Protesters say garage is vital to communities economy
© Sumitted by Ian Murray
Led by the Wallace Fire Department, residents of Wallace marched in unison on Sunday to put pressure on Ultramar to rebuild the Ultramar garage.
WALLACE - Hundreds of people took part in ‘March of Support' in Wallace on Sunday, walking from the elementary school to the Wallace Ultramar garage and convenience store.
"We're hoping the (Ultramar) store is going to be rebuilt because its closure is having devastating effects on some of our local businesses," said Denise Darragh, who helped organize the march, and is a former owner and a present employee of the garage.
The Wallace Ultramar was destroyed by fire Dec. 21, 2012. The garage employed four people year-round and three extra employees during the tourist season. With the tourist season just around the corner Darragh said there is little indication from Ultramar that they're going to rebuild the garage. Estimates have pegged the cost of rebuilding at $300,000.
"Ultramar is saying it will probably take eight to 10 years to recover that money, so they're not going to pay to rebuild," said Darragh.
She said Ultramar took the site over in the 1990's and the community has always supported the garage, but residents have no choice but to travel to Pugwash and Tatamagouche to load up on necessities, such as groceries and fuel.
"But if they put a brand new building in there so that we can start selling our gas and our beer and our groceries again, this community is going to support them for another 50, 70 or 100 years, but the building has to be put there first."
The march is part of a call-in campaign started last Tuesday to let Ultramar know how important the store is to the community.
"We started a phone calling, emailing blitz to the head office of Ultramar," said Darragh. "They've received hundreds and hundreds of calls and emails that were directed to Ross Bayus, he's the president of Ultramar located in Montreal.
"And I asked everybody who was at the march to keep calling and keep emailing. We want to absolutely drive them crazy."
Kevin and Amy Ouderkirk own the Ultramar. Darragh says that Ultramar tells the Ouderkirk's how much insurance to carry and what insurance company they have to use.
"They had all kinds of insurance for the contents and the interior part of the building," said Darragh. "They don't have insurance for the building because they don't own the building."
Darragh said everybody in Wallace hopes the insurance issues are quickly ironed out and Ultramar will start rebuilding the garage right away.
"We want the building torn down and we want it built back up before our summer season starts. That's why we're putting on the pressure right now," she said.
"The summer is coming and this is cottage country," she added. "The fishing is starting up and we have Aquashell Fishery right across the road. All of those workers depend on our business for their cup of coffee and their sandwich at lunch time."
Darragh also said if the store remains closed it could lose its license to sell liquor and lotto tickets.
"They have contracts with the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation and the Atlantic Lottery Corporation, and the NSLC and The ALC are asking ‘when are you going to re-open because we have contracts here and we want to be open for the summer season,’” said Darragh. "We heard that if they don’t get up and get going that they’re going to award these contracts to somebody else, so the store could lose these two very important contracts."
Darragh figures the store could be built and ready to go in two months.
"March 1 is right around the corner and it would take one day to tear that building down and clean it up, the next day they could start building, and in two months that building could be up and going," she said.
It appears that Ultramar is hearing the protest.
"Kevin and Amy received a call on Thursday from a local representative out of Dartmouth saying Ultramar is hearing us and that they admire us and are commending us on these efforts to try to get this garage rebuild," said Darragh.
She hopes Ultramar is listening because she fears the end of the Ultramar could mean the end of Wallace.
"If the gas station isn’t going to be put back up then nobody is going to look at Wallace and want to move here," she said. "The local businesses such as our restaurants and the Home Hardware are suffering now because people are going to Tatamagouche or Pugwash for a tank of gas or a jug of milk or a loaf of bread, and they're buying everything else they need in Tatamagouche and Pugwash."