A store that has been a fixture in the city's downtown for 32 years quietly closed its doors for good Jan. 1.
Black Cat, located at the corner of Durham and Larch streets, sold typical convenience store items, but was also known for stocking newspapers and magazines from around the world, as well as wood stoves.
The store is just the latest downtown business to announce its closure in recent months. Records on Wheels, for example, is due to close its doors Jan. 31.
John Rutherford, who owns Black Cat with wife Diane, said it's become almost impossible to make a living in the city's downtown.
He cites a number of issues with City of Greater Sudbury services — everything from poor snow removal to construction to downtown parking woes — as contributing to his business' demise.
When asked if the fact that many people now read publications online has also impacted his business, Rutherford said he doesn't think so.
In fact, he contends the number of households with computers has been “inflated.”
“It's not difficult (to do business) in the downtown, it's become almost impossible,” Rutherford said. “They're strangling us.”
Rutherford said the organizations which are supposed to be advocating for downtown businesses — such as Downtown Sudbury and the Downtown Village Development Corporation — aren't doing enough to combat these factors.
“They're not aggressively doing something,” Rutherford said.
Susan Thompson, managing director with the Downtown Village Development Corporation, said she's disappointed Black Cat has closed, but said she understands why Rutherford would say downtown associations aren't doing enough.
“Having said that, we work extremely hard to make our voices heard and to gain the attention to these issues which are so important,” Thompson said.
She said many downtown business owners have echoed Rutherford's complaints — especially with regards to parking — and her group is working with the city to resolve the issue.
Many of the downtown stores going out of business have owners who are getting older, Thompson said, adding that she thinks it's unfortunate that they didn't have a succession plan to stay open.
At the same time, though, new downtown businesses are opening, she said.
For his part, Rutherford said he's going to miss the daily interaction with customers. Many are people who work in the downtown, but some are also those who are down on their luck.
“Diane has gotten at least a dozen young women off the street,” Rutherford said. “She talks to them and buys them a sandwich when they come in here tearful.”
As for what the couple will do next, Rutherford said they have a lot of work to do, either winding down or selling the various businesses they've owned over the years.
Rutherford said he's also looking forward to doing more cross-country skiing and cycling.
“I'm too active to ... pack it in, and so is Diane,” he said.