Solly’s Bagelry temporarily shuts shop due to worker shortage


VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – A long-time Vancouver bagel shop has been forced to temporarily close one of its stores and reduce hours at another because it can’t find enough staff to keep them running.

A letter posted in the window at Solly’s Bagelry at Broadway and MacDonald Street says the shop will be closed for the next two to three weeks as the owners try to find people to work the counters. Its Main Street location is working under reduced hours while its shop at Yukon and 4th is unaffected.

The owner blames what she called a perfect storm of circumstances which have led to a shortage of workers in low-skill jobs across the city.

“There are shortages of people, retention can be a problem in a young world where people don’t have the stick-to-itiveness to work through problems, to get over what might be your two-month boredom feeling,” Leah Markovitch said. “There just are not enough human beings living in areas around our shops.”

She cites the high cost of living and transit as other issues that work in tandem. As workers seek housing further from the downtown core, they aren’t able to willing to travel as far for a low-skill job. Markovitch also says off-peak schedules and a 6 a.m. shift start often don’t work for employees who live outside Vancouver.

“Getting a job at a retail store is not such a big deal anymore when they can get work online, when they can work for Amazon, whatever, they don’t have to leave their bedrooms,” she said. “The young folk need to understand that working in the service industry should not feel insulting or demeaning to them. It’s a great starting job.”

The shop ran into similar problems last year. It has operated in Vancouver for around 25 years.

Markovitch says the city needs better planning to support low-skilled workers, better off-peak hour transit, a destigmatization of low skilled jobs.

“If you don’t have someone to wash the floors, to take out the garbage, to work in janitorial companies. If you don’t have the low-skilled workers, then you cannot run a city,” she said. “You can build a beautiful Vancouver city… but beneath those expensive condo buildings are stores and those workers may not be the high-skilled workers that the government talks about bringing in. You can’t just build a city without an infrastructure that supports the people trying to get to work.”

Though she does believe young workers are more attracted by tech jobs and similar industries, Markovitch adds young workers need stronger work ethics.

“We’re just finding young folk are not there, and we’re just finding those that are there are not as interested. And also, it seems like work must fit into playtime as opposed to playtime fitting into work,” she says, adding it seems people are just looking for very flexible part-time jobs that would allow them to take weekends off and take part in other activities.

Markovitch would also like to see the temporary foreign workers program sped up – for when she really needs them.

The fate of Solly’s is unclear, she says, when some of its leases come up in two years.

Issues hiring, retaining workers

NEWS 1130 has reported before on Vancouver businesses, including restaurants, having a hard time hiring and retaining workers.

According to the BC Restaurant and Food Services Association, shortages have had an impact on service around the Lower Mainland, and have been particularly felt in Vancouver during patio season.

“We have a lot of people retiring in the population of British Columbia,” BCRFSA President and CEO Ian Tostenson told NEWS 1130 in July. “For every three people that retire, we are replacing with just two people.”

-With files from Taran Parmar

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