The Labour District Diaries: Part 3

Now we’re getting into the nitty-gritty.

Right after we moved to Oshawa, we took an afternoon to walk around the downtown core, and check out all the retail spaces that were up for grabs.  We had seen several of them during our research phase, posted on a few realtor websites, but we wanted to see if there were other hidden gems.

Ultimately, we chose a space that we’d already seen online.  It was affordable, right downtown, and the perfect size.


Thing is, you can’t just go into a space, throw down a cheque and walk away with the keys.  There’s a lot of paperwork that goes into renting a commercial space.

And money.  Holy shit with the money.  FYI, our rent is only about two thirds of our entire monthly costs of keeping the store open.  Keep that in mind if you plan on opening a store.

On top of the monthly rent, you also might encounter property taxes, maintenance of the property, and different types of insurance.  Some landlords include these extra costs into the rent, some landlords don’t.  The property taxes alone can cost as much as $5.50/sq ft, which can add up to an extra $320/month if you are renting a 700 sq ft space.

Also, you must have store insurance.  If some dickwad kicks in your window, or if the building catches fire, or if you get robbed, you need to be able to cover your ass.  You can go through an insurance broker, who gets paid by insurance companies to help you pick out the best plan for your needs.  You don’t have to pay the broker, and you don’t have to do the research yourself.

And then there’s hydro, heating, internet and all of that lovely junk.  And it’s common practice for that lovely junk to charge a $500 deposit, as well as a set up fee, so beware (for example, our set up fees for electricity, phone and internet are topping off at about $1300 in total).

Another puzzle you will encounter is the timing of all that paperwork.  Do you apply for the vendor’s permit before or after you get the space?  When do you need to get insurance?  When do you open a business account?

Here’s the sequence:

You need insurance in order to rent the retail space, but you have to know which space you’re renting before you get insurance because you need to answer questions about square footage and building upgrades.  This sounds convoluted, but the insurance policy gets set up really fast, and they’re familiar with last-minute deals, so you should be fine.

You need your business license and a storefront before you can open a business account with a bank.  And a GST/HST permit isn’t enough, it needs to be a full on Master Business License.  It costs $60 and you have to renew it every five years, but I think you only have to pay for it once.  And if you register online during business hours, you get your license immediately.  Cool.  But you do need a retail address in order to get your business license.  Is it getting complicated yet?

You need a business bank account in order to get a debit machine for debit and credit card transactions.  But if you don’t feel like being this official, you can use your personal bank account, and just hook yourself up with Square Register.  Square doesn’t do debit in Canada, but they’ll take all the big credit cards.

You do, however, need to know if you’ll be renting or buying your debit machine when you apply for insurance, because some insurance companies will have different premiums for debit machine renters vs buyers.  Oh, and you also need internet and a phone in order to get a debit machine.

So yeah, I guess there is some time traveling required to open a store.

Your best bet is to pick out the retail space first.  You need a business address for your business license, insurance, business banking account, and to order stock for your store.

Up next: getting your store gussied up for opening day!


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