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Tracy MacLeod can’t help but think of the memories and friendships she made while working at the Bargain Shop.
The New Waterford resident worked at the Plummer Avenue location for 17 years and considered her fellow employees to be family.
Unfortunately, MacLeod will be forced to find new employment, likely without those she worked with, after employees were recently told the Bargain Shop will not be reopening.
“It’s heartbreaking,” said MacLeod. “It was our job, it was our work. We did this every day for many years and to be told we won’t be going back is shocking.”
In total, 10 employees are affected by the closure.
“There were so many memories there and all good ones,” said MacLeod, who first started working at the business on a grant, which led to a part-time position.
“There were customers who would come in every single day, the customers became your friends – I still can’t believe it’s real that I’m not going back to work there.”
The Bargain Shop has been closed since June 26, 2019, due to substantial maintenance issues with its building, located at the corner of Plummer Avenue and Mahon Street.
At the time, employees were told they could move to the Glace Bay Bargain Shop until the New Waterford location reopened, but MacLeod didn’t entertain the offer.
“When a store closes that has 10 workers, you don’t want to go to another store because you don’t want to take anybody’s job,” said MacLeod, noting some workers did accept the offer. “The Glace Bay store had workers and there’s not enough hours in a week for 10 extra workers.”
Red Apple Inc., the company which owns the Bargain Shop, leased the New Waterford building from Janda Group Holdings Inc., of British Columbia. Red Apple had signed a five-year lease at the location in June 2019.
MacLeod expected the business to be closed for a “couple of weeks.” She applied for unemployment with the hopes of returning to work before the end of summer 2019.
“We never thought it would have been closed for as long as it was,” said MacLeod. “Everybody pretty much went on unemployment as we waited to get called back.”
Months later, in a press release, Red Apple said issues stemmed from the building’s roof, which forced the closure, and Janda Group Holdings were completing the repairs.
In a December press release, Red Apple told customers the New Waterford location would reopen this spring. An opening date was never released to the public.
“We have been working hard to get back in business in New Waterford as quickly as we can once the repairs are completed,” said Clinton Wolf, president and chief executive office of Red Apple Inc., in the release.
“When the doors re-open, we promise that customers will be thrilled to see a totally renovated store. We are going to be coming back better than ever with an exciting grand opening celebration.”
MacLeod told the Post employees were getting updates on the situation during the time they were off. It wasn’t until mid-winter when she realized something was happening.
“We were supposed to get the keys back in February, but February came and there were no keys,” said MacLeod. “We were then supposed to get the keys on March 15 and again no keys.”
After months of waiting and optimism as work took place inside, MacLeod said employees were called by the company’s head office last month and told they weren’t reopening.
The Bargain Shop carried a variety of items for the New Waterford community. It was considered by many as the only clothing store in the town.
“We had a little bit of everything for customers – it’s a big loss for not only the employees, but New Waterford in general,” said MacLeod.
“We have a lot of seniors who can’t get out of town and would come once a week and get stuff.”
The New Waterford location is the second Bargain Shop to close in Cape Breton in the last two years. In 2018, the Bargain Shop was forced to close at the North Sydney Mall after Dollarama signed a long-term lease agreement for its space.
In previous years, the company had stores in Port Hawkesbury and Sydney. Those have since closed as well.
As of now, there are only two Bargain Shop locations in Cape Breton. The company has stores in Glace Bay and Cheticamp. Other locations in mainland Nova Scotia include Barrington Passage and Shelburne.
The Cape Breton Post contacted Red Apple Inc., and Janda Group Holdings Inc., for comment. Both could not be reached prior to press time.
As for MacLeod, she said she plans on finding work in the near future.
“It’s going to be different for me not working with the same people I have for years,” she said. “I have no other choice, we’ve been putting it off for months and months, but now there’s no months to look forward to.”