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."