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Bestsellers closing up shop

Rent increase, shrinking margins force music and book store to close down



There’s a saying among commercial landlords – you have to squeeze the canary, but not so hard that the canary stops singing.

Bestsellers, Whistler’s only music store, will be stopping the music at the end of February. According to Bestsellers co-owner Garth Riess, his shop hasn’t been profitable since his last rent increase several years ago. He says his commercial landlord, Larco Investments of Vancouver, is planning to raise rents again in the New Year, and he has no choice but to close shop.

Pique attempted to contact Larco’s Whistler representative, but was informed that he is on holiday until next week, and that no one else was able to comment.

"It’s been 10 great years, and I’d like to thank everybody, all of our great customers," said Riess. "We’ve seen the local kids who used to come in here to buy children’s albums grow up to be teenagers who are buying Led Zepplin.

"We’ve built up a good base of loyal customers and we’re going to miss seeing them."

As an independent, Riess pays more for CDs than do large chain stores. Because he is limited by what he can charge customers, he makes smaller margins. What he misses in margins, he made up with volume in the past, doing a brisk trade with residents and visitors to the resort.

"We’re the busiest store in the area," said Riess, indicating that more than a dozen customers were already packed into his shop on a Friday morning. "If we can’t make it here, I don’t think anybody can."

The rent increase was the final straw, but it’s not the whole story he says.

"The rents were too high five years ago and they’re going up again. The only way we could stay open is if our rents went backwards, somebody would have to roll our rates backwards to before the previous increase," Riess said.

"The other stipulation is that stores like London Drugs should not be allowed to open here."

Riess co-owns another store in Pemberton, but says he is putting his house there up for sale. He doesn’t know where he’s going to go, or whether he will attempt to open up another music store. "It’s too hard for independents," he said.

The announcement will come as a blow to local musicians and writers. Riess has made it a practice to sell locally produced CDs and books in his store, giving up-and-coming artists the opportunity to reach a wider audience.

"I’ve been happy to be able to support them," said Riess. "There have been some amazing success stories over the years. (Australian) Xavier Rudd for example, he was living in Whistler and playing music and now he’s a huge international star. We promoted his stuff from the beginning, selling the CDs, playing it in our store, and look at him now."

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