Members of Summer-land’s business community speak out about their experiences and how they see the future as the province lifts COVID-19 restrictions.
Their comments vary from optimistic to cautious with general agreement that dark clouds may be on the economic horizon.
“The rebound has been really good,” said RE/MAX realtor Mike Stohler.
He recently sold a residential home within two days of listing and well over the list price.
Stohler attributes the robust rebound to pent up demand resulting from COVID-19 related restrictions.
Lack of inventory is his biggest challenge.
“The party may not stop for another year or so and then the market will go quiet again,” he said.
“July and August are looking amazing. We’re excited,” said Karen Davy, sales manager for the Waterfront Resort and Spa.
Most reservations are coming from B.C. residents.
Although never completely closed, corporate events and weddings were cancelled, and the resort stayed active on social media.
“Our industry is fortunate. The biggest challenges have been the safety of staff and customers and associated costs, “said owner of Summerland TIMBR Mart Ken Sewell.
Locals doing home repairs and upgrades during the spring were a boon to business for TIMBR Mart and Home Hardware.
“Some big construction projects slowed down, but now they are picking up,” he said.
Sewell and other business owners continue to have difficulty in obtaining products.
In Sewell’s industry, shortage of materials arose from a greater demand than originally anticipated and suppliers shutting down because of the virus.
Lower quality and increased prices of food are the supply chain challenges facing Alison Schmidt, owner of Second Home Restaurant.
In June, Second Home resumed its usual breakfast and lunch service seven days a week.
“Some days are really good, some slow, but we’re optimistic about the summer,” she said.
To meet distancing requirements Schmidt removed eight tables which means fewer customers and less revenue.
The possibility of having to close again is always at the back of her mind.
“We’ll just keep plugging away and take whatever comes,” Schmidt said.
“It’s bare bones, bare staff,” said Susan Lopatecki, who owns SASS Clothing Boutique with stores in Penticton and Summerland.
The two stores have a total of four employees, which is down from nine before the pandemic.
Lopatecki has hired a seamstress to help reduce reliance on compromised supply chains.
She, along with many retailers, anticipate a reasonably good summer but are concerned about what happens later.
“When winter hits, we’ll see a lot of people going out of business,” she said.
“We’re identifying ways to help businesses get through the winter,” said Summerland Chamber of Commerce president Ron Kubek.
His own business, Lightning Rock Winery, suffered a significant hit in spring but is now recovering well.
The Summerland Chamber has also been working on how to encourage people to stay and spend their money in the Okanagan.
Simon Buttet, owner of Alchemist Distiller which opened in December 2018 is thankful for assistance from government and his bank.
“July is the start of our business season. But new businesses can go sour quickly,” he said.
Licensed to make alcohol, Buttet has been producing hand sanitizer.
Business at Tone’s Hair Design has rebounded for owner Michelle Zazzara and her two stylists.
Their services are especially appreciated by clients who developed the “COVID-shag look’’ during the shut down.
Before opening May 19, Zazzara painted and redecorated her shop and used the time to reassess her goals.
She decided to work fewer hours freeing up more time for herself, her husband, and her dog.
“I’m definitely happier now,” Zazzara said.
Chris and Elaine Neussler also took time to re-evaluate their lives.
The couple owns the Purple Hemp Co. which offers customers a variety of health-related products and services and consultations on medical cannabis.
“We’ve listed Purple Hemp for sale because we think younger owners are better suited to grow this already-expanding business. And my heart has always been with the medical aspects of cannabis rather than retail,” Elaine said.
She plans to devote more time to Kyla’s Quest, a non-profit organization named after the Neusslers’ granddaughter, Kyla Williams, who has severe epilepsy and has benefitted greatly from the use of medical cannabis.