‘We accept the risk’: Jeweller who’s moving from Rideau Centre to Sussex Dr. not fazed by security concerns

sussex drive

Ottawa’s Magpie Jewellery, a tenant in the Rideau Centre for 30 years, is relocating to a new spot on Sussex Drive.

Store owner Martin Wright said he is excited to join the ByWard Market business community, despite recent concerns about crime and safety expressed by other businesses in the area.

When the lease for the current location in the mall came up, Wright said it felt like the right time to make a move and the Market has always been an area of interest.

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“I’ve been looking at doing something in the Market,” he said. “I knew the lease was coming up and we negotiated with the mall a bit, but I had been looking on the street for years.”

Wright’s new location at 517 Sussex Dr. is in an area that appealed because “the buildings are beautiful. There’s a lot of character.”

He added, “Our store backs onto the courtyard and I just love that. (Planet Coffee) is in there and The Social is just down the street. It’s such a neat, beautiful part of Ottawa.”

Also nearby is the Gordon Harrison Canadian Landscape Gallery. In October, gallery director Phil Emond told OBJ he was glad to see efforts from the city to address safety concerns with a new police operations hub.

“It’s about time something happens to have more presence,” said Emond. “But I think we need way more than that. In my opinion, we need more of an approach that is collective. Where are social services? Should they not be integrated into this model?”

Emond said at that time that multiple businesses had been broken into, some more than once. He added there had been a noticeable increase in drug use, as well as in the number of unhoused people congregated in the area without sufficient resources to support them.

Magpie Jewellery owner Martin Wright with the keys to its new location on Sussex Drive. (Supplied)
Magpie Jewellery owner Martin Wright with the keys to its new location on Sussex Drive. (Supplied)

Wright said he’s spoken to other business owners and heard about their experiences.

“Mostly smashed windows and things like that and those things have been happening everywhere,” he said. “I think it’s just part of being in a big city, to be honest.”

Wright noted that jewellers in Toronto have been getting robbed almost weekly and in the middle of the day. While those kinds of targeted attacks haven’t happened as much in Ottawa, Magpie’s locations in the Glebe and Westboro have been broken into twice, Wright said.

But such concerns haven’t deterred him from locating in the Market.

“Robberies are part of the business now. We accept the risk. You just secure the business overnight. We’re well-secured.”

Wright said he is a frequent visitor to the ByWard Market and is seeing a revival.

“Contrary to public opinion, I’ve been seeing the traffic start to recover on Sussex and in the ByWard Market. I don’t live far from it and I was able to get a feel for the fact that I think the Market is thriving. Especially with tourism coming back, it’s a thriving area, which I’ve always wanted to be part of. We also (have locations) in the Glebe and Westboro and it’s so vibrant, I just like the idea of being in the Market as well.”

Magpie Jewellery first opened on Dalhousie Street in 1991 and, a few years later, found its long-term home in the Rideau Centre, said Wright.

“It’s been a great ride in the Rideau Centre and we’re really grateful,” Wright told OBJ Wednesday. “Initially we started in a small spot, only 300-something square feet, and it was just fantastic. Then we moved to a larger 700-square-foot shop just up the hall.”

The new space on Sussex is more than 1,000 square feet, something Wright said he couldn’t afford in the mall. The site also offers flexibility, he said. “We don’t have to adhere to mall hours so we have some more freedom. We can have events. We certainly save money on rent. That’s not a deciding factor, but that is something I’ve looked at.”

The Rideau Centre location will close its doors by early June. Wright said he hopes to have the new store up and running by the second weekend in June.

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