Let me tell you about two of my favourite Tuggeranong businesses. One is a service and retail business and the other is a restaurant. They both have the most wonderful staff, great products and they know how to serve you. I’ve been going to them for a number of months and my expectations were always exceeded. I’ve been so impressed that I’ve recommended both establishments to my friends and I was looking forward to dealing with them for years to come.
That’s not going to happen. They’ve both closed for good. Both owners desperately wanted to continue but were forced to call it quits.
I speak of On The Rivet, the bike shop on Anketell Street in Tuggeranong and the Schnitzel Haus at Erindale in Wanniassa.
People who’ve never attempted to run a business seem to believe that it’s a licence to print money. It’s not.
No one ever opened a business intending to fail. Those who have the courage to do it put their heart and soul into it along with 60-70 hours a week. When a business closes suddenly it causes so many ripples across the community. Suppliers, workers and customers are often left in the cold as to money or products owed to them. In most cases the biggest loser is the business owner themselves.
The Dunn And Bradstreet New and Failed Business Report from 2016 showed that business failures were on a dramatic rise in the ACT. Business failures in Canberra hit a 3 year high in the 3rd quarter of last year while new business start-ups decreased. It’s tough out there.
The circumstances that led to the closure of On The Rivet were long and involved. Stuey and his Tuggeranong staff were sucked into a whirlpool of problems created by their sister shop in Phillip. They attempted to trade out of strife and couldn’t do it. Stuey had spoken to me of those problems over a number of months and told me about his efforts to stay afloat.
“If I can just make it to Spring… with all of these new residents moving in just over the road, maybe we can make it,” he’d tell me optimistically.
The next time I went into the shop it had a receivers notice at the door.
It’s so disappointing for the cycling community in Tuggeranong and for the hard working and extremely knowledgeable staff. It’s further proof that if you’re in business in Canberra and you hit a road bump, it’ll probably knock the wheels right off your car. Retail and hospitality margins are so small that if anything goes wrong, you’re screwed.
The Schnitzel Haus were forced to close the doors because the numbers didn’t work out. If you’re spending more than you’re earning, at some point you have to concede defeat. You could argue that in a town full of community clubs doing cheap schnitzels, their business model wasn’t ideal, but at the time, I thought they could make it work.
It’s my understanding that some workers have been left chasing entitlements which is never an ideal situation. When receivers are called in, the mathematical reality is that there’s not enough money to pay everyone.
We have so many restaurants in Canberra. Most of them are brilliant, but there’s only so much of the pie to go around. It’s possible to do everything exceptionally well and still fail.
I take my hat off to everyone who’s running a business successfully in this town. It’s a tough gig. This city is chock full of businesses riding very close to the edge of the cliff. Many of them boldly trade out of trouble, but some fall into the abyss.
If you have a favourite little local business near you, whatever it may be, please support it. Don’t just expect it to flourish without your love.