An economic development that will push the city forward, or an unhealthy "nothingburger" that will bankrupt local businesses?
The big news of the week — that McDonald’s is coming soon to downtown Thorold — has many tongues wagging, but not every local resident is salivating for a Big Mac and fries.
As ThoroldToday reported, McDonald’s is looking to build a new restaurant on the corner of Pine St. S and Sullivan Ave. Last Tuesday, Thorold City Council rezoned the lot owned by local developer Serge Carpino, effectively clearing the way for the project.
The announcement blindsided some local business owners, who feel their livelihoods are suddenly at stake.
“I had no idea it was coming,” says local restaurant owner Karen Brookes, in an interview with ThoroldToday. “I don’t really understand what is on the mind of the Thorold council to think this is good for the city or for our business.”
Brookes has owned Cosmo’s Diner on Front Street for almost 28 years. Being a small business owner in Thorold hasn’t always been easy.
“We’ve just been through a pandemic,” she says. “The city’s response to that is: 'Let’s puts up a McDonald’s,’ rather than ‘Let’s support our small businesses.’ Nobody can compete with McDonald’s. You’d be a fool to think that you can.”
Carpino — who up until recently was chair of the Thorold Business Improvement Area Association (BIA) — claims the new McDonald’s will bring more bodies to the downtown core. Brookes disagrees.
“The bodies are going to go to McDonald’s and drive through,” she says. “This idea of having people linger in Thorold and seeing the beauty that exists, it’s simply a drive-through thing.”
Some downtown business owners are excited about the prospect of operating next to the burger chain.
“I think it will be great for the city,” says Lee Alford, who owns The Old Fashioned Barbershop on Albert Street. “It gives at least Tim Hortons a little bit of a competitive edge. I think there are still going to be a lot of people that will stay true to the local stores.”
ThoroldToday surveyed local residents who were out shopping on Friday afternoon, asking what they thought of the looming Golden Arches. The responses were decidedly mixed.
“We’re happy because we like their fruit and fibre muffins and we like their ice cream,” said Sandra Young, who was out walking her dog. “The only concern I heard from most people I talked about it with is the amount of traffic.”
Those traffic concerns seem to be the one thing both supporters and opponents can agree upon.
“I feel there should have been a consultation,” said local resident Christine Daigle, while out shopping. “It’s a really bad location with the school and with the traffic that is already in that area. It’s just going to be mayhem.”
Daigle fears the burger chain will take away from the quaint charm of the downtown core.
“Bringing in a business like this is just undoing the good work that’s been done,” she said. “You want to have locally owned businesses if you’re going to play the game of attracting people to a quaint location. It just ruins the landscape.”
Brookes, for her part, fears the same.
“We’re going to lose that small-town feeling,” she says, shaking her head. “My heart stops because I don’t get it. We might all have to close.”