Photo: Aramic store on Main St., 2009 (Ignore the date on the photo; the date stamp on my camera wasn't working.)
What do you do if you have a store with no customers? You expand.
That's what happened at Aramic, a men's wear store that opened on Main St. near National about three years ago. I walked by there everyday and only once saw a customer. I saw a man standing at the cash register.
The locals had been joking about this store since it opened, more about the type of merchandise than the fact that there were no customers buying it. We used to look through the window and laugh about the rows and rows of "pimp shoes" they were selling. Flashy shoes that west coast Canadians just don't wear.
The clothes were odd too. Dress suits, often in a safari style. No sign of the gore-tex rain gear that might actually sell here in the rain forest.
After being in business for about a year and a half, the owners, possibly encouraged by the one customer who had shown up, expanded.
Yes they opened a women's wear store next door. The women's wear outlet has been operating for about a year and a half now. They have odd clothes for women, dated styles, often leaniing toward garish. Nobody will be embarrassing themselves in these clothes any time soon though. I've yet to notice a customer.
There are signs of life in the stores though. Clothes on manequins are changed regularly. Once there was a car accident outside and I saw a staff person standing in the window, looking out at the police and firemen working.
You can bet the locals have been speculating. Maybe these stores are fronts for selling something else. Downtown Eastsiders put up for years with grocery stores with dated merchandise on the shelves while the real thing was sold from under the counter, although the City did start cracking down. If somebody wanted to launder money, buying a cheap load of dated clothing and setting up a web site and storefronts would seem to be one way of going about it.
I'm not saying that's what's going on in these stores with no customers. Maybe they do a good business over the internet. They do have a professional looking website where you can fill up your virtual shopping cart and pay by credit card.
I don't know. But I can't help wondering every time I walk by.