Turning out the lights

Darrell Cole
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Tobacco taxes closing convenience store

Turning out the lights

AMHERST - When Tony Hubert bought D&J Convenience last year he liked the thought of being his own boss, but now seven months later he's closing the doors of the 50-year-old store because he can't compete with cheaper cigarettes and milk a few kilometres away in New Brunswick.
"I never really had a chance, just two weeks before I bought the business the government here raised the tax on tobacco and I lost most of my sales to New Brunswick," said Hubert, who will turn the key for the final time tonight when the store closes at 10 p.m.
Hubert said his suppliers and his customers have told him he has done a great job building the business, but sales are down by $65,000 over seven months. The difference between January 2010 and the same month last year was $14,500.
"I just got to the point that I can't make enough money to pay the bills so I'm getting out before anyone gets hurt. This way my suppliers get paid and my staff gets paid," he said. "The only thing I will have to worry about is paying my mortgage. Will I be able to do that? Probably not."
Hubert showed a sales receipt from the Tantramar Gas Bar in Sackville to back up his case. On Wednesday, he purchased a package of cigarettes for $6.02 (before taxes) and a two-litre carton of milk for $3.35. In Nova Scotia, the cost is $8.75 for that same package of cigarettes (his cost from supplier TRA is $7.95) and $4.25 for the milk. He's also angry that one of the large tobacco giants gave large retailers a break on cigarettes that wasn't made available to the smaller independent store owners.
"It's not only a gas issue," said Hubert, referring to the differing price at the pump in the two province. "I can go over the Sackville and fill up and save about $6, but I don't because it's 10 minutes over and 10 minutes back. If I'm smoker, the first thing I'm going to do is go over to New Brunswick to save $4 a pack. You're darn right I'm going to fill up while I'm there and I'm going to pick up some milk as well along with a bag of chips and a bottle of pop."
The recession and taxes are two of the major reasons behind the decision to close, but Hubert is willing to admit that he needs to take some of the responsibility as well.
"The fact of the matter is I haven't made a dime since I've been here. I've taken two and a half paycheques out of here in seven months and it has sucked up most of my savings," Hubert said. "I just don't see it working so I'm getting out."
The businessman cannot hide is anger from government saying it has overtaxed business to the point people can't compete. With the possibility of the government increasing the HST by two per cent to battle the debt, Hubert feels it's time for Nova Scotians to say enough is enough.
"If they raise the HST we're screwed, there's no nice way to put it. You might as well put the closed sign up on Amherst," he said. "You don't see me going out and spending thousands on some custom made desk. They made this mess, they should clean it up without causing hardship on Nova Scotians."
Sylvia MacDonald has been using D&J Convenience for more than 40 years and believes it's going to be missed in the neighbourhood.
"I have always dropped in here for a few things every week over the years. We'd always drop in for an ice cream on a Sunday during the summer," she said. "It's a terrible thing that's happening."

Geographic location: New Brunswick, AMHERST, Nova Scotia Nova Scotians

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Recent comments

  • Bill
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    That's why it pays to do a little market research before you open a business. No planning. Plonk!

  • Ayn
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    This guy never stood a chance, he should pack up and move to Alberta, the last best hope for a non-government worker in Canada.

    I never looked back on the the day I left Amherst in 1980. 50 years of driving off your best and brightest has a cost, and that cost is economic & societal failure. The Maritime Provinces will be remembered as a tragic story of the evils of Socialism & Big Government.

    The population of the region has long since passed the event horizon and there is no escape from the socialist black hole. The end game of fighting over the remaining economic scraps as both predictable and inevitable. If you are young enough to start over, get out.

  • tory times
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    it's really too bad rodney raised the tobacco tax. the tories never did care about amherst. now tory puppet masters are behind moves like this to make it look as though the system they're respnsible for setting up has nothing to do with this.

  • Dee
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Great dialogue however being negative doesn't change the facts. The taxes may have been a small part but it appears the lack of start up cash flow for inventory may have been the beginning of the end. Dave and Jean did a great job and Putts LeBlanc before them ..... I may be wrong but a bit more thought and business advice / partnering may have advoided this outcome. My two visits to the store after a change of hands noted scant shelves ..appeared like a liquidation centre so ....Best regards to the management for making an attempt to succeed ...I applaud you!

  • my thought on this
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    the unfortunate part of mr huberts story is that he is not the only ns business owner that is going to end up in this situation with the way our government is being ran right now i think that alot of people not only business owners like tony but simple working people are going to be looking for work elsewhere and tony was not telling his customers anything that our local news has not told us one thousand times before he did no harm to his business by what he was saying because the outcome still would have been the same take a look at our government and send your remarks that way they are the ones who deserve it Mr.Hebert good luck in your future travels

  • Steve
    February 24, 2010 - 23:46

    Tony I feel for you, but here's the rub. If starting and running a successful business were easy and a guaranteed success, everyone would be doing it. The fact is, that convenience stores are no longer all that convenient. You need to begin to think outside the box and diversify your offerings, there are still many products and services that cannot be easily accessed in Amherst. There is simply no need for me to buy in your store of all you offer is the same products and services that everyone else offers.
    Diversify and survive. Whine about tough times, blame everyone else and go bankrupt.
    IMHO as always.

  • peter
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I agree with Mr. Hubert, the cards are definitely stacked against him and I don't believe he can do anything to overcome the negative influences of high taxation in Nova Scotia and lower prices on popular items in New Brunswick. Maybe the more established stores may hold on for a bit longer, but it is a loosing battle.

    Hate to see the store close.

  • Brita
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    If that is the case and it is the government's fault that this business is closing down then why isn't that the case for other small businesses with the same products. To me this does not make any sense. If a business is shutting down because of loss of customers it is not the government's fault, it is the quality of customer service.

  • Upset
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    if the taxes keep going up, soon we will not be able to pay for food and things that we need...then that will lead up to another depresstion... But i hope you luck tony,

  • Doug
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I hear ya on that one Ayn Rand,,the goverments in Nova Scotia are leaving a very bad taste in everyone mouths.I would look for work elsewhere aswell if i were a young person in nova scotia or the Cumberland area i would be leaving fast.And the way the goverments are running things for Cumberland County they should think of joining New Brunswick cause our county is like a wasteland to the rest of Nova scotia and i`m proud to say i am a Nova Scotian.But i rather work in Alberta or saskatchewan.

  • Concerned citizen
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    First of all Jack get your spelling correct, it was Dave and Jean Girouard......and unfortunatly taxes are high, yes BUT D&J's was a successful small buisness ran by the Girouards for 30 years and they were ready to retire not close down because of bad buiness or taxes. They had many many loyal customers and there are many people in town who have fond memories that included this store. Mr Hubert was given a fair chance but alas could not make a go of it. Too many changes in too little of time drove staff and customers away. The summer ice cream will be missed but so are the friendly smiles of Dave,Jean and staff when you walked through the door.

  • Jack on the rocks
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    To Concerned,speaking of spelling you just may want to check your own on at least 2 words Smarty McPants.I didn't mean any harm at all to the previous owners.Anyone from this town knows the great reputation the store had.You call it retirement,but I call it knowing when to fold em.After all the complaining about big box grocery stores opening on Sundays.Dave and Jean made the smart move.

  • Moriarty
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    ...............................Wow Ayn!

    Who invited Stephen Harper to comment here?

  • Fuzzy Bear
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    And the compassion just keeps pouring out of this community. Sure makes one proud to be an Amherstonian!!
    And the beat goes on!

  • Joe
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    Funny how the previous owners managed to run the place for so long while this fella in the space of a year ran it into the ground.

    I guess its his right to lay blame where he thinks. If only if only our taxes were exactly like NB this place would still be open? I highly doubt it. I find it more likely that the guy just couldn't run the business.

    All he need show to demonstrate the affect of what he says is affecting the business is to show the income statements over a period years. If what he says are true then we should see a steady decline. It would be interesting to see what happened when Wal-mart opened in Amherst.

    But hey its not wal-mart its Sackville! Milk and cig and gas parity!! We demand it! and if sackville lowers there prices on hot dogs we are screwed.

    This is all hot air.

  • bunch of bull
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    to me this is all a bunch of bull because i dont feel its the taxes that made this guy close down its the customer service that him and his staff gave. his prices were on of the highest of any convience stores in amherst and the staff he had was so rude. so i think he better look at some of the other reasons why he is closing than putting the blame on new brunswick prices

  • Shawanoswe
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    My daughter and her friends will sure miss taking their report cards and getting a free ice cream!

  • Jack on the rocks
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I seem to remember going into the store before Mr.Hubert purchased and the place looked like it was closing then.Tell me,I wonder why the Gerards's decided to close in the first place???Think about it......

  • PresentationIsEverything
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    In regards to the closing of the store, I am sure that taxes being raised did play a part, but I do not believe that is the whole story. As a former employee of Dave and Jean, I assure you that one thing was always constant in THEIR store. Customer service was always priority.
    After Mr. Hubert bought the store, I was one of the first customers on his first day as owner. Right away I was off put by his service and stayed away for many months. I returned at a later date and was happier with the service provided by the ladies he had working the counter. Then, on my third and final visit just a few weeks ago, I stopped in at roughly 8 pm to find Mr. Hubert walking around in an old T-shirt and PJ pants while his employee helped me at the counter. Mr. Hubert, I just want to let you know that a little presentation makes a big difference. In your next endevour, put some time and thought into your image and maybe things will work out better,


    A former customer.

  • JE
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    A couple of things about this story have caught my discerning eye.

    This guy was on the CBC News last night saying how he's encouraging his customers to shop in New Brunswick. Well,,,,, duh ........ guess what: if you encourage your customers to shop somewhere else.... GUESS WHAT: you're gonna go bellly up.

    And then theres this. That operator took over that store last year and the issues of cigarette pricing, gasoline pricing and cross border shopping have been in the news for YEARS. So, was he not paying attention to this when he purchased the store?

    I understand the issues here, there are some serious problems - but I don't have one bit of sympathy for this guy.

    Plus now I'm not gonna have a place to get my large chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream next summer.

    These are dark times.

  • Ad Man
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    We are sorry to see Tony go. We have always found the service there great, both before Tony and now. Perhaps if he had been allowed to put his sign on that building at the end of Croft St., as he wanted, it may have directed a few more customers to his store maybe enough to keep it open.
    Good luck Tony...