Impact of Lessened Illegal Cigarette Sales in Cornwall Ontario and 19 Small Businesses Shutter since the Holidays including Cafe Connectionz – March 16, 2011

Cornwall ON – So I was having lunch with an amigo and we got to talking about the situation here in Cornwall.

This person is very interesting in that they know an awful lot of people here in town when it comes to small business and of course Cornwall other small business of selling illegal cigarettes.

What they were saying is that essentially while the street cost per bag has not gone down in Cornwall; about $20 per; the availability has changed.  They estimated about half the sellers in Cornwall had given up the biz as there have been many more arrests locally and that much of the flow has changed and is flooding through the Valleyfield Quebec region.

They then went through a list of businesses that have closed in town since about the holidays.  It’s not that they were suggesting a direct connection; but simply that with less cash in town from sellers and from buyers who now may have to purchase much more expensive legal ciggies that there was simply less cash to spend locally.

So we started scribbling on the menu and came up with a list of 19 small businesses in Cornwall that had shuttered up since around the holdiays; from Big places like Satisfied Brakes to small shops like Bugaboo’s House of Pets or A La Carte at Cornwall Square or the Brass store in the square as well.   The list included a few garages; a few convenience stores, the Dry cleaners at and book store at East Court Mall, a few clothing stores.

Either way 19 stores is a lot for a city this size in such a short time.

Chris & Christina Still in Happy Spirits - Cafe Connectionz March 16, 2011

The one that’s bothering me most right now is Chris Weidner and his wife Christina from Cafe Connectionz who are shutting down after four years at their Water Street Internet Cafe and Oasis.   A long time supporter of the Arts and all things local the couple started their business in 2007.

They literally took an old time worn building and refurbished it; added life and color and now are victims of the lack of support at all levels of Government for small independent business.

Why do Car makers who have proven they can’t succeed get bail out money when small businesses are in trouble the best they are offered are high interest loans; if even that?

Is it all the small business owner’s fault?  Do they just not prepare themselves for the long haul or is there something that could be done to help small business?


I think there is.  I think government’s should have incentives and less red tape for all business that earns less than a certain benchmark; an example being that pre HST if a business did less than $30K per year in sales it didn’t need to file for a GST number.

Nobody on this earth deserves a free ride, but if we only have Big Box stores employing people for near minimum wage is that really going to create the society we all want?   We need independent business to add diversity to our cities and towns; to give people an opportunity to create and add to the richness of a business community and create wealth that stays in the community.

Surely small business deserves an equal shake as bloated and failing Car companies, banks, and the oil and mining industry in Canada from Governments?

So now Chris and Christina are re-entering the workforce and the doors to Cafe Connections will be closed.   Chris is not sure if they will rent the facility out or simply keep it closed until one day the couple are in a better place to re-open.   Cafe Connections (407 Water Street) is open until the end of March.    Check out some of the Art for sale on the walls and you can get books and cd’s from some amazing local artists too.

What do you think Cornwall?  You can post your comments below.

James MoakDaily Dish News


  1. It’s most devestating when a small business shuts down – small business is the backbone of our economy, local and nationally, yet if you are unable to survive – you’re gone…..
    Jamie, I agree with your comments, but there is no UNION at Cafe Connectionz so government doesn;t give a S—! – the only thing governments care about is UNION jobs, which will destroy us, in any event, in the long run. Most economists have seen this coming for many years, but are not prepared to express an opinion, because of the UNION backlash that will ensue.

  2. Author

    Joe Union jobs go too. Both Olymel and Ridgewood have both had lay offs recently as well. You can’t blame this on Unions.

  3. Jamie, you can blame all our economic problems on union workers. They are paid living wages, and that goes completely against the ideals of the “free market” system. We have to keep the workers hungry so they will work harder and harder for less and less. Mike Harris and Oil-Can Ernie had this figured out years ago.

  4. Author

    Furtz I haven’t blamed anything on Union jobs. I was responding to Mr. Gunn’s assertions.

  5. Sorry Jamie. It was my poor attempt at sarcasm.

  6. First, I loved this Cafe and have gone a few times. It is a shame to see it have to close.

    With that being said, I think the growth of this Cafe was initially fuelled by the out of town highly paid lawyers and others who were involved in the Project Truth trial. I remember reading an article about how they loved the cafe and would go for lunch and at other times as it reminded them of what they have in Montreal and elsewhere.

    Government bail out big corporation for one reason only… jobs and influence. If they would have left the car companies go bankrupt it would have sent a domino effect throughout the whole Ontario economy. Do I agree with it? No! A company that makes bad decisions and therefore is unable to sustain itself should not be given a free ride, but if that company employs tens of thousands directly or indirectly… it has clout and can use it as leverage against the political party who is in power.

    This is not to say that when a local small business closes that it doesn’t affect the economy, it does… but on a much less noticeable scale…

    Unions have hurt our economy… by keeping wages artificially high ( or benefits ) for jobs that could otherwise be performed by automating technology or lower wage earners so that they could compete globally.

    I wonder when The Grind will be closing… every time I go it’s closed anyway… lol

  7. Author

    Hi Jason,

    I don’t have any real arguments for much of what you posted. I just am of the opinion that we should have a more balanced approach to this. There’s room to have support of labor and business. There’s room to help industries and small business.

    It’s the greed and ignorance factor that’s killing our society.

  8. Admin…

    A small business incubator would be perfect here… a place where small businesses could share resources and otherwise get investors or funding as well as help throughout the business cycle.

    The challenge is… Cornwall has no long-term plan… and therefore can’t see two feet in front of itself when planning for the future. It still doesn’t know if it wants to be a “retirement” town or a “vibrant and cultural city” that attracts youth and young families.

  9. Author

    Jason, Team Cornwall, Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre, the city itself, and of course Provincial and Federal Governments. Not one program readily available for small business.

    I guess the trick may be to close your small business and get a job with one of these groups? We as a city need to look at these issues and find a way to make changes if that’s what we really want, and at the end of the day that’s what really counts, what people want and what they’re willing to do to make it happen.

    We were talking about dog parks for example recently as an example and Vancouver has nearly 300 dog parks including one on the beach! Cornwall has none with only two on the map; one privately owned and the other by a quasi-secretive group???

  10. Jason, FYI, there is the INTERNET CAFE at Island Ink-Jet on Third Street West (at Pitt) opposite the RBC parking lot, They are open at 7AM six days and guaranteed OPEN until 5 PM weekdays though usually open much later. They close early afternoon Saturdays and are closed Sundays. Knowledgeable staff, High Speed internet, Coffee Bar and Tea Room with comfortable chairs, nice jazz. Internet access rates are $2 for up to 30-minutes or $3 per hour. With your own laptop internet access is free for Coffee Bar customers.

  11. Joe, I agree with you. There is a place for unions but they have become too powerful.
    This government has regulated small businesses to DEATH. Just talk to Cyndi Mac Millan, MacMillans convenience store in Cornwall. She has literally gone through hell because of an employee mistakenly selling a pack of cigarettes back in 2008. Thanks to the EOHU under the Ministry of Health Promotion for employing minors to “entrap” employees working at these stores. According to Cyndi she has suffered big time financially and not to mention her health. There are several business like hers going through the courts as we speak. Recently I was cornered on the new “Accessibility Act” and the cost for small restaurants having to install hand-cap accessible washrooms. One quote was $30,000. The owner asked me “How many bowls of soup will he have to sell to pay for that?”. What about our small town fairs, who barely break even. All these new regulations are going to continue to shut down businesses. I just was at a small rural garage yesterday. They said business has slowed right down. A single lady with two small children came into their garage, she couldn’t afford to get her car fixed. These stories are becoming more and more common and I believe we have not seen the worst yet. Have we tried to speak out and change things? You bet, at Good Roads/Rona in Toronto many Mayors, Deputy Mayors, councils stand up at the mike and address these issues during the Ministers forum. We are simply ignored.
    This economy is driven by ideology. Common sense doesn’t exist.

  12. Stan. I demand a 24 hour, seven day a week internet cafe. You pay taxes 24 hours a day, stay open 24 hours a day.

  13. Parinoid you’re paranoid!

  14. Jamie: More reasons for the failed business: how about a hipper, slicker, more attractive joint opening up around the corner (The Grind)…let’s not forget that we are in a recession…also , don’t the majority of small businesse fold in the first five years?…is it not possible that these shops are just poorly run?… I don’t get the link between smuggling and lost sales at a coffee shop…just a guess, but I don’t believe that most people who work in illegal trades like smuggling spend alot of time at cafe’s…but I could be wrong…I’ve been wrong before.

    Mr. Gunn: Adding to the list of Union jobs lost: Domtar, Satisfied Brakes…

    Ms. Hart: Are you actually defending someone who sold cigarettes to minors? They should have been run out of business. Entrapment, you say? So the employee was tricked somehow into selling to a minor? Tricked into not asking for ID? I live around the corner from that establishment, and see a lot of kids going into that store…I also see a lot of kids smoking…..

  15. Author

    Destructo. I personally feel, and this is just my opinion, that small business serves a larger purpose in a community than just being a store or service. It’s part of the fabric of the community.

    If we can throw money at large firms to come to a city, stay in a city, or simply because we don’t want them to shut down why not to some degree for small business?

    If there’s a criteria for burning public money let’s look at this criteria with our eyes wide open.

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