‘I have some dreams’: Aron Slipacoff takes over at Wellington West BIA

Aron Slipacoff

From the time Aron Slipacoff was 12 years old, he was taught the value of hard work and supporting local businesses. His family owned a grocery store in the ByWard Market, founded by his grandfather who had immigrated from Russia. 

The days were long and Slipacoff witnessed his parents working 70 to 80 hours a week to put food on the table. It’s that passion and dedication he hopes will be of benefit in his new role as executive director of the Wellington West Business Improvement Association (BIA). 

“Small business is what I’ve surrounded myself with. When I go shopping, I already ask how business has been. My heart is with those people. I really care a lot about the success of it — not just the neighbourhood, but the individuals that make the community,” said Slipacoff. “I’ve had the experience of building brands, marketing and advertising. It’s such a good fit for me to champion a neighbourhood as vibrant as Wellington West.”

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The Old Ottawa South resident grew up in Ottawa but moved to Toronto for a brief stint before returning to the capital to work for Manitobah Mukluks. There he served as a manager and director in communications and marketing roles for eight years. 

It was a dream job, he said, which ended abruptly when the company was sold just after the pandemic. 

Unsure what to do after such a sudden life change, Slipacoff saw the BIA executive director posting on Linkedin and thought it would be a fun challenge. 

“First and foremost, I bring the spirit of listening, collaboration and a shared vision. We have about 600 different businesses and that means over 600 business owners who are super passionate, educated, smart and driven people who are used to being their own boss,” said Slipacoff. “They didn’t feel really heard over the last little bit. We can’t agree on everything, but we both want to make a good community for businesses.”

Slipacoff, who has a bachelor in arts and philosophy from Carleton University, takes over from longtime executive director Dennis Van Staalduinen, who departed the role last May. Devon Armstrong held the position in the interim until a permanent replacement was found. 

Challenging retail conditions

Slipacoff starts the job at a time when businesses are trying to bounce back after the COVID-19 pandemic. Storefronts along Wellington Street West have experienced lower foot traffic due to largely empty federal offices at nearby Tunney’s Pasture. 

Rising inflation and cost of goods have also forced a number of merchants on the strip to close, with Wellington West facing high turnover in 2023, the BIA reported. 

Won Ton House, which had been in operation since the 1970s, closed in December, and The Yard, Ottawa’s only indoor skate and bike park, shut down when its lease expired in March. 

“It’s a particularly challenging time right now. The Parkdale ramp (to the Queensway) is closed on the highway. Tunney’s Pasture is in the midst of revitalization. It’s harder to get to the neighbourhood. We can’t control that. What we can control is making it active and vibrant,” said Slipacoff. ‘I’m a big believer in promotion and sharing what’s going on. In Ottawa it’s getting better, but it’s tough to find out what’s going on here.” 

The Wellington West BIA has recently revamped its events calendar and is encouraging local businesses to share their events and promotions for inclusion.   

The Taste of Wellington, one of the BIA’s largest events of the year, is also set to undergo some changes to better reflect the business community. Slipacoff said it needs to be better spread across the entire catchment and to find ways — perhaps with coupons — to have shoppers keep coming back. 

“I have some dreams. I want to activate the street like you would see in Montreal or Toronto,” he said. “You want to be able to stumble down Wellington Street West knowing you will witness something cool.” 

Paid parking could also soon be coming to Wellington West and Westboro, a topic that has the business community divided. While the Westboro BIA is in favour of the idea, Slipacoff said his board members are against its implementation — at least for now. 

A recent study evaluating parking-related issues in the two communities conducted by the City of Ottawa found that multiple sectors exceeded the practical capacity of 85 per cent occupancy in 2023. 

“Our BIA position is we probably don’t meet the threshold for paid parking … We are getting lumped into a situation we probably shouldn’t be in,” said Slipacoff. “We want to make our point known and will orient it at a committee meeting on June 27. It’s one of those divisive issues.”

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper is in support of paid parking coming to his ward, but is recommending it be delayed until 2026-2027, when Phase 2 of light rail transit is officially up and running. 

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