Shopping local will soon be easier, thanks to city council and ... shoes?

Kyra Hoggan
By Kyra Hoggan
March 22nd, 2012

Castlegar city council voted unanimously, at their regular meeting Monday night, in favour of a development permit variance that essentially kills two birds with one stone.

It could be argued that opportunities don’t often come along to further both economic and social sector goals, but this situation clearly fit the bill, according to councillor Kevin Chernoff.

Aspiring business owner Derreck Kittson, 40, is leasing the old Fourth Street Video location on Columbia Avenue and (surprise) 4th Street, in hopes of opening a shoe store, and asked the city to allow him to develop the downstairs as his residence.

“I couldn’t have done it as well any other way,” Kittson said. “This space is perfect for what I want to do, and living on site means I can keep longer operating hours and be my own security guard.”

Chernoff said both staff and council supported the variance.

“We want to do everything we can to pave the way for business owners looking to set up shop downtown – or anywhere in the city, really,” he said. “Plus, this is one more step in addressing the lack of affordable housing in the region. We’ve talked a lot about encouraging infills and suites and that kind of project.

“Of course, we’ll have to evaluate each opportunity like this individually, but unless there’s a compelling reason to say ‘no’, it just makes sense to allow it to move forward.”

Meanwhile, Kittson has already started swinging a sledgehammer in his new digs, preparing to create a 1,700-square-foot showroom upstairs, and his own pied-a-terre down.

“I saw the ‘For Lease’ sign in the window and thought, ‘I have the time and the money …why not just go for it?’,” he said. “I’ve been hearing the cry for a shoe store here for decades. Ever since Eremenko’s closed in the 90’s … well, people here have been wearing shoes ever since.

“Castlegar’s probably the largest city in the world without a shoe store.”

As for Kittson, whom you might recognize from his stint as entertainment reporter for Shaw TV Channel 10, he’s been interested in retail ever since he lived in downtown Vancouver.

“I’d find myself peeking into stores, checking out their lighting, design, merchandising, and thinking, ‘Wow, that’s new,’ or, ‘I’d never set foot in that place’,” he said.

He said he plans to cater to everyone, stocking everything from “steel toes for the boys at the mill” to “stilettos for her big night out”, as well as a section for the kiddies.

“I have space to cover the entire range here,” he said. “And I have huge visibility – I have people pressing their noses against the window every day already.”

He said price point will be between Wal-Mart and Baker Street – accessible, but not bargain basement.

“I find it hard to believe anyone would need to travel to another province or even another country for basic shopping needs,” he said, adding he was keen on the ‘Shop Local’ concept long before he decided to become a local retailer himself.

Kittson said opening day depends on securing suppliers, but he anticipates serving Castlegar’s soles by May or June of this year.