Barbershop and clothing store Soul City is one of the many Ottawa small businesses financially impacted by the pandemic and forced to shut its doors in the last year.
Soul City was in business in Centretown for 20 years, located at 183 Rochester St., and sold a wide range of hair products, African-Caribbean movies, music CDs from local and global hip hop artists and books from Black authors.
When the pandemic hit, Soul City owner Ali Misana (also known as Captain) said the landlord had sold the building but he wasn't made aware of that until he realized one of his next door business colleagues were moving out. Legal action couldn't be taken due to court service delays because of the pandemic, he added. He left 183 Rochester St. on Sept. 1.
Landlord Louise Leclerc declined to be interviewed but commented Misana hadn't paid rent for six months. Misana said he only hadn't paid rent for the last month (August) because of COVID-19.
"What I will miss the most is me just serving the community," said Misana.
Not only does Captain miss serving a big part of the community, and making his customers feel confident, but he'll miss what he loved the most: being his own boss.
"Being your own boss, there's something empowering about that. You feel a sense of accomplishment and it doesn't matter if it's a big business or if it's a small business," he added.
Misana said he sometimes feels uncertain about what the future holds because of where things are today with the pandemic. To stay afloat, he has a pop-up shop where he cuts hair on the go three times a week but he said it isn't sustainable. Once things open back up, and when the economy stabilizes, Misana plans on looking for a new location. In the meantime, Misana also has a Plan B — He's been thinking of turning his mobile barbershop into a "barber bus."
Based on his experience, a message that Misana wants to relay to the BIPOC business community is on ownership.
"Definitely, we should look into owning. What happened to me happened because I didn't own the building," he said.
To learn more, visit the Instagram page and Facebook page @soulcitystore.