FoodWorks shock closure: 'Completely demoralising'
FOODWORKS owner Debbie Smith had just sat down from serving two elderly customers.
"They're afraid - they've been using this store since it opened a decade ago," Ms Smith said.
"Only one of them can drive, and she is scared to cross Ruthven St in the traffic.
"They don't want to have to find somewhere else to shop."
Northlands FoodWorks' impending closure on Sunday is sure to affect many residents, but Ms Smith holds most concern for her elderly customers, who she said had formed an "emotional bond" with staff.
"Impossible competition" and "mounting bills" were cited as the causes behind the closure.
"We had to take loans to build this place up," she said.
"Our houses were on the line, so we had to pro-actively protect ourselves."
Ms Smith said times had changed since she and co-owner Lindy Baker opened the store in 2008.
"There used to be five shopping centres, now there are 12," she said.
"We were halfway through refurbishing it when we learnt of the council's plan to allow Northpoint Shopping Centre.
"This was after the scope of the town plan said there was no more room for any major supermarkets or major shopping centres in Toowoomba."
Ms Smith said they had been advised they could bring a case to the Land and Environment court, but the $450,000 fee halted their action
Since the opening of Northpoint Shopping Centre and the upgrade of Grand Central, she said the climate had become "impossible" for family businesses.
"It really annoys me when I hear politicians say that small business is the engine room of Australia," she said.
"Every layer of government encourages big supermarkets."
Toowoomba Regional Council planning and development committee chair Cr Chris Tait said the council had performed assessments.
"If council receives an application for a shopping centre proposal, it is normal that before an approval takes place, council would request the provision of a retail economic impact assessment to ensure that the centre will not adversely affect other established centres," Cr Tait said.
"However, on a micro-economic level, it is not a legitimate role for council to interfere with the market and the associated individual business decisions made by organisations or individuals."