Hello Landlord


Years ago when Andrew ran the private bank across Canada, he was interviewed by The Globe and Mail about wealth services. Andrew is well-trained in media interviews and that day, one key message was that the economy was buoyant and business was good.
The day of the article, we looked at The Globe to see where in the business section it was buried, only to have our mouths drop open. Above the front page masthead, was an italicized quote:

From coast to coast, the wealth service business has experienced strong growth.
Andrew Auerbach

We collapsed in laughter. That the news could be so slow that a banker’s quote would be at the top of the front page was funny enough. But the pompous sounding phrase was hilarious.
In the years since, whenever we are talking about a national occurrence, we’ll look at each other and start to laugh, before one of us says in a deep voice, and it’s happening from coast to coast!
I thought of this today as I started to write on my range of experiences with our landlords. Not only are tenants in Toronto seeing different responses from landlords, Andrew tells me that across Canada,  an uneven situation is unfolding.
In Corner Brook, Newfoundland, for example, where there have been few cases of the virus and the offices are small without elevators, the impact of COVID 19, and workers’ desire to get back to work as usual, is quite different than the downtown Toronto situation where Andrew’s office is, and most of the PGB stores.
I don’t need to worry about the national differences but I can say that in Toronto, although everyone is cautious about the return to work, the main distinction I see is between privately held real estate investment landlords and the multi-national companies.
When we closed in March, we had five stores. I had not paid attention to the “type” of landlord in each.
But it quickly became clear that the Markham landlord, comprised of private investors, had the most interest in talking about and resolving the situation.
As soon as I made it clear that we would not be reopening in Markham, they engaged in settlement discussions and we wrapped that up a few weeks ago.
The other landlords, in downtown Toronto, are able to move at speeds correlated to their size, with the largest moving slowly. I say that without judgment: PGB’s two largest landlords have a hundred retail tenants in the buildings we are in, and many thousands around the world.
I give them full marks for being quick to allow us to defer our rent in April through June, and quick to acknowledge our interest in talking about the future of PGB.
But in terms of coming back with a response to our proposal, only the smallest of them has been able to do that so far, over 3 months in. In that case we are staying in the location and we’ve negotiated and signed a new lease.
So two down and three to go.
I don’t feel regretful that they are not all wrapped up although as I have said many times here, I gravitate to certainty.
I like to know.
Right now, though, achieving certainty means paying a sum of money to the landlord and, well, gold isn’t flowing in the streets right now.
It is another example of how this pandemic is teaching each of us stuff we need to learn. For me, patience, biding my time, taking it as it comes, responding and not reacting when I get an offer that I don’t like, these are all lessons I am getting, day in and day out.
Deep breath and leave it to tomorrow.
We’re all in this from coast to coast.

About the author

Jean Blacklock

Jean opened the popular Prairie Girl Bakery in the financial district of Toronto in 2011. She owned and operated the business until it closed in 2021 as a result of the pandemic’s impact on downtown Toronto. Read more about her background in commerce, law, and entrepreneurship here.

By Jean Blacklock


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