There are times when, despite all efforts, hardships cannot be avoided. This stands true in each of our personal lives as well as society as a whole.
No one could have possibly predicted, twenty years ago, that Airdrie would become Alberta’s fifth largest city. In a blink of an eye, we grew to over seventy thousand people. For the most part, that growth has allowed us to flourish and, because of the speed in which we grew, we have been able to maintain much of our small-town feel, despite our population saying otherwise.
With growth, however, also come needs. Needs for more policing, more schools, more parks, more roads, more emergency programs, more social programing, and more utility, water, and sewer infrastructure. All of these can be added over time with very little interruption to the rest of our citizens, with the exception of the last couple.
The main water and sewer lines that service our downtown core and neighbouring residents are old. Deterioration has taken its toll on pipes that are much older than the homes and businesses it serves. We are at a point, as a city, that if it is not dealt with now, we risk failures during winter months that could cause homes and businesses to be without potable water for possibly months, if the winter were harsh. We have a short window of time to accomplish this work, as it must be done before the next winter hits us. Unfortunately, that means hardship on a few for the benefit of many.
I say “hardship of a few for the benefit of many” because, for most of us, other than the inconvenience of the odd detour, it doesn’t affect us. But, for the small business owners who rely on the busier warm months of the year to carry them through the slower months of winter, it can have a devastating effect on their ability to survive.
As I stood outside the store, Treasure Cove and Collectables on First Avenue just off of Main Street, I marvelled at how there was no one around. I walked inside to speak with the owner, John. It was 1:30 in the afternoon and he told me I was only the ninth person to walk through his doors that day. This is a store that usually has six or seven patrons in it at any given time, yet here I stood as the only one. John, like many local business owners, is a huge community supporter. He donates to charities. He’s served as a coach and sometimes board member of Airdrie Community Basketball. He lives here, works here, and his family is part of the DNA that makes Airdrie such a great place to live.
After I leave John’s store, I turn the corner onto Main Street. I look in the window of Savannah’s which usually has three or four tables of guests this time of day meeting over coffee or having a late lunch. I was saddened to see only one of the construction workers ordering a sandwich to go. One sandwich doesn’t make up for all the regular patrons that aren’t there. I look across the street, that plaza is quiet as well. Flavours of Montreal, which is usually hopping … is quiet.
I continue my trek north and see that the Skyefire Bakery, where I like to treat myself to a few cinnamon knots or the odd giant cookie, only has one car in front of it.
I usually have to wait in line there, but on this day, I walk right in and find myself the only customer in the store. As I exit the bakery and look around, I can see that all of the Bakery’s neighbours are quiet as well. The Sushi Restaurant next door and the ‘Walkin Around’ Shoe store don’t appear to have a single customer.
Throughout this summer, sections of Main Street will be torn up. It’s going to be a long summer for some of these business owners. But we, the residents of this fine city, are what truly gives us our small town pride. It’s the knowledge in knowing that we will look out for each other and lend a hand in times of need. These business owners aren’t asking for a handout, but what they are asking is that we don’t forget them. That, maybe, we put up with a little inconvenience by parking a few blocks away and walking to their stores. I think we can all do that. I think it’s important that we help them out now so that when it’s over, they can continue to support our community…just as they always have.