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Diamond Valley businesses struggling to stay open

Several merchants are making adjustments to keep their doors open from reducing store hours to offering delivery services.
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Little Black Dress Judy Mackenzie
Co-owner of Little Black Dress Consignment Boutique, Judy Mackenzie, said business has been down by about 70 per cent, yet she and daughter Kendra are doing what they can to keep their doors open. (Photo Courtesy of Kayla Mackenzie)

Several merchants in Black Diamond and Turner Valley are doing whatever possible to keep their doors open despite business plummeting by at least half in less than a week.

Earlier this week, the Province implemented public health restrictions to promote social distancing and thwart the spread of COVID-19, which reached 146 cases and one death in Alberta by Thursday.

With sit-down restaurants, cafes and other food-serving facilities limited to 50 per cent capacity with a maximum of 50 people, many took the delivery and pick-up route.

Among them was Turner Inn Family Restaurant owner Sean Liang, who closed his Turner Valley dining room Thursday and began offering pick-up and delivery for all menu items between noon and 9 p.m. after serving just eight customers Wednesday. He typically serves 100 on a weekday.

“It’s really slow but I still opened just in case somebody needed something,” said Liang, who took over the 38-year-old restaurant six years ago. “The money is not important. Keeping everyone happy is good.”

Judy Mackenzie has the same mentality. She runs Little Black Dress Consignment Boutique in Black Diamond with daughter Kendra.

While they’ve postponed all in-store events from fundraisers to fashion shows, the mother and daughter team are not ready to close their doors.

“Lots of times we find people who come into the store just need somebody to talk to,” said Mackenzie. “It connects people who are new to the community or who just need some socialization so they come in and try on clothes, chat and off they go. Whether they buy anything or not, it makes us feel better that they go a little happier than when they came in.”

Closing the store could mean these people have no outlet, Mackenzie said.

“We’ll certainly monitor what Alberta Health recommends as I don’t want our staff to be exposed, but it’s a difficult decision because we don’t want to be open if we shouldn’t be open but we also need to be open if we can be for many reasons, not just financial. It’s supporting our community,” said Mackenzie. “I know we’re not an essential service, but we are of value and people need socialization.”

With social distancing and isolation now the norm, Mackenzie’s customer base dropped by about 70 per cent by mid-week.

The Mackenzies are making some adjustments, including reducing the store hours by three hours a day and frequent sterilization.

“We’re hoping that we can stay open so we can employ our three other people that work because they’re community people as well," she said. 

Plans are in the works for an online presence with fun interviews, fashion tips and fashions shows on the boutique’s Facebook Page, Mackenzie said. She will also post products with sizes and prices to be delivered to homes.

“For us as a small business we still have rent to pay so we’re really trying to make it work where we can,” Mackenzie said. “You’ve just got to think outside the box.”

Clientele reduced by half mid-week at One on One Studio in Black Diamond, but owner Noreen Hatchard is still open for business.

“I’ve had cancellations, lots of them, but then other people phone in and ask, ‘Can we still get in?’” she said. “I am still operating but I may just work out the week and then be done. I’m not really an essential service.”

Hatchard is limiting her clients to one at a time.

“It’s a lot of extra work trying to clean between clients and disinfect everything,” she said. “Every chair gets wash down. We have to be extra diligent about cross-contamination.”

Like most small business owners, Hatchard is anxious about what the future holds.

“I saved for tough times so I’m going to be okay, but I’m still anxious and not sure how long this will go on for,” she said. “We’re all in this uncertainty of when will everything go back to normal and what will be normal.”

To assist local businesses, the Towns of Black Diamond and Turner Valley are collaborating to offer support, said Black Diamond special events co-ordinator Kelly Tuck.

“Every business in our community is being affected because people aren’t going out,” she said. “You aren’t seeing the flow of traffic in the community.”

Tuck has been communicating with Black Diamond’s 167 businesses since last week to see how they’re doing and keep them updated on changes from the Province.

“We’re just wanting to keep an eye on where each business is at and to, as information comes forward either provincially, federally or municipally, update them,” she said. “Information that’s pertinent to them is going to be emailed out. Maybe if there’s a document they can’t find or maybe they just need some assistance in looking for information, we’re definitely there for them.”

Tuck said many businesses closed their doors while others altered the way they do business from changing their hours to delivering products.

“I’m pleased to see how innovative the businesses are becoming,” she said. “They are trying to stay open for sure, they’re just doing it day by day.”

Updated information from Alberta Health is available at http://town.blackdiamond.ab.ca/

Follow our COVID-19 special section for the latest local and national news on the coronavirus pandemic, as well as resources, FAQs and more.

Tammy Rollie, OkotoksToday.ca




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Tammy Rollie

About the Author: Tammy Rollie

Tammy Rollie is a staff reporter at OkotoksToday.ca and the Western Wheel newspaper, focusing on Wheel's West, local arts and culture and entertainment. For story tips contact trollie@okotoks.greatwest.ca
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