A look at how Lethbridge retail stores are faring 1 week after Phase 1 relaunch: ‘We’re very busy’

On May 14, most of Alberta began the first of three phases to gradually reopen the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The exceptions were Calgary and Brooks and Calgary.

“We’re very busy,” said Jeremy Duchan, the owner of Gentlemen Three Menswear in Lethbridge. 

“One of the things that was great with the May 14 restrictions, was that gatherings were allowed to be a little bit larger in size,” he said, referring to the Government of Alberta lifting restrictions in order to allow groups of up to 50 people in outdoor settings while maintaining proper social distancing.

“So that allowed people to re-evaluate their wedding plans,” said Duchan.

Some high schools and post-secondary institutions have decided to host virtual graduation ceremonies, giving graduates a reason to dress up.

Across the street, it’s a different story. The managers of Doug’s Sports, a locally-owned sporting goods company in Lethbridge, said although he is glad they are able to be open, business isn’t as usual.

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“March, April, May and part of June are our Christmas months,” said co-manager JD Clark. “That’s when all the sports are either beginning or ending… so you can imagine our heartache.”

Major and minor sporting events across the world have come to a standstill, taking away the store’s main revenue: team sports gear.

However, the store has been selling some other items to stay in business, such as basketballs, baseball gloves and balls, footballs and soccer balls.

“Yesterday was the best day we’ve had since this whole thing began,” said co-manager Jonathan Bikman, attributing the sales to the warmer weather and the increasing desire of Lethbridge residents to get outside and stay active.

For Big John’s Books, sales also haven’t been up to par, but they’re just glad to see new and familiar faces again, with owner John Pyska saying his favourite part is “definitely the people.”

A set date for Phase 2 has not been determined. Details on each phase and what types of businesses will be reopening can be found here.

 

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Coronavirus pandemic claims Okanagan business; Summerland arts store permanently closes its doors

It’s a reality that’s hard to accept for Tammy Jackson.

After operating her arts store in Summerland for nearly six years, the business owner has been forced to shut down operations for good.

“It was all very surreal,” Jackson told Global News. “I still wake up some nights and just think, ‘It’s all a dream.’ It’s just been a shock.”

On Thursday, Jackson took down the sign of what was Tammy’s Brush 2 Canvas store on Main Street.

“Today is my last day in the store and we are doing the final clean-ups,” she said.

With no income coming in since mid-March, Jackson can no longer afford to pay her rent.

“I had about 100 to 150 students come through here for classes, plus my walk-in traffic for the retail,” she said.

“I did pay April’s rent, but that’s all I could afford.”

The decision to close, she said, wasn’t easy.

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“It’s going to be tough. This was my baby,” said an emotional Jackson.

“It was always a dream to have my own store, so that I am grateful for and I got that off my bucket list.”

The arts store is believed to be the first in the South Okanagan community to close its doors permanently due to the pandemic — and there are fears it won’t be the last.

Kubek continued, saying “we end up then with more change. We have more people shopping — instead of just going ‘Oh, I’m just going to go down to the art gallery to pick up art supplies,’ well, now they order from Amazon.”

Last week, the federal government announced a rent relief plan to help business owners survive this tough time.

The plan, however, requires landlords to cover 25 per cent of their tenant’s rent.

Whether that was even considered in the Summerland case is unknown, because calls by Global News to Jackson’s landlord were not returned by the time of publication.

Jackson said when she broke the news to her landlord about not being able to afford rent, there was no mention of any help, leaving her disappointed.

Jackson’s unfortunate circumstances have prompted the president of the local chamber of commerce to issue advice to other business owners heading in the same direction.

“If you are thinking about closing down, contact us, let us figure out how we can help out,” Kubek said. “Whether it’s talking to landlords, figuring out ways of how they can do more sales online.”

As for Jackson, she will now try the online route, and is turning to technology to continue her passion for arts and business.

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