Fields added to the body count of dead or dying stores on the North Island when it recently announced the closure of all its Canadian stores, including its Port McNeill and Port Hardy locations.
A company spokeswoman couldn’t confirm the dates when the cash registers stop ringing at the Tri-port stores, but did say they will be closed by autumn.
She also would not say how many North Island Fields’ employees will soon find themselves out of work.
“As a private company we do not disclose associate numbers,” Tiffany Bourré told the Gazette in an email.
“Fields was proud to serve the many communities across Canada where our stores were located and would like to thank of all our customers for their loyalty,” she said.
“Hudson’s Bay Company would like to thank all Fields Associates for their dedicated service.”
While rumours of the closure had been circulating for weeks, Fields joined a growing list of North Island businesses that recently closed their doors for good, or are planning to shut down.
At least seven businesses — including a video rental store, candy shop, printer, flower shop, and a convenience store — from Sointula to Port Hardy have ceased operations and, said the area’s MLA, something must be done to help those still standing and to encourage new business.
“There are huge problems facing the North Island, I think everyone is aware of that,” said Claire Trevena (North Island-NDP).
“When you talk about big stores, like Fields, pulling out it’s really beyond our control and problematic,” she said.
“We’ve got to find a way to encourage people to move to the North Island, and set up those businesses and to ensure other small businesses have the opportunity to survive.”
Dennis McGill opened Web World on Market Street nearly two years ago, but said he will be leaving the location at the end of the month.
“There’s really no one to blame,” said the computer repairman who also provides tech and networking services.
“The economy’s bad and people just aren’t spending money to fix their computers,” he said.
“The average householder is, in my opinion, more concerned with putting potatoes on the table and when it comes down to it what’s more important? Having clothes for your kids or having something to play on your computer?”
McGill has one full-time employee, who will be let go, and plans to run a scaled-down model of his business from his home.
Restaurant owners Shaen and Debbie Malone are in a bit of a different boat; they have a successful business no one seems interested to purchase.
“We’re closing our doors here at the end of May, when our lease runs out,” said Debbie, who added the couple is only leaving to be closer to family on the southern part of the island.
The couple said they can’t understand why they haven’t had more offers on the iconic Port Hardy eatery, which is on the market for $120,000, $75,000 less than the original asking price.
“The last year here has probably been one of our best years here and we’re coming off one of our best months,” said Shaen.
“If we stripped this place down, it would cost new owners about $500,000 to replace everything.”
But still, no takers so far.
The Malones said if they don’t manage to sell before the end of the month, they’re still leaving the North Island.
And it’s stories like that which concern Trevena.
“The scary thing is the more people that leave, the less attractive it will be here for people to come and to stay,” she said.
“We need to be able to attract businesses, we need to be able to attract families.”
Trevena said she’s in favour of an attempt — led by Port Hardy Mayor Bev Parnham — to bring back the Northern Living Allowance.
“There’s a huge justification for it, no question,” she said.
“It would be a big attraction for people to stay in the community and to come to the community if they knew they were going to get that — I would hope (Conservative MP for Vancouver Island North) John Duncan is listening very carefully to people when they are calling for it.”