1 in 4 Saint-Denis Street storefronts are vacant

As more storefronts remain vacant along Montreal streets, the city is launching public consultations.

Across the city, 15 per cent of storefronts are empty. On St-Denis St., once a major thoroughfare for shoppers, 25 per cent of businesses are empty.

"St-Denis is really quiet," said Brulerie St-Denis owner Michael Logothetis. "The last five years, St-Denis has died."

Logothetis opened his first coffee shop on the street in 1985, but he said he's never seen it as deserted as it is these days.

"Before, I used to talk to customers, and they said you couldn't walk on St-Denis on Mon, Tues, Wed, Thurs, Fri, Sat, Sun. It was always busy, and today you don't have that population," he said.

On Tuesday, the city of Montreal begins public consultations. Citizens, like Logothetis, will be able to share their opinions on how to ensure storefront retail spaces stay occupied.

The variety of businesses on St-Denis street is insufficient to attract shoppers, Logothetis argued.

Stephanie Coleman, artist and owner of Mezari boutique, said she would speak at public consultations. Her store is just off St-Denis. She is beginning to notice customers returning to the area and notes the importance of other nearby businesses.

"People are starting to come back, and they come to this block as a destination, and maybe they're buying from me one day and looking in a neighbour's store or buying from a neighbour and looking in mine, but it keeps people coming back," she said.

Coleman also sells products online and runs workshops out of her store. It's crucial, she said, in the modern retail marketplace, to keep up with changing customer expectations.

"You have to be creative to get people in the store," she said.