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Parking issues force 60-year-old business out of Downtown Guelph (4 photos)

'There's a reason why you see a lot of empty buildings too': Dutch Toko co-owner Trevor Thalen

Dutch Toko, a family business that's been serving Downtown Guelph for 60 years, is relocating in August due to a lack of available parking for customers.

Started in 1959 by Zack Thalen and now owned by his son Harry Thalen and grandson Trevor Thalen, Dutch Toko has been catering to a niche market by serving Dutch groceries from Holland.

The store has been in its current location on 118 Wyndham St. N for 31 years and was established close to the old Guelph Odeon Theatre and also on MacDonell Street in the past.

But in recent years, parking has proved to be an increasing problem.

“Its always been a pleasure all these years. It's been steady. A lot of people do go downtown still. We get a lot of customers that do come by car and that's a bit of an issue,” says Thalen.

Parking has been a growing and constant concern for store owners and customers downtown Guelph. The city has been enforcing several strategies to make parking easier such as allowing cars to park for free on evenings and weekends in downtown lots.

Also, the Wilson Street parking lot closed early 2018 for the creation of 410 new spots by this fall.

Trevor Thalen has been working for Dutch Toko since he was 15 and says people come from all over the city and neighbouring cities such as Kitchener, Cambridge and Fergus and sometimes want to go in and grab something quickly but cannot find a spot and this affects his business directly.

“At the plaza, I could have 50 people all pulling in at the same time and they could all have a spot. They can park wherever they want, they don't have to pay for parking. Its walk in, walk out, it's convenient,” says Thalen.

“There's a reason why you see a lot of empty buildings too. It's not like business is booming and prosperous otherwise the buildings would always be full.”

Thalen says as his lease for his store was coming to an end this year, he had the option to extend it for another three to five years, but doing that could negatively impact his business.

“A business could end in three to five years,” says Thalen.

The new location on 666 Woolwich St. is 30 per cent bigger than the older location with 2,850 square feet while the older one was 2,200 square feet.

The store will also have a 60-year anniversary celebration in their new location on Aug. 1 where they will offer coffee, cookies and a $2 sale that sells all sale items for $2.

“It'll be reminiscent of all the things in the past,” says Thalen.

Thalen says the new location will also attract new clientele for their store and it’s in their best interest to relocate.

“People like these smaller stores too, its a little more personable and has different products. When you go to those big stores like Walmart, it all carries the same stuff,” says Thalen.

“When we locate too, it's nice to attract a different clientele in the new location.”