Opioids, safety issues blamed as retailer leaves Cambridge
Ryan Flanagan, CTV Kitchener
Published Thursday, October 26, 2017 6:26PM EDT
Calling the Galt core “a very unsafe place,” a business owner is getting ready to move his store out of Cambridge.
Mike Romagnoli says moving to uptown Waterloo will cost him most of his customer base and nearly triple his rent costs, but he thinks it’s a small price to pay.
“We’re sacrificing everything to make this move – 100 per cent because of safety,” he said in an interview.
Romagnoli owns Retro Replay, a video gaming store that he opened up on Ainslie Street four years ago.
He says major issues were few and far between at the beginning, but have steadily become more common as the opioid crisis has worsened.
Specifically, he says, people are regularly walking into his store while “very obviously high” and occasionally passing out there. One time, he says, one of his customers was punched in the face by a stranger outside the store. There are theft issues as well.
“You cannot function in Cambridge without seeing these people,” he says.
“It shouldn’t be the responsibility of store owners to be PSWs and therapists and security guards when we’re not trained to deal with these people.”
Neighbouring store owners say they wish Romagnoli well in Waterloo, but don’t see the same issues he’s reporting.
Cayla Dittenhoffer owns Just Blooms, a flower shop in the unit next to Retro Replay.
In the year since the business moved to Ainslie Street, Dittenhoffer says, there haven’t been any events that have made her feel unsafe in the core.
“I think the region, the city and our community are all doing things to help support the community,” she says.
“People don’t necessarily know about what’s happening and what they are doing to help the problem.”
Across a parking lot from Just Blooms is Monigram, a coffee shop run by Graham Braun.
Braun also chairs the Downtown Cambridge BIA, and says that while Cambridge is dealing with similar opioid-related issues as any other Canadian downtown core, he hasn’t seen any signs that things are particularly worse in his city.
He says kindly and politely asking unwanted visitors to leave is typically enough, and estimates that he’s called police or social services “a handful of times” in Monigram’s nearly five years of operation.
“For us, it’s not been a cumbersome issue at all,” he says.
City officials say they’re taking action on issues related to opioid addictions both through a recently established task force and through more specific actions like installing security cameras in the core and responding to concerns about needles left on private and public property.
With reporting by Tyler Calver