‘A learning experience:’ Downtown businesses running with pandemic pros

Downtown businesses in Prince Albert have been adapting to COVID-19 restrictions. (Herald file photo)

While the COVID-19 pandemic has posed all sorts of challenges for Prince Albert’s downtown businesses, many owners are making use of the extra time on their hands to come back stronger.

Most retail businesses in the city’s core have opened their doors again under phase two of the provincial government’s plan to reopen the economy.

However, according to Downtown Business Improvement District Executive Director Carolyn Carleton, a lot of local business owners were initially scared they weren’t going to make it through.

“I’d be like ‘Okay, let’s look at this from a different perspective,” said Carleton.

“As a business owner, you’re so busy running the business day-to-day that you don’t have time to do all of these other things that you really wish you had time to do,” she added. “Now you have the time, so use it to your benefit.”

Carleton highlighted a long list of “resilient and resourceful” downtown businesses that have adapted to the intimidating circumstances.

Cody Demerais, for example, had been wanting to write a children’s book for several months. With the temporary closure of his store, Limitless Gear Clothing and Apparel, he had the time to make that dream a reality.

Sweet Stells Cakes has shifted its focus from wedding desserts to making bread and cinnamon buns, available through curbside pickup. The Bison Cafe, although it can’t open the restaurant just yet, has joined Instagram to up its social media presence.

While local artist Gail Carlson’s building is up for sale, she continues to create and sell her pottery. Crown Pizza is opening a convenience store in the front of its shop, Fresh Air Experience sold a record number of bikes in April and Collective Upcycle Furniture and Décor has seen a spike in paint sales.

“They live in our community, this is where their homes are,” emphasized Carleton. “It’s definitely a community that they’re still invested in.”

Another business making the most out of the pandemic is Scentiments Floral, located at 1221 Central Avenue.

The store reopened on May 19, but while it was closed to the public, owner Stacy Coburn said she gutted the building and repainted the walls. Then, she sanitized everything before putting it back in place.

“It’s definitely been a learning experience all around,” said Coburn. “(It’s taking) time to sit back and process what your customers are wanting and what they value.”

For example, Coburn said Scentiments Floral’s Christmas classes have been a hit and she wants to expand them to suit other seasons.

Wedding, graduation and funeral cancellations have left her with little business, but Coburn said the shop was busy for Mother’s Day.

“Mother’s Day was a good season for us, for sure. I think people, if you’re not able to go visit mom, then you sent her flowers,” said Coburn.

Even in her own shopping habits, Coburn said the pandemic has taught her a lot: “It makes you stop and wonder now, we maybe took a lot for granted.”

Scentiments Floral is also doing delivery services. When your flowers are ready, said Coburn, she’ll phone you to make sure you’re home before leaving them on your doorstep. Additionally, she’s been sanitizing after customers leave and has lines on the floor to guide people for physical distancing.