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Victoria shoeshiner gains toehold with new location

Sep 05 2012
Jill Goodson shines Dennis Murray's shoes, at her newly located shoeshine stand. 

Jill Goodson shines Dennis Murray's shoes, at her newly located shoeshine stand.

Photograph by: Adrian Lam , Times Colonist

Why did the shoeshiner cross the road?

To get a business licence, she hopes.

Jill Goodson might have managed to get a toehold in the street shoeshine business by crossing the street from where city bylaw officers said she couldn't operate.

And local residents like Gillian Sanderson, who tracked Goodson down on Tuesday, couldn't be happier.

"There should be more shoeshiners on the street because we need them," Sanderson said while stopping to have her shoes buffed by Goodson in her new location in the entranceway to 747 Fort St., an office tower.

Sanderson was Goodson's first customer Tuesday in her new location. You wouldn't know it to look at it, but Goodson's shoeshine stand is on private property, not on the city sidewalk.

Goodson, 56, found herself between a regulatory rock and a hard place in early June when she set up her Jill's Jazzed Up Shoes shoeshine stand on a city sidewalk on the north side of Fort Street.

Her plan was to shine shoes by donation, but because of current city bylaws she seemed to be pushed two steps back for every step she took forward. There simply was no regulatory peg on which to hang Goodson's shoeshine business.

She tried for a $25 city busker permit but was told she didn't qualify because buskers are entertainers and not allowed to sell a service.

And as long as she was operating on the sidewalk she couldn't get a business licence, either. Aside from a few grandfathered food carts on Government Street, city bylaws prohibit businesses on public property - a regulation designed to protect brickand-mortar businesses (which pay higher overhead and taxes) from being forced to compete with lower-cost street vendors.

Goodson was caught in a gap between council policy and city bylaws, said Coun. Lisa Helps. In October last year, city council passed a policy to help encourage the commercial use of public space.

"It says public space should be used for smallscale entrepreneurship," Helps said. "But this is the problem. There's not a bylaw yet where this policy is implemented. So there's great intention but we need the resources to have the follow-through."

Goodson collected more than 220 names on a petition and twice took her case to city council. But all council could do was advise her to try to find a business that would allow her to set up on private property.

And that's what has happened. Goodson now has permission from Quadra Pacific Properties Corp. to operate her stand in front of their 747 Fort St. building. (Businessman Fraser McColl has offered Goodson a spot inside St. Andrews Square during the winter.)

Helps said if Goodson can make a go of it in what is essentially privately owned public space, "then it's almost like this is the best-case scenario for her and the city."

Quadra Pacific property manager Maja Tait said having Goodson working on the office tower doorstep not only provides a service for tenants and passersby but could deter less savoury activities in the area.

Meanwhile, Goodson has applied for a business licence. "Now I have to make $100 to pay for it," she said, brush in hand. bcleverley@timescolonist.com

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