Lack of customers, high rents force Hobbs in Kerrisdale to close

Florist and author Thomas Hobbs has mixed feelings about closing the Kerrisdale gift shop hes owned and operated with his business and life partner Brent Beattie since 1989.

The gift shop, also named Hobbs and located at 2129 West 41st Ave., will close at the end of this month after doing business in Kerrisdale for more than 23 years. Im sad because Kerrisdale has been so good to me, but its changed so much, said Hobbs. In my opinion the people who live here now dont want to buy beautiful dishes or candles or nice soap, they want to shop in Richmond.

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Hobbs, who also owns and operates Southlands Nursery, is an internationally renowned florist whose private garden has been featured in numerous lifestyle magazines including House Beautiful and Better Homes and Gardens. Hobbs has also been featured in Martha Stewart Living. In 1975, he launched Thomas Hobbs Florist in Kerrisdale, located beside Hobbs gift shop, which today is owned and operated by Maureen Sullivan. It will remain open.

Hobbs said the gift shop was Vancouvers first home store, and he and Beattie travelled to Italy and France to import high-end dishes, linens, lamps and small furniture, which they artfully displayed. During a visit to Hobbs earlier this week, much of the shops inventory had been discounted in preparation for its closing. Hobbs lamented most shoppers today are more interested in shopping at big box stores such as Home Sense or Winners than supporting independent retailers.

There is no Kerrisdale Village anymore, said Hobbs. Hobbs became like a museum where people just dropped by to put on free hand cream.

Hobbs said their gift shop is not the only victim of the shifting demographic of Kerrisdale. To make that point, the couples 2012 Halloween display included tombstones etched with the names of other independent businesses that have closed in Kerrisdale in recent years. On his blog, tomspeaks at thomashobbs.com, he noted there were so many tombstones they couldnt all fit in the stores window.

Hobbs told the Courier the rent on the retail space had increased exponentially and in recent years the couple has been paying $120,000 a year for their lease. Hobbs explained half of that pays the landlords property tax. He estimated the couple has paid millions of dollars in rent since opening the shop in 1989.

And thats not fair, said Hobbs. There was a movement by the city to reduce commercial property taxes, but it doesnt seem to be going anywhere.

He added there are very few people who can afford to buy a home in Kerrisdale.

And the ones who can afford to dont support the village, said a frustrated Hobbs, who added hell be happy to concentrate on his beloved nursery. But its not just Kerrisdale. Target is coming to Oakridge, so watch out.

sthomas@vancourier.com

Twitter: @sthomas10

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