'Like a ghost town': former Pastacup franchisee opens up about store closure and pressures of Baylis Street

LOCKED OUT: Jason Pearce has opened up about the working climate on Baylis Street following the closure of his franchise. Picture: Les Smith
LOCKED OUT: Jason Pearce has opened up about the working climate on Baylis Street following the closure of his franchise. Picture: Les Smith

A disenfranchised franchisee has opened up about his struggles in Baylis Street’s business graveyard.

Former Pastacup manager Jason Pearce has operated stores for more than 20 years across the Riverina but unexpectedly closed his shop last week.

His reasoning – there’s never been a tougher time for small business owners in Wagga.

“I’ve had time running Rebel Sport, The Good Guys, Fantastic Furniture, Harvey Norman and others but I’ve never seen such empty streets,” he said.

“Look back 12 months ago and there were people everywhere in the main street.

Now it’s like a ghost town, there’s no-one around spending money and that’s coming back to hurt businesses.

Jason Pearce

Pastacup’s closure coincided with neighbouring eatery Carv’n It Up but food outlets aren’t the only ones experiencing difficulties.

Kooringal Fashions owner Christine Jolley said her 12 month lease on a Baylis Street shopfront was a good experiment but ultimately there weren’t enough people spending money to warrant retention.

“Not enough shoppers, simple as that,” she said.

“The malls and shopping centres have really impacted local business and trade, but that’s just my opinion.”

Rising utility costs are causing further pain, Mr Pearce citing electricity as a killer.

“Our electricity and gas bills would’ve increased by up to 20 per cent and that’s a massive cut of your profit margin,” he said.

“We were charged around $7000 last quarter just for operating.

It might not seem like much overall but smaller margins are life or death in small business

Jason Pearce

“It might not seem like much overall but smaller margins are life or death in small business and you get to a certain point where you just can’t trade with such little turnover.”

Mr Pearce bemoaned a lack of regional events hosted in Wagga, stating the increased trade for visiting sports carnivals and event was often the difference between turning a profit and a loss.

“External money coming into a local community is crucial,” he said.

Adding insult to injury, Mr Pearce said the property managers had changed the locks prior to his lease expiring.

“I came to clean up the shop out of courtesy on Thursday but they’d already come in and changed the locks on me. Not sure that’s allowed.”