If you take a stroll down Whyte Avenue these days, you’ll likely see broken or smashed windows at a number of businesses.
The owner of one of those businesses says her front window was broken, and her store was robbed.
“The main window has been broken, and the store has been entered because of that,” Michele Cohen, owner of Black Swan Antique and Collectables, told CTV News Edmonton.
“They did a big break-in to the main window and they succeed to make a big haul, basically all the high-end jewelry and gold.”
Cohen said the broken window followed previous break-in attempts that saw the glass in her front door broken twice.
“They come by the front and they busted the window, the door window.”
“Got it replaced and the following morning it was again busted.”
Cohen says the costs of replacing the broken glass add up – both financially and emotionally.
“It’s more than frustrating. It’s financially compounding, and also it’s scary.”
“It affects the whole area, because I know I’m not the only one.”
NEW GRANT FOR BUSINESSES
As a result of those effects, the Old Strathcona Business Association (OSBA) has launched a new grant program, to help businesses fix smashed windows.
“This is just one more thing they’re struggling with financially, and we thought if there’s some way that we can give them a hand and provide a little bit of recovery for repair, then we’d love to do that,” said Cherie Klassen of OSBA.
Klassen says for some shops in the area that have large windows, repairs can cost thousands of dollars.
“They’re looking at upwards of $5,000, $10,000 in some cases. It’s definitely in the thousands of dollars. And if they have it more than once, which some of these businesses have had, then their premiums go up.”
“A $5,000 bill for a small business owner who’s just coming out of COVID and trying to recoup costs and has loans and debt and all of those sorts of things, it’s a huge amount of money for them to bear.”
The program will give businesses the ability to apply for funding up to $2,500 for damage done between Feb. 1, 2023, and mid December.
Klassen says businesses can apply multiple times until they hit the $2,500 limit.
“Businesses just have to show that they have a broken window, take a before picture, then also provide some quotes on what it would cost to replace it,” she said.
“Then they just have to show proof of it being completed.”
Klassen says while the area has dealt with graffiti for years, the broken windows have been a more recent issue.
“This broken window kind of spree is something new that we saw in the last year.”
“I think we’ve probably seen somewhere around 30 businesses in the last year have big broken windows, which is really unusual for us. We haven’t seen that in probably well over a decade.”
BROKEN WINDOWS ‘RAMPING UP’
Kevin Kent says his shop Knifewear has been one of those hit multiple times.
“We’ve been on Whyte Avenue now for almost nine years, and in that time we’ve had our window broken three times,” he told CTV News. “But, the weird thing is, it’s twice in the last eight months, so it seems to be ramping up.”
He says it’s not just the cost of replacing the window that adds up, but getting the shop boarded up and secured.
“And then we get to live with a front window that’s a piece of wood for two, three, four weeks until we can get a pane of glass ready to install,” he said, adding the boarded up window makes it appear his shop is closed.
Knifewear on Whyte Avenue was forced to board up its windows after they were smashed in November 2022. (Credit: Kevin Kent)
Kent says he kept the board from the last time his window was broken so he will be ready for the next time.
“We’ve just kind of accepted that this is what’s happening now. It’s a bummer.”
He says he appreciates the idea of the grant, but he’d like to see the window breaking spree come to an end.
“It’d be great if we could address the causes of why are windows being broken rather than coming up with a grant to help us pay for the windows.”
“The atmosphere on Whyte Avenue is totally changed. It’s not what it used to be.”
With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson.