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Sooke businesses weather COVID storm

Local merchants appreciate community support
The Sooke business community fared well over the course of 2021, despite the ongoing pandemic, say business leaders. (File - Sooke News Mirror)

Support from the community is the glue that enabled some Sooke businesses to keep it together during a year ravaged by the pandemic.

Karen Mason, president of the Sooke Chamber of Commerce, said overall businesses in Sooke did quite well in 2021.

“Our business community has fared well over the summer,” Mason said.

“The number 1 concern would be staffing and getting good employees to want to work with them. The idea for local businesses is how to become an employer of choice, which is really important.”

She added that is achieved by ensuring that you’re offering competitive wages and hours and a good work environment.

“These are small business owners, so their skin is in the game,” Mason said. “They’re not working for big corporations here.”

Mason also pointed to the incredible support from the community and a commitment to shop local as crucial elements to helping businesses survive the pandemic.

Wayne Smith, the owner of Sooke Power Supply, said one of the biggest challenges of the last two years is the constant changes to public health protocols.

“Trying to stay open has been a burden on everyone,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate because a portion of our business is lawns and gardens. People are staying home and working on improvements to their homes, so we’re holding on. A lot of people have been shopping local and supporting their community, and we’re totally thankful for that.”

Ashley Kilpatrick, owner of Bosley’s by Pet Valu in Sooke, said the biggest challenge in 2021 was keeping up with the changes in provincial health guidelines.

“Sooke Bylaw really stepped up in keeping us informed,” she said. “They’re always quick to respond and support us.”

Kilpatrick said her business didn’t suffer any losses, in part because of an increase in people getting animals during the pandemic.

“I have an amazing team around me that approaches everything like a family,” she said. “And there’s been amazing support with people shopping local that’s allowed us to build more relationships in the community.”

That’s resulted in the additional challenge of finding new staff members, however, Kilpatrick added.

Mike Williams, a realtor with Pemberton Holmes, said the situation was so hard at the beginning of the year that some realtors thought they might have to find another job.

“Then the numbers went crazy, and everything was selling,” he said. “I’ve never seen inventory this low in 17 years. When the market first tanked, there were 5,000 listings between Sidney, Sooke and Shawnigan Lake. Now there’s approximately 500, which includes properties, condos, single-family homes, everything but commercial.”

Williams said every sale he’s been involved in has multiple offers.

“I don’t see the record to low inventory catching up to demand in the near future,” he said. “The most popular items are homes with suites. Price has gone up so drastically that most people need a mortgage helper.”

RELATED: West Shore business owners worry about future in wake of COVID-driven closures

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About the Author: Rick Stiebel

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