Something’s brewing — Kootenay Co-op Radio has teamed up with local businesses including Oso Negro, Big Cranium, ILU Bontanicals and SpeedPro on some new promotional products for KCR, marking its 20th anniversary. Photo: Darren Davidson

BUSINESS BUZZ: A look at business in Nelson from A to Z, Part 2

Darren Davidson takes over our business column with an alphabetical rundown

The Business Buzz and new columnist Darren Davidson are back for week two, with the second half of your 2020 A-B-C look back (and forward) at Nelson’s business landscape and economy. Last week we got from A to N … here’s the rest of your entrepreneurial alphabetized outlook.

O — Outtatowners. As in tourism. Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism and executive director Dianna Ducs have some solid numbers to share for the new year: 2019 recorded an increase in visitation of nearly nine per cent. Our strongest season is still summer, but spring and fall numbers are increasing. The start of the ski season has seen moderate occupancy rates.

Did you know: tourism is second only to oil and gas as BC’s biggest GDP contributor ($7.9 billion vs $8.3 billion). Tourism is followed by mining ($4.1B), forestry ($2B) and agriculture/fisheries ($1.5B). By the way…there’s a new destination marketing organization in the works for the West Kootenay. Stay tuned.

P — Pot. Three Nelson cannabis retail stores have been approved by the provincial government and Nelson City Hall: Kootenay Cannabis Tree, Buddy’s Place, and The Potorium, with The Green Room on Victoria still pending. There are four stores in Trail including the province’s new BC Cannabis Store in Waneta Plaza, with two more pot shop business licences approved, and two in Castlegar.

The $7 million Nelson Cannabis Collective, slated for 45 Government Rd., is raising investment cash after receiving approval on its rezone application. Want great investor insight to the nation’s weed industry? Check out The Globe and Mail article “All Dried Up, How Bay Street Cashed In On The Cannabis Frenzy Before The Carnage.”

Q — Quick and quantifiable. The Kootenay Real Estate Board has had a big year keeping up to speed on the booming realty market. Here are a few numbers to mull over if you’re buying, selling or leasing in Nelson:

The average price of a single detached home in Nelson in 2019 was $468,000. Three years ago, in February 2017, the average home fetched $390,000. There were 98 single detached homes sold in Nelson proper last year. The average price for a strata home, condo, or the like, was $344,819. Forty-three strata dwellings sold in town last year.

For businesses looking for space to do their thing, the average commercial lease rate is roughly $10 per square foot … with triple net charges (taxes, insurance, etc), that would be closer to $15 per square foot. More info? Click on the stats at

R — Radio, as in Kootenay Co-op Radio. On the air now for 20 years — a major feat for a volunteer driven media outlet — KCR has a new sponsorship and sales gal, Amelie Sauquet. The little station that could has also teamed up with some new partner products thanks to Oso Negro, ILU Botanicals, Big Cranium and SpeedPro.

R also stands for … rats! Doesn’t seem like our latest influx of denizens could be all that great for business, aside from those in the pest removal sector. What are local authorities doing about this? Check out National Geographic’s April 2019 story, “Rats —They’ll Always be With Us.” A stunning stat: A litter of nine rat pups can spawn 270 more pups in 20 weeks, and reach 11,907 pups within a year. The root cause? Our unkept trash.

S — Streetclothes Named Desire, the longtime ladies fashion shop at the coveted corner of Ward and Baker has re-opened as KWC Mercantile. Savvy entrepreneur Karen Hagen has taken over the reigns from longtime owner and Nelson business advocate Teo Nicholas.

Hagen has run successful retail venues in Lake Louise for the past 17 years. We’ll have more on the new shop in the next Business Buzz. Right across the street meanwhile, there’s all sorts of hub-bub abounding in the former Wait’s News venue, which stretches down Ward to Shoe La La and the former Eclectic Circus antique and record shop. The property’s local owners and some of their tenants will have news to share soon.

S is for Selkirk College too. What a stalwart star the college is. These numbers are likely a little conservative, but consider: The college bolsters the West Kootenay economy to the tune of $75 million, provides over 550 full and part-time jobs, educates 2,700 full-time equivalent students and now has an international student body of roughly 700, with folks studying here from far off homes in India, the Philippines, Japan, China and a variety of African nations too. Selkirk has three campuses in Nelson, and one each in Castlegar, Trail, Nakusp, Grand Forks, and Kaslo.

T — Tech. What a stellar starting line up for the city’s promising tech sector: Traction On Demand, Thought Exchange, D-Pace, Drop Design, Retreat Guru, the Nelson Innovation Centre and the Kootenay Association of Science and Technology (KAST). Kudos to KAST executive director Cam Whitehead for hitting the pavement and drumming up vital support for the association and Nelson’s tech base.

Traction on Demand, operating at Hall and Front Street, is close to starting renovations on the Royal Canadian Legion building. The West Kootenay’s tech sector is poised to grow. Think of the sort of people that’ll attract — well educated, lifestyle-centric, big city immigrants with pockets full of real estate cash, young families, likely left-leaning. That’ll will come all sorts of plusses … and growing pains too.

Trades. If you run a surveyor’s transit, excavator or hammer ‘n’ saw for a living you’re busy now and likely booking jobs into the summer. Nelson building trades are hopping. The demand for trades folk — along with tighter building restrictions, wide-ranging client requests, eco-hip trends and increasing materials costs — amounts to an average residential building price-per-square foot of between $250 for something pretty basic and bare bones to $400 for higher end homes.

But really, nowadays, judging by the increasing number of luxury cars and high couture and new cachet ‘round town, seems the sky may be the Kootenay’s new limit when it comes to home building.

U — Unprecedented. That’s the definition city hall is using for development in the Nelson. The waterfront, downtown/Railtown and Granite Pointe are all areas specifically targeted for densification. If you missed it last week, the Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership reported that 510 building permits were approved last year in Nelson and Areas E and F — worth $61.5 million.

V— Voodoo? Nope — Tarot: way different and not as spooky. In March of last year, Nelson’s Greg White launched a cool Kickstarter campaign called The WilderWoven Tarot project, which he says “weaves the beauty and magic found in the Pacific Northwest wilderness with the messages and teachings of the Tarot.” The project has 288 backers and already raised $19,244. Check it out:

W — Whitewater. With the world learning a little more about Nelson’s beloved local mountain through the Matchstick Productions ski film Return To Sender, featuring locals Sam Kuch and Trace Cooke, it’s setting up to be a wild ‘n’ wondrous year on the slopes and in the backcountry. Judging by the number of “G’days!” “Qu’est-ce sais?” and “I’m from near Toronto ehs” audible ‘round the service/hospitality sector employment ranks and lift lines, you can bet the steady stream of newcomers and returners will continue.

Season pass sales this year were similar to last winter — and last winter was strong as ever — thanks to a loyal pass holder base. Whitewater owners Knee Deep Developments, who sunk $4 million into the mountain in 2017, are nevertheless keepin’ it real. Future plans include a comprehensive brushing campaign stretching ‘round through the old backside zone, which is currently out of bounds, and one day down the road according to the 2019 10-year master plan, a new lift to the Trash Chutes/Sherpa Ridge, plus a two-storey restaurant/bar and a few suites where the village yurt currently is.

X — As in X marks the spot. New spots. Kootenai Moon Bed and Bath is moving back to its Hall Street location and will reopen on Jan. 15. Book boss and culture vulture Stephen Fowler is moving Booksmyth into Kootenai Moon’s former store on Baker Street. No word when Booksmyth will re-open yet tho. The shop’s last day at its old location at 338 Baker was Dec. 31. Fowler is taking a holiday in addition to moving the store.

Y — Y’all. American interests have for decades had a vital hand in economic, social and cultural development within the West Kootenay, especially in the Slocan Valley. On that note … a California contingent recently came close to purchasing one of the most intriguing waterfront properties in the region — the Springer Creek Forest Products site in Slocan City, on the beautiful south end of Slocan Lake. According to realtor Susan McKenzie — born and raised in Slocan — there’s been a lot of interest in the 19-acre site, currently listed at $2.3 million.

Z — Zincton. Never heard of it? You will. The proposed micro mountain village and ski development between Kaslo and New Denver is slated to begin lift and infrastructure installation this summer, with plans to open in 2021. Located on the site of a mining ghost town, below London Ridge, the industry-leading, carbon-zero project is being led by David Hartley, founder of the Valhalla Pure Outfitters chain.

The project is for sure out-of-the-box, aiming for 85 percent human-powered backcountry skiing and ‘boarding, and only 1,000 acres of the resort’s terrain — roughly 15 percent — lift-serviced. Resort development veterans Brent Hartley and Associates have been hired to oversee the project.

The proposal comes at the same time nearby Retallack ski and mountain bike lodge is looking to expand. The Valley Voice is reporting that Retallack has applied for a 1,382 hectare expansion to its 4,400 hectare tenure. Called Retallack East, the parcel abuts the current tenure between New Denver and Kaslo. The expansion’s aim: “to provide additional ski terrain for guests, as ongoing climate changes, including changes to winter temperatures and precipitation levels, are creating challenging issues” for most other cat and heli operations.

Your thought for day … this one courtesy Nelson Mayor John Dooley. Don’t complain about the big pile of paperwork on your desktop or all those emails to get back to. That’s what you call job security.

Cheers and see you next month. Business tips or comments can be sent to

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here


KWC Mercantile owner Karen Hagen (right) and Gimel Holland have taken over the space previously home to Streetclothes Named Desire. Photo: Darren Davidson

Comments are closed

Just Posted

RDCK: spring flooding financial relief available

The provincial funds are for those affected by flooding in May and early June

Pamela Allain, Laura Gellatly join the Nelson Star

Allain oversees Black Press’s West Kootenay papers, while Gellatly is the Star’s new publisher

Pivot Point Learning Centre launches community classroom in Nelson

The classes are focused on students with diverse needs

School District 8: about 25% of students returned to schools last month

The number of students who participated in part-time classes was below the provincial average

Oyxgen Art Centre launches virtual exhibition of emerging artists

If I Can’t Dance To It, It’s Not My Revolution is on until Aug. 15

‘Mind boggling’: B.C. man $1 million richer after winning Lotto 6/49 a second time

David O’Brien hopes to use his winnings to travel and of course keep playing the lottery

White-throated sparrows have changed their tune, B.C. study unveils

Study marks an unprecedented development scientists say has caused them to sit up and take note

Lower Mainland teacher facing child pornography charges

Elazar Reshef, 52, has worked in the Delta School District

Man who rammed gate near Trudeau residence with truck faces multiple charges

The man, who police have not yet officially identified, will be charged with multiple offences

All community COVID-19 outbreaks declared over in B.C.

Abbotsford manufacturer cleared by Dr. Bonnie Henry

Kelowna RCMP commander calls for more nurses during wellness checks after complaint

Southeast District Commander wants to increase Police and Crisis Team program

‘Tarantula moth’ spotted in broad daylight on Vancouver Island

Polyphemus moths are one of the largest insects in B.C.

B.C. First Nations vow to keep fighting after Trans Mountain pipeline appeal denied

Squamish Nation, Tsleil-Waututh Nation and Coldwater Indian Band made the application

Most Read