Old Foodland location to receive new life
The old Foodland building in Russell Village has been sold. The new owner is investigating options for what to do with the space. Van Dusen photo

RUSSELL – The old Foodland building in Russell Village has been sold to a Toronto developer who’s investigating options for a new use. That’s the word from Russell Township Mayor Pierre Leroux who emphasized that nothing connected to the sale has as yet come before council. The former grocery store was mothballed about two years ago when a new mega Foodland opened on Craig Street a little to the west.

“I got a call from this person to let me know he’s the new owner,” Leroux said. “Among possibilities he’s considering are a café or restaurant of some type.”

That could be good news for Angelo Kariakakis who for 12 years was the man behind the grill at George’s Restaurant on Concession Street. After a fire in the upstairs rental units in the fall of 2017, the restaurant closed and shows no sign of reopening any time soon.

Kariakis wants to run another restaurant in Russell and has wondered about availability of the former Foodland. Leroux said turning it into some kind of eatery fits right into recommendations contained in a draft Retail Market Demand Study delivered to council in January.

Prepared by Shore-Tanner & Associates, real estate appraisers and consultants, the purpose of the 52-page study was to determine the scope of market demand for retail and service businesses within the township.

The report describes Russell Township as a commercial hub within the United Counties of Prescott and Russell, the former with a current population of 17,170 and the latter 91,600. Both are growing at an annual rate of well over 1 per cent, representing a balanced economy. Income at both jurisdictional levels has significantly increased, with median household revenue in the township at $105,488 a year and $78,748 across the counties.

On average, each Russell resident is estimated to spend $18,265, and each resident across the counties $17,380 a year, on retail and service business both within and outside the jurisdictions. A portion of this spending is conducted in Ottawa and elsewhere. The report refers to this situation as “leakage-out” and notes there is some “leakage-in” with outside customers shopping in Russell and the counties.

This occurs because many residents work in Ottawa and spend retail dollars there. That’s partly, the report says, because there are no “senior” department stores and “popular/trendy” shops within the township or counties.

As more new businesses are attracted to the township due to population growth and affluence, leakage-out will decrease and greater leakage-in will occur. Current spending of Russell residents can support a minimum of 901,800 square-ft. of retail and service floor space, increasing by 17,090 square-ft. annually to 1,072,700 square-ft. by 2028, inside and outside the municipality.

As of last October, there were 142 retail and service businesses in the township that occupied 478,300 square-ft. of floor space. Based on the industry standard of 30-40 square-ft. of floor space per capita, Russell is “under-stored”. Of existing stores, 11 were vacant representing a combined 26,000 square-ft.

The township should be open to new chains as well as independent businesses, with the vast majority to be located in Embrun which is already “a shopping place for the widest variety of products and services.” According to the report, Russell Village should offer “locally-needed food, necessity and convenience businesses, plus gift, specialty, whimsical, arts-oriented and leisure businesses.”

Among specific retail outlets, the report recommends an on-site pasta making shop, brew pub, box stores such as Winners, a bookstore-coffee shop, a McDonald’s, and a co-op bank.

Shore-Tanner & Associates has offered its services in conducting a Retail Action Plan which would investigate improvements needed in the township through the perspective of local business owners.