Boost in business, say High Prairie merchants

Richard Froese
South Peace News

Many small retail businesses in High Prairie are seeing a boost in business in 2021 as restrictions continue during the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, new restrictions for restaurants are hurting them since the new rules started Sept. 20 that allow people to dine only with proof of double vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test within the past 24 hours or take-out.
The Boondocks Grill owner Ali Mouallem says it has cut into business.
“The new restrictions have been difficult,” Mouallem says.
“When we were able to allow 50 per cent capacity inside, it was good.”
He says he has lost plenty of customers when he estimates about 40 per cent of eligible people in the area are fully vaccinated.
“We lost about two-thirds of customers right off the bat when we follow these restrictions,” Mouallem says.
“We just don’t have enough vaccinated people in our area to rely on a steady flow of dine-in customers.”
He says take-out orders have increased since then.
“But it doesn’t make up the difference in lost customers,” Mouallem says.
On the bright side, retail businesses are happy to see a growing number of local shoppers and more.
A-1 Western Wear owner Teresa Yani- shewski appreciates customers who shop and support local businesses.
“I’m very grateful for additional local people who support local businesses,” she says.
“I’m happy to still be in business.”
The business has added special services to serve the needs and wishes of people during the pandemic.
“We are able to ship items to people if they don’t feel comfortable coming into the store,” Yanishewski says.
During COVID restrictions, she is open to new innovative ways to serve customers.
“We enjoy being in High Prairie and we will do what we can to continue to offer the service,” Yanishewski says.
She was disappointed that the High Prairie Elks Pro Rodeo has been cancelled the past two summers, a time when business peaks.
The rodeo and Christmas are the busiest times of the year for the store and sales, she notes.
Field’s reports business has also picked up in 2021 during the pandemic.
“There have been ups and downs, but it’s been fairly steady,” store manager Tracy Paddon says.
“Summer was back to pretty much normal, it was fairly busy.”
Most COVID-19 restrictions were lifted during the summer that allowed more activities and travel and more freedom for businesses and shoppers.
She has also observed more shoppers from the local community and other points of the northwestern region.
“We have a lot of local people who shop here regularly,” Paddon says.
“We also noticed there’s been an increase of people from out of town, from Slave Lake, Peace River and even Grande Prairie.
“They couldn’t find some items in their home town and we had it.”
As the number of COVID cases continues to be high, she knows the restrictions have hindered the economy, drastically for many.
“I think all businesses are struggling with the restrictions and the limited number of people in a store at one time,” Paddon says.
“Hopefully, some of those restrictions will be loosened up.
“We hope to be busy for Christmas.”
Glamour and Gear owner Tracy Sherkawi has seen a growth in business in 2021 since 2020.
“Business has been good, a large part by people supporting local businesses and people not travelling out of town as much,” Sherkawi says.
Summer was a big boost for the store.
“There was a boom in outdoor activities and we had a lot of new customers to buy fishing and camping supplies.”
“In general, I am very grateful this year that business and sales went as well as it has.
“I know other businesses are having a rough time and I hope they can recover.”
H&S Dollar Store has seen a slowdown in business since the first few months of the pandemic, owner Shaun Poole says.
“In the first few months, business was good because people were staying home and doing more crafts,” Poole says.
However, since the good weather returned and restrictions were relaxed, business slowed.
“People are spending more time outdoors,” Poole says.
Since the start the pandemic, H&S has been struggled to keep shelves filled.
“We have experienced some supply chain issue, so it’s a struggle to get merchandise,” he says.
He says some items are not available and deliveries often delayed.

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