Stores at Lansdowne are starting to open. Lindt, BMO, Winners, Milestone’s and Whole Foods are already doing business. Sporting Life is set to open its doors in a few days. It is this last one that may be the biggest betrayal of all.
I don’t want to rag on Lansdowne. I hope it succeeds. I hope it achieves its goal of being an urban village. I hope it brings some variety to the Glebe shopping experience (and for all that we may, rightfully, rag on the opening of a Winners, there’s pretty much nowhere else in the Glebe or Old Ottawa South to get reasonably-priced clothes). I still think it will, but I think Sporting Life is a significant misstep.
There are a number of reasons to recoil at the opening of Sporting Life. It’s a chain; it doesn’t bring much new to the neighbourhood; it’s facade is looking very box store; it’s not a local company. These are all unfortunate aspects of Sporting Life, but these are not the big problem. The problem is that Sporting Life is killing off Tommy & Lefebvre.
T&L is an Ottawa institution. Founded in 1958–in Ottawa–it’s been a staple of our city’s sporting goods industry for over half a century, it has lasted through tough economic times, and it even rebounded from a fire a few years ago.
Last year, T&L was bought out by Sporting Life. Since then, it has continued to operate out of its Bank Street location. But that’s over now. With the opening of the Sporting Life, T&L will shutter for good.
This is a betrayal of the goals and responsibilities of OSEG. The Lansdowne development was not supposed to cannibalize Bank Street. It wasn’t supposed to steal tenants, robbing the rest of the city of merchants and community icons. It is supposed to nurture Ottawa retailers, not bury them.
There is, of course, a rather simple solution. Sporting Life could resurrect the T&L brand. Sporting Life is not established in Ottawa. There is little brand awareness, and there can’t be much value in adopting the Sporting Life name and ditching the T&L legacy. T&L is part of our community. It’s been around longer than many of us. It is quite sad to see it go. It would be a lovely gesture for Sporting Life to re-establish one of the preeminent Ottawa brands.