BUSINESS BUZZ: Recovery survey needs your input, pot program wraps up, KAST in rebuild mode

Columnist Darren Davidson with all the latest in local business news

Triple Scoop: Steven Gevenich, Maddie Storvold and Ash Gevenich have opened up shop at 563 Ward St. Big Dee’s Fancy Wieners and Quality Ice Cream is billing itself as Nelson’s premier small batch ice creamery and fancy hot doggery. The trio make all their own ice creams, waffle cones, macarons, and homemade mac n’ cheese, chili, potato salad and coleslaw for their fancy dogs. Big Dees takes over their Ward Street spot from Celestial Scoop. Photo: Darren Davidson

by Darren Davidson

The Buzz starts out this week with an eye on borders, Dr. Bonnie’s discretion and business as anything but usual…

As the global economy takes its first step out of the pandemic’s shadow, many are casting a cautious glance around town at the number of visitors beginning to arrive, increased traffic in and out of stores, those of us who are still masking-up — and those who no longer are. There is also a quiet minority steering clear of vaccines. As of this week, 65 per cent of Nelson and Kootenay Lake residents had their first shots. The provincial average is 75 per cent.

Seventy per cent of B.C. businesses have required grant or funding assistance from provincial and federal levels of government over the past 18 months. Many businesses are facing hurdles like decreased profitability, debt load, reduced capacities, the need for additional rent/mortgage assistance and, most urgently, staffing shortages.

In an effort to continue helping businesses forge their way through all this, Chambers of Commerce and Community Futures programs across interior B.C. have hired on a team of nearly 40 Economic Recovery Advisors looking for input on what they’ll need in the months ahead. The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce is hoping all business take a few minutes to fill out a quick survey at discovernelson.com/recovery. You can also arrange face-to-face visits with your local advisor. The Chamber will use the info to advocate to government so that future pandemic relief programs can be quickly tailored to help businesses get back on their feet. Earlier this month, B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson told a group of local business leaders that economists expect full recovery to take seven to eight years.

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Stay on Kootenay time. Chill out and relax. Those are the messages coming from Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism. Speaking on Kootenay Co-op Radio’s current affairs show, Kootenay Morning, last week, NKL’s Dianna Ducs stressed that caution is key as we step out of the pandemic.

“We want businesses and visitors to have a good experience,” says Ducs, “so we’re asking people to make sure they’re travelling responsibly.” There are details on the NKL website on how to do just that, specifically, check out HelloBC’s tips on how to travel safely and responsibly.

On to other happenins’ around town. Labour is not a problem for father-and-son team Mark and Kyle Paulson and their company Valor Painting. The crew needed 150 gallons of paint, five painters and five weeks for their exterior overhaul on the Maglio family’s Railtown Freight Shed building. The place looks great thanks to a big ol’ splash of Knoxville Grey, Puritan Grey, Rustic Red and some black trim.

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Congrats to the team over at Freya magazine. The Kootenay Women’s Collective’s second issue is out. Publisher Patricia Smuga has put together an editorial squad including senior editor Goodi Niosi, designer Marian Lowe, and social media manager/photographer Bobbi Barbarich.

Check out the great Freya ad from the Black Sheep Restaurant Group, noting their all-women GM team of Mindy Fair (Yum Son), Mackenzie Savill (Cantina del Centro) and Kaitlyn Schmidt (Broken Hill).

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There’s a new pro in the know in the cannabis space. Velvet Kavanagh, who worked for years in the legacy market, and now the legal market, is operating Phenologic, a local consulting firm that helps upstart cannabis operations navigate the industry’s regulations and improve bottom lines. Even though pot has been legal for nearly three years, Premier John Horgan himself has said that B.C.’s legendary product is not making its way to the legal market. There’s too much red tape. Kavanagh is aiming to help local growers new and old cut through it, and get to work in what should be a very lucrative and prosperous new sector of the Kootenay economy.

The success of Community Futures’ Cannabis Business Transition Initiative speaks to the sector’s potential. Kavanagh reports that the program, which relied on a two-year $675,000 funding contract that ends next month, had hundreds of inquiries, 53 intakes, helped get 11 local licences and either created or re-captured 57 new jobs. Of the 147 micro cultivation licences in Canada, 10 are from the Kootenays. One indoor micro operation is getting into full production — thats $600,000 in taxes and 10 jobs, meaning the program has paid for itself with just one client. Community Futures helped secure seven loans thus far for $1.7 million.

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There’s a re-build happening at the organization funded to support the Kootenays’ surging tech sector. Executive director Sean Smillie, the organization’s third ED in three years, is returning to the video game industry as an executive producer for a Quebec and Los Angeles-based game studio. Communications and marketing director Karen Kornelson has left KAST to tackle new work with her company Peak to Moon Creative and the Slocan Valley’s Small Business Support Advisor role.

KAST and board chair Lorri Fehr have brought consultant Michael Hoher aboard for the next three months to help get things back on track. Hoher has moved 165 businesses through the very successful Export Navigator program over the last few years. KAST has notched some great efforts over the past couple years, including the hugely effective Digital Economy Rapid Response and Resiliency Program (DER3) program and the Kootenay Pitch Competition, which will hold its three-entrepreneur finale later this year.

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There’s a groovy new sign above Kurama Sushi Japanese Restaurant. Keith Berens and his company tackled the job, along with big mountain safety legend John Buffery who worked the ropes and ladder for the sign-hanging operation. Live Metal Studio has for 20 years supplied trophies and all sorts of hand-crafted hardware for clients including Red Bull, the X Games and skiing’s Freeride World Tour. Buffery, now technical supervisor for BC Highways Avalanche Program, has been a safety consultant for heaps of films, commercials and big mountain events. Pretty safe bet to say the Kurama sign is stably affixed.

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Thats it! Next month, we’ll have details on the commercial/residential space that’s risen from the ashes of last year’s fire at the corner of Josephine and Victoria, including a bright new Bijou, Mountain Sports Clinic and Gina’s Gelato… and the artisan work of a face familiar to anyone who used to haunt the cop shop, Brita Wood, and her business Brita Brown Quilts.

Nelson Star