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Parking among Vancouver small-business owners' concerns

Like many stores on Davie Street, Tran's has not eluded vandalism.

Davie Art Shop owner Philip Tran is one of many small business owners in Vancouver who are battling a range of challenges to keep businesses afloat. 

For Tran, customer parking has increasingly become an issue.

Two nearby restaurant patios have taken over what used to be street parking near the store that Tran has owned since 1987, he told BIV.

The business was founded in 1930, and was originally a few blocks east of his current Davie Street location west of Bute Street, he said.

Tran has one designated parking spot at the back of his 800-square-foot shop, but he said that it can sometimes be a challenge for customers who buy large paintings, or have him frame larger pieces of art, to carry their purchases to their cars.

Each year Tran's landlord raises his rent. City taxes are also continually escalating. His business licence fee is another expense that eats away at his store's viability, he said.

Tran has two employees who he keeps on call for part-time hours. Most of the time he alone runs the store – eight hours each weekday, plus six hours on Saturday.

"I work hard," he said. "Sometimes before I open the shop, I have to go to suppliers to pick up stuff."

Inflation has eaten into his store's profit because he finds it hard to pass prices along to customers. 

One solution has been to reduce his number of suppliers to two from five. That means he places larger orders with current suppliers and is able to negotiate better prices.

Instead of offering cheaper products, such as posters, Tran's shop sells higher-end works – some wood carvings, giclée replicas, acrylic works and prints by people such as well-known Vancouver artist Joe Average. 

"We try to give discounts the best that I can, but my profit margin is a bit thinner, so that is difficult," he said.

"Most of my customers have got referred by a friend, or relatives who have known me a long time. I think they trust my quality, my price and the service that I offer."

Like many stores on Davie Street, Tran's has not eluded vandalism. His front windows were broken during the pandemic, causing about $1,100 in damage. Some frames were damaged in that attack. 

Instead of paying his insurance company a $1,000 deductible, and risk being hit with higher premiums, he paid the bill out of his own pocket. 

Years ago, he put metal bars on the bottom of his front door, but he has avoided putting bars on the front windows so as to not impede passers-by from viewing his art. He also previously put a postcard rack outside his store. Shoplifting ended that practice, and he has moved smaller items further inside from the door. 

"Shoplifting is with us all the time," he said. "They usually come in about two or three at a time. One person keeps you busy and the other person steals."

Security at his store's rear doors has also been bolstered after some thieves tried to pry them open with a crowbar. 

gkorstrom@biv.com

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