While the start of the school year is an exciting time for many people, some business owners in Scarborough’s Guildwood Plaza say it brings a string of issues to their shops.
The owners of Muddy Paws, a specialty pet shop that offers grooming services, say their storefront window was shattered after a fight between two students from a neighbouring school.
“Somebody picked somebody up and deliberately pushed them into the window,” said Colleen Zuber. “They put a big hole in the window, it didn’t need to happen.”
Police say they responded to a call around 2 p.m. on Wednesday for youth fighting in the area. Both Colleen and her son Derrick were inside the shop at the time, and say they were lucky not to be struck by the glass.
“The glass shattered all over, it sprayed halfway across the store,” said Derrick Zuber. “There was no blood on the glass, which was a surprise to everybody because the guy’s head went in there too.”
The Zubers say the commotion all started at a pizza shop a few doors down, but it spilled onto the sidewalk after the group of students were asked to leave the restaurant.Toronto Police also responded to the call, and say there were no injuries reported.
Thankfully the Zubers say none of the animals inside their stores were hurt.
The Toronto District School Board says it is aware of the incident involving students from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate, and believes this is an isolated incident.
“It’s our understanding that there was no fight, but that two friends were playing around and one of them fell into the window, breaking it,” said spokesperson Ryan Bird. “The students have taken responsibility for it and their parents have been contacted,”
Bird also says school administrators have a good relationship with store owners and the property manager of this plaza, and that “administrators regularly go over to the plaza during lunch and throughout the school day to ensure students are in class.”
Though Bird adds that the only complaint from the plaza was about garbage or noise over the years, several businesses say that isn’t the case.
Tammy Colley who has been working at the Guildwood Village Animal Clinic for fifteen years, says things have been getting worse over the years, but these incidents don’t usually start this early in the school year.
“Crowds are hanging out, they get rowdy, they start throwing themselves into the windows,” she said. “They block our doors so that we can’t get in or out.”
The business owners say it’s especially worse during the school year around the lunch hour. Most of the students in the area are respectful, but there are a few “bad apples” causing the disruptions.
“I’m hoping we get the word out and everything starts coming together into a nice community, and we feel safe to walk outside not worried,” said Colley.
Meredith Karcher, a Guildwood resident who frequents the plaza, has seen first-hand some of the escalating issues in the community.
“So many students swarming in the area, blocking parking spaces, throwing fruit and other things at cars passing by,” said Karcher. “Pushing each other out into the parking lot so that I have to swerve, blocking people from backing out, it’s a constant issue that’s been going on for years.”
Karcher says she’s also reached out to the local school trustees and Councillor Paul Ainslie’s office about some of the concerns shared by both those living and working in the area.
CityNews requested an interview with the councillor, but his office did not get back to us in time for broadcast. However, a member of his staff did say he visited the store owner following the incident.
Colleen Zuber wants to have increased security personnel and cameras to keep an eye on the entire plaza. She’s also hoping for an increased police presence. She says these incidents continue to have an impact on her store, with some customers hesitant to come in around certain hours.
“It’s happened before, and it’ll happen again unless somebody finally stops it,” said Colleen. “The people in Guildwood have had enough.”