Businesses coping despite COVID-19

Home renos, outdoor recreation equipment popular

Businesses in Houston are coping despite the impact of the COVID-10 pandemic and, for some, the closure from March into April of Canfor’s mill here.

With more people at home for extended periods of time, business has been brisk because people are undertaking various kinds of home renovations, says Darrin Super from the Bulkley Valley Home Centre.

“It’s actually been quite busy because of a few different factors. With the mill closed and people self-isolating it looks like they are taking out the honey-do list,” he said.

“Paint, drywall, lumber — it’s all selling well.”

And if not home renos, Super’s store has also had an increase in chicken sales resulting in people then buying more feed and material to build chicken coops.

“And seed sales. Our garden centre is now open and that’s where the ladies are going. Our seed sales have been through the roof,” he added.

“Our supply chain has been holding up. Supplies sometimes may not come every week but every second week.”

The level of activity has been such that the centre has been able to keep its staff on regular hours.

As with many stores, Bulkley Valley Home Centre has directional signs inside and shields up at the cash registers.

“We’ve been taking the usual precautions and we have a limit of 10 customers at a time and are asking people not to bring their children,” said Super.

Kirk Vandenbrink at CountryWide Sports says sales have been holding steady.

“It’s been pretty normal around here. Sales are up a bit. People are coming in looking for things to do.”

“Right now — volleyball, softball. That’s what people are looking for.”

In particular, bicycle sales have increased as spring has arrived and people are looking for an outdoor sport that keeps them active without assembling in groups.

“We’ve been selling a lot of those. They’ve been going through the roof,” said Vandenbrink.

And so far, CountryWide has not been having trouble with its supply chain.

At the start of the pandemic in March, Miake Elliott of Pawesome Adventure reduced her business operation to four days a week but is now at six days a week to meet customer demand.

Normally she has two part timers but, for now, is all by herself.

“The community has been very good. We’re getting good support,” she said.

While the business is open for customer walk-in, Elliott says many customers pre-order and pre-pay and pick up their purchases at the back door.

“They just have to come just inside and their package is there with their name on it,” she said.

Pet supply sales have been steady and in the last two weeks, sporting and other accessory sales have started to pick up.

The pandemic has also affected Elliott’s home life.

Because she’s in contact with the public and because her husband has an underlying medical condition they’re living separately for the time-being — he’s at their home and she’s in a basement suite.

“I’m not allowed to be in the same place as he is,” said Elliott.

Mike Tran at Mike’s Audio has trimmed his employee numbers but otherwise says his business is coping.

The business is selling more laptops and tablets with children at home as parents are looking for entertainment for them and also to better connect their children digitally with their teachers.

“And video games, we’re doing OK there too,” Tran said. “TVs are also selling good.”

As with other businesses, Tran has implemented a one-way in and another way out for his customers in addition to placing shields at the cash register.

“We’re just doing what other businesses in town are doing,” he said of taking precautionary measures.

And he feels businesses in Houston are coping perhaps better than ones in Smithers.

“Right now we’re doing the best we can. That’s all that we can do,” said Tran.

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