When the going gets tough, the tough get going. Or so the saying goes.
Facing tough times itself, Le Frigo Vert, a student run, organic food store under the Quebec Public Interest Research Group (QPIRG) have to get going. Pushed beyond their limit by poor working conditions due to a careless landlord at its Mackay street location, QPIRG has decided to break the lease.
Up until now, Le Frigo Vert has subleased the space from QPIRG, who have covered most of the rent costs. As QPIRG prepares to retract its lease, Le Frigo Vert is facing a rent hike of almost triple what they paid to sublet from QPIRG. With the subsequent rent increase and stressful conditions at 2130 Mackay, Le Frigo Vert members have decided to scout out new territory for the store.
According to Adrian Pan, Le Frigo Vert’s project coordinator, finding a new space that will remain accessible to students and the Montreal community has been a challenge.
“There’s the option of moving into the seventh floor [of the Hall building on SGW campus], but if we were to move into the seventh floor, it would open a whole new can of problems…we have to be a community resource, not just a resource for students. The minute we move to the 7th floor, the space would no longer be accessible to non-students,” she explained. The most appropriate area, elaborated Pan, is in the vicinity of the downtown community and Concordia.
“What we’re looking at now is space on the main floor on the downtown campus somewhere, or to try and rent [commercial space] downtown,” she specified.
Scanning the downtown area for space is one thing, paying for it is another. This is why Le Frigo Vert’s coordinators have looked to the CSU for financial support. “In the neighbourhood, anywhere we go, the rent will be three times what it is now. Our budget needs at to find at least another $30,000 to be sustainable,” Pan asserted.
Taking their grant request to a council meeting in May with last year’s CSU, a motion was passed by the financial committee to give Le Frigo Vert a partial $10,000 of the $32,000 requested for a year’s rent. Coinciding with the move of new CSU members into office, the decision to issue this money will now be up to the newly elected committee members.
According to Tyler Woodsworth, the new CSU VP of finance, supporting Le Frigo Vert is a priority, but he feels the long-term goal of keeping the store open won’t be fulfilled by simply issuing a check.
“We [the new CSU] are very interested in helping out in any way…but that doesn’t necessarily mean throwing cash at the problem to make it go away…they basically asked for a year’s rent to be paid… but after that time is up, what’s going to happen? There is no long-term plan, which was a concern of the council, as well as my concern,” stressed Woodsworth.
“Monetary support always helps, but it depends what you use it for. Instead of [the CSU] directly paying the rent, [the aid] could be used as seed money for fund raising activities,” he said.
He also intends to provide moral support from the CSU. “We could always use the CSU’s non-tangible resources, such as people power, to put pressure on other organizations that may have bigger budgets [to help] either financially or space wise,” noted Woodsworth.
Whatever the exact methods of aid the new CSU decides to employ, one thing remains clear: the importance to keep Le Frigo Vert open.
Pan explains that the store is a rarity. “We try and provide both socially and environmentally just choices, as well as good food at reasonable prices. In terms of grocery shopping, there just isn’t many organizations out there that cover all these bases.”
“Organisations such as Le Frigo Vert serve a valuable purpose to the community. From the feedback that I’ve been getting they offer a service that a lot of Concordia students use,” Woodsworth concluded.