White Rock Business Improvement Association executive director Alex Nixon. (Aaron Hinks photo)

New BIA director says it’s an exciting time for White Rock

Alex Nixon says he doesn’t want to diminish challenges shop owners face

White Rock Business Improvement Association’s new executive director Alex Nixon acknowledges that local shop owners are facing a number of challenges in the city, however, he said it’s an exciting time to live in White Rock.

Nixon, a graduate of Semiahmoo Secondary in 2000, moved back to White Rock last year after spending a number of years away, both at school at New Brunswick’s Mount Allison University and 10 years working for the Richmond Food Bank, eventually as communications manager.

“I’m really excited to be back in my home community,” Nixon told Peace Arch News last week, which was his first week on the job. “Obviously, there are a number of challenges facing local businesses, and I don’t want to minimize them, but I’m really excited about the opportunities that we have got in front of us.”

The process of finding a permanent director began after former-executive director Douglas Smith resigned August 2016, just two years after taking the position previously served by Lyn Hellyar.

The BIA replaced Smith with Alana Souter at the end of 2016. Souter worked the job for two months before quitting in February.

Jennifer Brandon was hired for the position in May 2017, and told PAN at the time of her hire that she had “every plan to stay long-term.” She resigned last April.

Nixon, whose hiring was announced May 15, addressed the challenges publicly expressed by local entrepreneurs regarding the city’s business landscape.

Last month, Primos Mexican Grill managers wrote an open-letter to the City of White Rock, the South Surrey White Rock Chamber of Commerce and the BIA to “demand accountability” for their concerns.

The letter, which was signed by nearly 20 managers/owners of Marine Drive restaurants, took issue with the temporary removal of a parking lot east of the pier and mentioned other issues, such as “significant fees to operate on White Rock Beach, including patio taxes for tables that are sitting empty.”

As well, Hillcrest Bakery contacted PAN that same month. Co-owner David Moyer said that the bakery’s relocation from the Hillcrest Mall to the Saltaire building (15231 Thrift Ave.) – coupled with several construction projects taking place on Johnston Road – had been “brutal.”

“It was already slower than what we expected. Then with all of this construction projects on either side of us, and the work along Thrift. There were days this past week where you literally could not drive in there. You couldn’t get there,” Moyer said at the time.

In March, co-owner of 3 Dogs Brewing Scott Keddy emailed PAN, explaining the challenges the brewery has had in finding a new location in the city. The brewery started searching for new space after plans were made public to demolish the Royal Plaza – the brewery’s currently location – to make way for a residential tower.

The brewery has since found a new location in White Rock.

“I know places like Hillcrest, Primos and 3 Dogs are just wonderful. They’ve got so much going for them. I see my role here, and our role of the BIA, is to help them, support them, be a resource for them and be in their corner,” Nixon told PAN.

“Yes, there’s challenges but sometimes we forget to see the wonderful things that we’ve got going for us. It’s easy to be occupied with the challenges and I don’t want to diminish them. There are serious challenges for our members, but at the same time I’m excited to be working in a community with so many local businesses.”

After returning to White Rock, Nixon said it quickly became evident how much of a role small businesses play to the community.

“There’s just so much going on and it’s so integral to our community. The number of small businesses in White Rock is unique to White Rock. People don’t just work here, they live here and raise families here. That really brings our community closer together.”

His first order of business, he said, is to introduce himself to BIA members. Following that, he will be working on the TD Concerts at the Pier.

“It’s going to be a great summer,” he said. “We’re really excited, got a great lineup. It’s an iconic event now, we’ve got a great mix of local artists and national acts. I’m jumping right into that,” he said. “Our board and TD concert committee has just done a fantastic job planning it.”

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