By: Paige Riding, News Writer
Minimart, the small convenience store in Maggie Benston Centre (MBC), will reportedly close its doors in the third week of March. Gideon Wong and Carrie Li, the married store owners, said in an interview with The Peak that their store would no longer be sustainable after that date due to a hike in rent under SFU’s new lease.
The SFSS is set to relinquish Minimart’s current space once the Student Union Building (SUB) opens. Wong explained how: “The SFSS, they told us, these space[s] will return to SFU. I said, ‘SFU and SFSS, I don’t know what’s the difference for me, you know?”
The difference for the store owners, Wong found out, is that not only will their current location be shut down and turned into something else entirely, but their other location option involves double the rent and almost doubled property taxes each month.
“Originally, they planned to put us in the new building there,” — meaning the new SUB — “but space is doubled . . . and they want double the rent, which we can’t afford. This small space for us is okay [ . . . ] but double the rent?
“And also, on top of that, they also put the property tax on us since last year or the year before. Here, we have to pay $2,700 property tax. I said, ‘this is not my property! Why should I have to pay for it?’”
The owners would pay $5,000 in property tax in the SUB, according to Wong’s recollection of the conversation with an SFSS representative about relocating.
The Peak also spoke with Marc Fontaine, the General Manager of Build SFU, about the closing of Minimart. Fontaine told The Peak that the SUB will have a convenience store, and that the owners of Minimart were interviewed for the opening; however, they did not meet the criteria. According to Fontaine, this criteria included: “experience operating a similar business, [a] plan for long-term business operation (minimum five years), and financial capacity to pay rent, operating costs, and tenant improvements.”
Fontaine echoed what Wong had said about the larger space in the SUB.
“The rent per square foot in the SUB is in line with fair market rent and is very similar to the current cost per square foot that we charge in the MBC,” he said. “However, the store in the SUB is larger than the store in MBC, so the monthly cost would have been higher.”
He added that the SFSS would be returning its space in MBC to SFU once the SUB opens. “Therefore, in a few months, the SFSS will be unable to continue leasing these spaces to our tenants.”
Wong noted that their previous success as a store came largely from their selection of Asian items that appealed to the large Asian student population on campus.
“Over half of [the goods] are Asian. From Japan, from Korea, from the Philippines, from Taiwan, from Hong Kong [ . . . ] and there are lots of Asian students here, so they are happy with it. So, that’s why we can survive.” Through selling such products and other Western snacks and essentials, the owners successfully paid off the small space’s rent. From ice cream bars to any chip of choice, from beloved Asian drinks to notebooks and pens, the Minimart offered students the items they wanted in a convenient location.
“If you give me a better rate, I may consider that,” Wong said about relocating to the SUB.
Now that the couple face a hiked rent cost, the two explain that they plan to retire once their current location closes unless the offered rates change.
The Peak has reached out to SFU for comment on Minimart’s closing, and will update this story accordingly.