There’s economic life left in Amherst
Rod Wilson stands by the bar at Dooly's lounge in downtown Amherst. The bar rebuilt after a major fire destroyed its former home in August. It's just one example of good economic news coming out of gloomy times.
AMHERST – When a store in Amherst closes, it makes the news. When a government office downsizes, headlines appear. And there’s a common response to these job losses when a story gets posted on our website. Readers post their disappointment in yet another business shutting its doors, still more people thrown out of work.
Economic fortunes run both ways in Amherst, however. Bad news stories may be the ones we remember but reinvestment in our community is happening, and being reported on, all the time.
We lost Jungle Jim’s, but Minocha McKenney Dentistry built an all-new facility from the ground up. Gordon’s Ladies Wear is shutting down but McDonald’s rebuilt restaurant just opened. Thing5 may have abruptly left town, but Dooly’s didn’t use an insurance settlement to flee the scene – they were looking for a new site while the embers of the Victoria Street fire were still cooling.
Dr. Rachna Minocha and her husband, also a dentist, have relocated to a new structure on South Albion Street. Minocha acknowledged some concern in making such a big investment, but said Amherst’s stable economy is one of the reasons it’s a good place to do business: it has ups and downs, but the downs are never down in the dumps.
When the new office opened, she expressed her desire to provide treatment options patients typically associate with bigger population centres. And she’s said her aim is to help make Amherst a better place to be.
“Amherst is where we grew up…(it’s a) super place for kids to be brought up.”
She expressed her intention to stay in this community until she retires or even beyond.
Danny Moore’s family had no connection to Amherst when his father opened the South Albion Street McDonald’s franchise back in 1981. The new restaurant was one of two test sites in Canada – buildings built small and inexpensively and opened in communities of less than 20,000 people.
The franchise exceeded all expectations, beating projected earnings by 50 per cent in its first year. More than three decades later, that little store – later renovated and enlarged – has been replaced with an entirely new build.
“We’ve always done well in Amherst,” said Moore.
Moore also owns the McDonald’s in Sackville, N.B., and Shediac. (The Amherst Wal-Mart satellite location is also his, but it’s slated for closure before the end of January – see sidebar.) But Amherst is his best store.
He credited loyal customers with being part of his success. The one part of the business he wasn’t happy with, the actual facility, has now been completely replaced.
“It’s a brand new design,” he said.
The franchise owner is very happy with how the new building is coming together. The drive-thru opened last month, but the interior was just opened last week, with some work still ongoing.
He said the new store will employ as much as the two Amherst locations employed, and he’s anticipating sales growth. He thinks having staff under one roof will help focus performance.
Dooly’s in Amherst is a “tried and true business” for the corporation, according to manager Rod Wilson. After fire destroyed their first location, planning for a new spot began “within hours.”
The parent corporation could have taken the insurance settlement cheque and washed its hands of Amherst. That didn’t happen.
“By Tuesday morning we had a meeting lined up (to get a new building),” said Wilson.
The manager said the night club side of their business is a bit of departure from the standard Dooly’s blueprint but it works well in Amherst. An older crowd plays pool during the week, and a younger crowd comes for the dance floor on the weekend. A stage set-up at the new site just west of the railroad crossing downtown with provide increased flexibility, welcoming live music and fundraising events.
“(We’re) very happy with the new location,” he said.
Wilson said Amherst’s location works to their advantage. It’s not off the beaten track, Mount Allison University is close by, and he said there’s always some small event happening. He tries to coordinate with local hotels to capture customers, including those who might be staying in Amherst for Moncton events.
SIDEBAR: Wal-Mart’s McDonald’s will close Jan. 27. Owner Danny Moore said the location hasn’t made its projected first year earnings once in the nine years it was open.
“It’s a hard story, I had such faith,” he said.
McDonald’s will have as many or more employees at its single new location, he said, as they had at the two locations before.