Downtown Williams Lake Businesses Adapting to Change

By Jordan Davis, Executive Director, Downtown Williams Lake BIA —

There are many things I have been thinking of over the past months of dealing with COVID-19.

Staff at Downtown Williams Lake Business Improvement Association. (L. to R) Jasmine Alexander, events coordinator; Jordan Davis, executive director; and Brent Dafoe, business coordinator pose with their window character doubles by Dwayne Davis of @Davis Arts Business Portrait Project. Photo: Lisa Bland

First of all, I am very proud of our downtown business community. In BC, and particularly in our area, we didn’t have the same strict shut down of non-essential businesses that happened in other regions. While some local business operations unfortunately were deeply affected or closed their doors this spring, many others found creative ways to adapt to the crisis. With circumstances ever-changing, we don’t know how the business landscape will evolve as we progress into the summer, but we are hopeful that since May 19 when many businesses opened up again, that with protective measures in place, we can continue to support and maintain our local business economy.

Here are a few examples of how Williams Lake businesses adapted to the new reality in the earlier stages.

In the earlier stages of the pandemic this spring, the local bookstore, The Open Book, closed its doors to customers, but offered flexible options, including free local deliveries, an increased variety of products online, curb side pick-up, and adjusted hours. On May 25 they reopened the store for browsing with a minimum of six customers at a time.

Mint and Lime Catering owners, Jenn Brown and Mindy Johnson, opened up mainly as a catering company last year, and in mid-March, due to the COVID-19 regulations, they quickly shifted gears to offer more in-store quantities of their waste-free meals in a jar as well as more Jar Meal catering options. With social distancing measures in place and cleaning and sanitizing in between, customers can stop by one at a time for meal pick-up. They also partnered with South Broadway Liquor Store to offer Fresh Jar Meals on Fridays. Despite the challenges of COVID-19, they maintained their waste-free approach with everything from the use of wooden cutlery and compostable containers to partnering with the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society and sending kitchen scraps to a local farmer for their animals.

Taylor Made Cakes also adapted their way of doing business. Customers can visit the shop and see Dayle Taylor’s smiling (masked) face at the front of the newly arranged storefront. Customers now form a line outside of the shop and are served individually, keeping social distancing measures in place. By the end of June they will be open Wednesdays to Saturdays 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The Mantel home decor adapted to the changes by adjusting their hours and reducing the number of customers in their store at a time. If you’re looking for somewhere to share a warm smile and some much-needed human interaction, and you’re hoping to find a special gift or cherished item, this is the place! As of May 25, their store hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m Monday to Saturday.

The Realm of Toys adjusted their hours of operation and number of people in the store along with offering many of their best-selling items for sale online and via their responsive and interactive Facebook page to a wide local following. They also offer curbside pickup.

Bean Counter Bistro now has a fabulous new, fire engine red take-out window, and many of their regular customers are ecstatic to have them back in operation in the downtown core.

I am overjoyed by how many business adapted and continue to adapt in our community, including many more I can’t possibly mention.

While this spring was difficult for everyone, I feel encouraged and hopeful with the easing of restrictions as the summer advances. It is heartwarming to see people downtown again, walking and driving, smiling and saying hello and enjoying the beauty of summer.

Many people have reached out in our community to ask how they can help, and we encourage them to support local businesses and keep their purchases in Williams Lake. We have made it through difficult times, such as the 2017 wildfires, and we have managed to come out on the other side, even stronger. The importance of supporting our local economies and food systems is now more glaringly clear than ever, and I think we are now actually understanding this at a practical level.

I continue to be hopeful that we will grow and adapt to these changes, and I hope our businesses continue to thrive. At the end of the day, humans need each other, and this means supporting that which supports us close to home.

Our focus at Downtown Williams Lake during this time and into the future will continue to be Local Food and Local Goods. Please support our local businesses and keep your dollars local. Our community needs us.

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