses see the benefit
2022 23 07 Walk Queen BL 1
Walk Queen is returning this summer but for a shorter time frame.

This year's Walk Queen road closure in Hespeler will be slightly different than in the past.

Typically, Queen Street between Guelph Avenue and Tannery Street is closed on the weekends between June and October.

This summer, the area will shut down on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from May 31 to September 1, a month shorter than usual.

"The shortened season is a combination of an olive branch to disenfranchised business owners to demonstrate the BIA's willingness to compromise in combination with managing staffing and budgets," Cory de Villiers, chair of the Hespeler BIA, said.

"Our intent is to throw a shorter, more intensive series of events to maximize the summer months.  We envision Walk Queen 2024 to be our biggest and best year yet."

de Villiers said through the collection of feedback from local businesses and residents, which included a survey, the responses were overwhelmingly positive.

The approval rate for businesses was 70 per cent, he said, with over 80 per cent of resident responses being in favour of the closure.

But not everyone is happy with the initiative.

Marina Radulovic, owner of Blooms of Paradise, is critical of the idea and its impact on the local community and economy.

While she sees the benefit to businesses like restaurants and cafes, a flower shop like hers doesn't receive the same type of walk up traffic.

Customers are often left to park away from Queen Street and walk with their purchases, something that's especially problematic with larger orders for events like weddings.

"I've found business owners aren't happy," Radulovic said.

"They're probably scared to say something but why? The BIA should work for us. I find this doesn't work."

A lack of proper advertising and repetitive activities are also issues Radulovic sees.

"They've only really advertised two restaurants in the village but what about us?" she said.

"There's no real events. Would you like to come every year for the same thing in the street? Backyard games have been going on for four years and a bouncy castle is here every Sunday. It's the same thing every year."

Radulovic doesn't believe the shortening of the closure will help her business and wants to emphasize she's not asking for more direct advertising, but rather hopes it'll be more evenly distributed.

She said it's frustrating when people think businesses push back because they're struggling, a narrative she finds spreads easily.

Having been open for seven years and doing well, she wants to see fresh ideas with every businesses needs kept in mind.

"I'm not asking to promote my business, I'm asking them to promote Hespeler Village," she said.

"I'd like to get people's opinions on how much in sales they get from the closure. It's not helpful."

Radulovic points to the Hop and Shop holiday event, which doesn't require the road to be closed, as an example of a positive promotion for businesses in the village.

"We found the Hop and Shop to be very successful," she said.

"We just wanted to show to them that it's possible."