Pandemic has South Kootenay businesses pulling together

Pandemic has South Kootenay businesses pulling together

Business owner concerns are high regarding vandalism in downtown Trail

Small businesses in Trail have always been the lifeblood of the city.

For a long time many local proprietors have struggled. Due to their grit that knows no bounds, over the past few years, the future was really starting to look bright.

So, how are local businesses now faring?

Given that it’s nearing a month of slowdown, in some cases complete shutdown of revenue, due to SARS-CoV-2, otherwise known as the coronavirus pandemic.

“The South Kootenay region as a whole is in a very good position to come out of this pandemic fairly sustained,” began Lisa Milne, owner of the Royal Theatre and longtime local business advocate.

“We have many essential service industry jobs, such as Teck, KBRH, FortisBC, as well as provincial and federal agencies,” she said. “However, the small businesses are the backbone of the city.

“They are the ones that will feel the effect the most.”

With many of the small businesses shuttered or operating on restricted hours with strict COVID-19 transmission precautions in place, another worry cropping up is the recent spate of vandalism in the downtown.

Salsman Insurance Agency on Bay Avenue, and Elevate Performance + Therapy on Farwell Street, for example, both had their windows smashed in the past few weeks.

“The very last thing we want is for criminal activity to help crumble the already vulnerable positions that many are in,” Milne shared.

“If buildings become empty and the downtown/business areas are vacant, then Trail is back to where it was 10 to 15 years ago.”

Of course, that is not the scenario anyone wants to see.

“Trail is on the upswing, more new business have opened and are successfully operating than ever before,” Milne continued.

“There are many businesses investing large sums of money into their companies as they see the future in Trail is going to be strong. The entertainment/arts and restaurant scene is flourishing – think Bailey Theatre events, Smokies game nights, blockbuster movie releases – restaurant are packed, the downtown is alive.

“It’s the many passionate, invested business people who have worked hard to achieve this,” she said.

“The city must back us and recognize our very valid concerns of increased crime and vandalism.”

As a way to stay connected and apprised of the latest news amid pandemic, through Community Futures, local business owners are meeting virtually every Tuesday on Facebook. Last week, Sgt. Mike Wicentowich took part in the roundtable discussion. He used the forum to present crime statistics, talk about crime prevention tactics, and said that patrols will be increased.

Aside from wanting better bricks-and-mortar security, and backing from the city for stepped up security, Milne pointed to another key factor gripping the community.

And that is the extremely heightened sensitivity this coronavirus contagion is having on all sectors of the population.

“There is also a very real mental component to this pandemic that is felt with everyone from employees to company owners,” she said.

“It is hard, overwhelming and unprecedented. As business owners we want to do the right thing by our employees and customers, while often also taking care of our families and children without really knowing how to navigate this landscape,” she said.

“If downtown businesses are asking the City of Trail for help, they must listen and act. Help build up our town so we can all come out of this thriving, (because) we are all in this together.”

The regular Trail council meeting has been cancelled for this week. However, the Trail Times will follow up this story with council after they reconvene for a governance meeting on Tuesday.