Having a business in a small town presents unique challenges and opportunities. Lakes District News has been asking local business owners what kinds of challenges they face and if they think the village should improve in any way.
Sears has recently stopped selling in-store appliances in Burns Lake. Jarrett Anderson, owner of Blu Jay Sports and Sears in Burns Lake, said this was a decision from Sears’ executive and that he didn’t know exactly what led to that decision.
However, when asked if the habit of shopping out of town – which has been identified by some business owners as the main challenge in Burns Lake – was a big factor, Anderson said this habit has definitely been ongoing for several years. In addition, he said that online shopping has had a significant negative impact on sales. And he isn’t the only one.
Gwyn Nicholas, owner of Gwyn’s Green Grocer in Burns Lake, agrees that online shopping has been a huge challenge for local businesses.
She said that shopping out of town, however, hasn’t been an issue for her because she has a niche market and a loyal customer base. Her store carries a great variety of products, from organic fruits and vegetables to high quality skin and hair products.
According to Nicholas, having a business in a small town presents several challenges, including the smaller number of customers compared to bigger centres. She said this pushes business owners to keep changing and readapting to keep customers enticed.
“It’s very hard to be a small store owner,” she said. “It’s a real challenge.”
Nicholas said that, overall, she’s been satisfied with the Village of Burns Lake. She said the village has an “open door policy” and that council has made a great effort to listen to the concerns of business owners.
She mentioned that the village’s downtown revitalization project and the new RV parking lot in the downtown core are having a positive impact on local businesses.
However, Nicholas said she would like to see more “connectivity” between local businesses.
“I think it’s been a struggle for the chamber to get certain events happening in our community that show connectivity, that businesses support each other,” she said.
Nicholas mentioned a trade show that used to be held every two years at the Tom Forsyth Memorial Arena in Burns Lake. The trade show hasn’t been held for many years.
“I’d like to see more of that,” she said. “Working together is important in a small town.”
Greg Brown, president of the Burns Lake and District Chamber of Commerce, said that although the trade show hasn’t been held in many years, there’s opportunity in the future to hold it again.
While having a business in a small town presents many challenges, it can also present opportunities.
Michael Jacques, owner of ACI Computer Services in Burns Lake, said the fact that Burns Lake lacks some types of businesses means that is plenty of opportunities in town.
“We don’t have any furniture stores, or many clothing stores,” he said. “I think people from out of town could take advantage of that.”
Every year, local businesses donate thousands of dollars to local organizations.