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Save-on-Meats may close shop

Unless a new buyer can be found soon, the owner of the iconic Save-on-Meats on East Hastings says the store may shut down in March.

After unsuccessfully trying to sell the business and the building as part of a package over the past year, 78-year-old Al DesLauriers says he doesn’t have the energy to keep Save-on-Meats open anymore.

“It’s been 52 years since I’ve been at it, so I’m thinking about retiring,” he says. “Right now it’s not something that people want to buy, as far as I know. It’s not the most desirable area, that’s one of the problems too.”

DesLauriers says he’s still playing with his options and can only confirm that the seafood and meat department will close. The other departments of the store, including the restaurant, are leased out to other businesses and may stay open.

“Sometime in January I’ll close down the seafood first,” he says. “So that area will be down. A little later I’ll close down the meat department. But the other tenants are here and they still want to stay… but I don’t know how successful they’ll be being alone. So that may not work.”

The closing would be a big blow to the Downtown Eastside. Save-on-Meats is one of the few stores that has survived the economic deterioration of the neighbourhood over the past few decades and many low-income residents rely on it for cheap, quality food. When the meat department closes, it will also put 28 people out of work.

Save-on-Meats was first opened in 1957 by Sunny Wosk, who also owned a meat shop in New Westminster. DesLauriers had an agreement with Wosk that he would run the meat department and eventually buy the store, which is located at 43 East Hastings. Twenty years later, DesLauriers bought the store and the building for close to $1 million.

But as neighbourhood stores began to move further west downtown or into shopping malls, the Downtown Eastside spiralled out of control and DesLauriers says business is now half what it once was. With his son not interested in taking over, DesLauriers put the business and the building up for sale earlier this year for $3 million.

However, DesLauriers claims his real estate agent only brought him one potential buyer, who was only interested in the building and wanted to gut the business. He also claims there was a rash of break-ins six months ago, where the store was vandalized but nothing stolen, that he believes were an attempt to make him sell the property.

“It’s just discouraged me to do anything at all [with the store],” he says.

While he still hasn’t made up his mind about the future of Save-on-Meats, DesLauriers says there’s still time for someone to come in and buy it or lease it from him. With the Woodward’s building about to open and with gentrification bringing in a higher-income clientele to the neighbourhood, a meat shop may still be good business.

“If I was a young man there’s no way I would sell this thing or get rid of it,” says DesLauriers. “It’s just the perfect time for someone to come in here.”

Sean Condon is the editor of Megaphone Magazine.

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