As we announced earlier this month on social media, Open Sesame is closing its storefront (220 King Street West, Kitchener) on February 28, 2019. Everything except our exhibition artwork is 30% off through February 28. (Our online shop, will continue.)
Read on for an explanation AND a suggestion for how you can keep supporting the arts in Downtown Kitchener.
—Lauren Weinberg, Founder, Open Sesame
Why is Open Sesame closing?
Our sales aren't enough to cover expenses, and the discrepancy is too great for a crowdfunding campaign to fix. Open Sesame is privately funded. The City of Kitchener—our landlord—has helped us by giving us some grants for local businesses, promoting our events, lending us equipment, and NOT charging us a penalty for ending our lease early. We have had steadfast support from City of Kitchener employees including Hilary Abel, Manager of Downtown Community Development; our Ward 10 Councillor, Sarah Marsh; and Emily Robson, Coordinator, Arts/Creative Industries.
BUT: The City of Kitchener has always charged us market-rate rent and property tax. Even if Open Sesame becomes a registered nonprofit, which we hope to do this year, the city cannot discount our rent enough for the storefront to survive.
Why aren't your sales higher?
Most of the time, we have very little foot traffic, and online sales are growing slowly (though steadily). Shipping is expensive. Amazon and Walmart offer discounts we can't always match—largely because Open Sesame is a Living Wage employer; we don't extract "brutal" discounts from publishers
). We don't have a dedicated parking lot, and many would-be customers have told us they would rather avoid downtown than pay to park in a garage if they can't find a free spot. Given our concern for the environment, we can't advocate for more free parking: We hope Kitchener and Waterloo Region invest enough in public transit, cycling infrastructure, and snow clearance for downtown businesses to thrive without cars.
Why don't you move someplace else?
Gentrification: Anyplace in Waterloo Region with more foot traffic has prohibitively high rent and property tax.
What are you going to do now?
How can we help?
Open Sesame's time at 220 King Street West is over, but we want to persuade the City of Kitchener to turn this storefront into a cultural space instead of finding another commercial tenant.
During the past 3+ years, we saw firsthand how much people need a space downtown for art exhibitions, all-ages concerts, literary readings, workshops, and other community events. DTK has plenty of other vacant storefronts for new businesses, and the city's other creative hub, 44 Gaukel, is better suited for offices.
220 King Street West has three walls of almost floor-to-ceiling windows, which let even passersby enjoy our art exhibitions and the energy of our evening events. Turning 220 King Street West into a city-run cultural space would show residents and visitors—in the most visible, accessible way possible—that Kitchener values the arts.
If you agree, please tell:
Thank you so much for all of your support.