Thursday, December 1 2022

A Cambridge studio that has been teaching Highland dancing for decades will need to find a new home.

Landlord Leslie MacDougall said landlord Woodhouse Group, which owns the building in which her studio is located, has terminated her lease.

“I survived COVID, hanging on my fingernails, you know like phew, we’re back in business, full steam ahead,” explained MacDougall, the owner of Cambridge Highland Dancers and Company. Then I just feel like I got punched in the stomach.

The termination of her lease left MacDougall scrambling to find a new place to teach students to dance, a passion and job she’s had longer than she’s had the studio space.

The dance enthusiast said she has around 50 dance students who come to the studio to learn traditional Scottish moves, aged from four years old to adults.

MacDougal said the Woodhouse Group informed her this month that she had to move, after being on hire for three months. Prior to that, she was on another short-term lease due to COVID, which ended in June.

The dance teacher goes on to say that the situation has left her and her dance family ‘devastated’ and teary eyed. MacDougall also said she felt small businesses were being crushed by “greedy” business.

According to MacDougall, some of the other tenants had their leases extended, but she was not one of them. She believes her backlash against the company is what led to her last lease being terminated.

“I had dancers competing in Scotland, and the day I landed in Scotland I received my dismissal notice stating that I had to be away by November 30,” MacDougall said.

Woodhouse plans to make space for a commercial condominium where its current Shearson Businesses Center is located.

In a statement to CTV News, Woodhouse Group wrote, “We have honored and will continue to honor all lease terms and renewal rights of all tenants of the Shearson Cres property.”

“By converting our Shearson Cres property into a commercial condominium, Woodhouse Group is giving small businesses the opportunity to own their space, rather than paying rent to a landlord. There is currently a shortage of owner-occupied space for small businesses in Waterloo Region,” the statement said.

“We have given all tenants of the property, including Cambridge Highland Dance, the opportunity to purchase their respective units at below market prices. Woodhouse Group was happy to support Cambridge Highland Dance and many of our small business tenants during the pandemic with reduced rent. We wish them the best for the future,” the statement read.

MacDougall said she had the option of purchasing her unit for less than the sum listed, or $557,200.

She said she was offered $501,480. Far too much for MacDougall to afford given the state of the economy today with inflation and his own financial situation as someone close to retirement and not looking to take out big loans.

As MacDougall is in a race against time to find new studio space, she said she is grateful for the support she has received from family, friends, community members and her clients said. that they planned to remain loyal customers.

“Even though the situation isn’t ideal, our studio is the best, and I wouldn’t leave just because we’re moving,” said Hannah Bellingham, a dance student.

“The community that she’s built here and the relationships within this studio, it’s really heartbreaking to hear that this may not be able to continue,” said Jocelyn Morgan, parent of a dance student.

MacDougall said she won’t let that deter her as she continues to fight to remain a successful small business owner.

“I’m going to move on, I’m absolutely going to move on and be successful.”

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