THE number of businesses that stayed open during the turmoil and redevelopment of the Nicholas Street CBD mall project can be counted on one hand.
Amongst those survivors are Craig and Robyn Rule (PICTURED) who’ve owned Dominique’s café and bakery for more than 10 years.
With Nicholas Street now open for business one would have thought their future was now assured.
Unfortunately, they say that is not the case and despite the millions invested by council they still have a fight on their hands to stay afloat.
Craig said council was now showing its desperation to fill the many empty CBD shops by just introducing competitors to current retailers.
LOYAL Ipswich retailers who battled their way through the long CBD reconstruction say they are feeling abandoned by the current council.
Craig and Robyn Rule who own Dominique’s Café, and Pauline Williamson who owns Ipswich Newsagency and Post Office vented their frustrations with the council to the Local Ipswich News this week as “a last resort because nobody was listening”.
They represent two of the few retailers who stuck solid with the CBD during what they labelled as the rebuild nightmare.
“I kept my doors open despite complete disregard for the future of my business from the current council,” Pauline said.
“Patrons were discouraged from visiting my agency with barricades lining both sides of Nicholas Street as construction dragged on, I felt as though my shop was in the middle of a war zone,” she said.
“I even had to plead with council to put a newsagency open sign at the top of the street as I poured every dollar I had into keeping the doors open over those years.”
Craig Rule had a similar story to tell about the tough years during the rebuild, but what happened in the past was not the message they were both wanting to get out.
“Since the street reopened with all the fanfare from council we’ve had minimal consultation from them and instead of receiving support we feel as though we have been abandoned,” he said.
“The promise we got from the councillors was that they were going to introduce new retailers into the CBD Mall to drive traffic here. Instead all we have seen is a few food venues opening.
“That’s just opposition to us and what annoys me the most is that I’m sure council lured them in with fit-out rebates and free rent period incentives.
“I never received a cent when I did my fit-out, it came out of my bank account. Council should not be playing in the retail world, they don’t have the expertise to do it, they are just wasting ratepayer’s money.”
Both retailers also expressed concern about the many events council was funding at the Tulmur Place end of the mall saying the functions were doing nothing to help current retailers.
“The only people getting any benefit from these events are the food truck vendors who roll in to take the money and go back to their homes on the Gold Coast and Brisbane,” Craig said. “There were seven food trucks lined up at Aussie Bites event the other day and only two were from Ipswich.”
“When they put on the entertainment down the end in their hotbox people just park in the carpark below catch the lift up, stay down there and leave,” Pauline said.
“Even the Christmas Lights event was a joke, they closed off the street for installation two weeks prior to turning the lights on and then pulled them down a week before Christmas,” she said.
Craig said while everyone wants to point the finger back at the old council at least they held regular meetings with them asking how they could help and seeking our ideas.
“Bring back the markets and allow stalls all the way up to the top of the street would be a good start,” Pauline said.
Craig said the real key to mall’s future was for council to stop putting in anyone they could find to fill a vacancy.
“We need retailers who attract people, not retailers who just cannibalise those of us who have stayed true to the city.”