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Gorilla Cheese storefront closing amid gentrification pressures, owner says

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Company’s food truck will remain open

Gorilla Cheese, one of the vanguards of Hamilton’s food truck scene, is shutting down its storefront business on Ottawa Street North.

Owner Graeme Smith announced the news in a Facebook post on Wednesday, saying the company had been “gentrified out of [its] own business.”

In an interview with CBC News, Smith bemoaned that he had sunk thousands of dollars into the building he was renting in the form of upgrades — and those same upgrades helped increase the value of the building to the point that it wasn’t sustainable for Gorilla Cheese to be there anymore.

“The real estate market has just exploded,” Smith said. “It has happened in various parts of the city, and now I guess it is happening on Ottawa Street.”

Property records show that the value of the building at 131 Ottawa Street North has jumped in recent years. It sold in 2003 for $122,000, before selling again for $155,000 in 2007.

It sold yet again for $240,000 in 2011, and then again last August — this time for $530,000.

Smith said the rent had been sitting at $1,895 a month, and his new landlord was looking at hiking it $250 or more.

“The writing was on the wall that we had to move out,” he said.

Things haven’t been easy for Smith, who was diagnosed with cancer in 2017, after a tumour was discovered on the back of his tongue.

“That put everything on the back burner,” he said. After multiple rounds of treatment, he now appears to be cancer free, but will still be monitored regularly by doctors, he said.

Smith and his former partners launched the company after he was laid off from Stelco, then known as U.S. Steel, back in 2011. The company offers a variety of grilled cheese options and has become a staple at local festivals.

Gorilla Cheese’s Ottawa Street location will remain open until Oct. 21. The company’s food truck will remain in business.

Gorilla Cheese, one of the vanguards of Hamilton’s food truck scene, is shutting down its storefront business on Ottawa Street North.