Local businesses looking forward in face of restrictions

·3 min read

From lockdowns to changing restrictions, Jasper businesses are mixing the reality of the COVID pandemic with a sense of gratitude and positivity about the future.

Brent Best opened Redpass Barber Co. just two days before the first lockdown in March 2020. He is thrilled that the community has been supportive through it all.

Best and his employee, Atlas Blanchette-Vanoploo, are very happy to be back at work after being closed from about Dec. 11 to Jan. 17, in line with the province’s COVID restrictions.

“We’re doing appointment-based services, trying to stagger our appointments,” he said, adding the usual beard and shaving service is on hold for now. “That’s us, being on the precaution side. We do a quick interview, a temperature check and ask the client not to talk. We wear face shields.”

In this line of work where there is closer contact with clients, Best acknowledged it can be difficult but said, “It is up to us to try our best to meet and exceed the requirements.”

After the pandemic was declared, many clients had jobs at first, but now there are fewer who are employed. Best noted he and Blanchette-Vanoploo are “trying to make it a pleasant experience in the barber shop, ending on a positive note.”

“We couldn’t do without the community,” Best added.

Staff at Vicious Cycle - a bike, board and ski service and sales shop - are riding the tide of the pandemic and keeping matters in perspective.

“There’s nothing you can do about it, so why stress?” said manager Billy Hornsby. “We just do what we’re told - wear a mask, social distancing.”

Hornsby described summer as “surprisingly good” but that business was slow in the winter as is the case with many shops in town.

He noted there was opposition from the public earlier last year about wearing masks but now wearing masks is part of a daily routine for the most part. However, opposition to using garbage cans was also common during the busy season, as the patio in front of his shop was littered with food boxes and cans.

With downsizing in manufacturing operations all over, Hornsby pointed out, “Many products haven’t been built” and that may affect business in the future.

“This pandemic has been tough on everyone in every sector,” said Karen Jacobs, owner of Mountain Air Clothing. “If we get to the 15 per cent occupancy, that’d be a good day.”

She cited a quiet Christmas season and Jasper in January event while also highlighting the uncertainty about what’s coming next pandemic-wise.

“It’s deciding how much to bring in,” Jacobs said. “It’s a crapshoot.”

Like Hornsby, Jacobs noted products are part of the supply chain, which has been affected by the pandemic.

But adaptation is the key. Throughout the pandemic, she has done curbside sales, has mailed products to people and drops off items at people’s doorsteps for them to try on.

“We have a great little town for supporting local,” she said. “We’re trying to keep it as local as much as possible.”

Jacobs hopes the regional traffic of last year continues and there could be visits from folks all over Canada and maybe across the globe depending on the pandemic.

She highlighted another positive: the scheduled opening of Whistlers Campground sometime this spring, which may boost business in town.

“Hopefully we can all take a breath and see what happens next,” Jacobs said.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh