How has COVID affected the Downtown? I get asked this question a lot.
The Downtown has seen a lot in its years. There are even a few downtown businesses that can tell you how the Downtown has weathered decades of ups and downs.
There is something special and unique about Downtowns. Shops, restaurants and galleries are locally owned. The owners live in our community. They rely on the income from their businesses to pay their mortgage, to buy their groceries, to pay for activities for their children. When COVID essentially closed their doors, they needed to adapt in order to survive.
It was incredible to see how quick the shops changed to curbside pick up and home delivery. It became a race to update websites in order to accept online orders and payments. Customer interaction and service was now via social media and the challenge was accepted as many Downtown stores kept busy by the support of those in Prince Albert that chose to shop local.
Many shops and cafes took the time to do a few renovations and improvements. Many small business owners find that the day to day operation of their business keeps them abundantly busy. This unforeseen experience gave them an opportunity to pause and reflect on their business goals and make plans for the future.
Some business owners really made the most of the opportunity like Cody at Limitless Gear who wrote a book! Icon Realty purchased PA Rental and Leasing and relocated downtown. Off the Cuff Improv moved into the Jam Street Sessions studio to continue to operate what Lucy James began and to expand on it's services.
New Business opening in Fall 2020: YPA Makers Market, BJJ Lab, African Grocery Store, and SS River Designs.
Weekly, I take part in meetings with the International Downtown Association and I hear many of the struggles and frustrations from across North America regarding Downtowns. Downtown Prince Albert has weather this storm admirably. The Downtown businesses have seen the support of the people of Prince Albert, at times they are pleasantly surprised by the amount of traffic coming through their doors. Because of the generous support they are finding that they have to restock their items more regularly and have extended their hours.
The University of Saskatchewan campus downtown has brought it's share of support and enthusiasm, but the Downtown business community has something that can not be found in a box store maze.
If you haven't visited the Downtown in a while I invite you down. Visit the new stores that have recently opened and stop by the businesses you know and trust. The fall colours, the history that remains and the friendly smiles you will encounter are all waiting for you.