Heads and tales: Nelson’s Lillie and Cohoe celebrated its 30th year in business earlier this month. The label launched in 1991 and has grown to include a staff made up of — clockwise from back corner, far left — Sharon Batcheller, Sandra York, Dia Doornberg, Anna Pokorny, Liz Cohoe, Maureen Snow, and not included in the photo, but a big part of the team nonetheless — Maria Patkora and Brandy Dick. Photo: Darren Davidson

Heads and tales: Nelson’s Lillie and Cohoe celebrated its 30th year in business earlier this month. The label launched in 1991 and has grown to include a staff made up of — clockwise from back corner, far left — Sharon Batcheller, Sandra York, Dia Doornberg, Anna Pokorny, Liz Cohoe, Maureen Snow, and not included in the photo, but a big part of the team nonetheless — Maria Patkora and Brandy Dick. Photo: Darren Davidson

BUSINESS BUZZ: Mungall joins heavy hitters, Baker backpack business tightens the belt

Darren Davidson writes about all the latest in local business news

by Darren Davidson

The Buzz starts off with news from the high-octane intersection of public affairs and politics.

Former Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall has a new gig, in addition to her role as mom-of-two. Mungall has been hired on as an advisor with GT and Company. Located on Toronto’s Bay Street, the firm was founded in 2013 by two veteran campaigners and strategists, Don Guy and Brian Topp, the latter of whom was a close advisor to late federal NDP leader Jack Layton, former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow and past-but-maybe-next Alberta premier Rachel Notley.

Mungall, the region’s MLA for 12 years, joins a network of consultants across Canada from Liberal, Conservative, BQ, New Democrat and Green folds.

“They’re an amazing group,” says Mungall, “I’m so honoured to be a part of the team, they’re some of the most experienced public affairs talents in the nation.”

The company’s roster is impressive for sure. Principal Laryssa Waler oversaw Pope Francis’ Canadian Tour. Steve Verheul was a top negotiator for several of Canada’s international trade agreements, including the most recent NAFTA negotiations, in 2018, with the Trump administration.

Mungall has a full plate as of late. She’s also in the midst of writing a book about her simultaneous experience as a new mom and minister in B.C.’s NDP minority government. She was the first MLA to bring her baby onto the floor of the legislature. The book’s working title? Minister Mom.

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Speaking of Ottawa… Small business communities across the land and academic institutions like Selkirk College are cheering the federal government’s decision to increase the number of hours international students can work, from 20 hours a week to 40.

“That’s huge,” says Chamber boss Tom Thompson. “That’ll really help local employers find the workers they need as of late. And the students really like it, because they can earn more wages.”

The new rules are in place for a year, starting on Nov. 15.

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With our extended summer having flipped to almost winter, Whitewater is ramping up.

The mountain has made some moves on the managerial front. In preparation for the resort’s next chapter, long time general manager Kirk Jensen, a stalwart staffer and shredder at the hill since 1993, moves to vice president of development. Rebeckah Hornung and Colby Lehman will split the expanded GM role. Hornung is now GM of guest experiences. Lehman is now GM of mountain operations.

The forecast says the mountain could get a metre of snow before Halloween.

Kootenay Savings Credit Union is meanwhile financing a $45-million residential project at the base of Red Mountain. The Crescent at Red will offer studios, one-bedrooms and lofts — 102 units in all, making the development one of the West Kootenay’s largest housing projects ever. Howard Katkov, who’s been the CEO and chairman of Red for almost 20 years now, says the project will take about 28 months to complete.

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Kudos to all the cats under the hats at local artisan outfit Lillie and Cohoe.

An extraordinary built-in-Nelson culture-and-couture success story, the hat-making business marked its 30th year on the block with a big bash earlier this month. Lamourah Perron and Liz Cohoe launched the brand in 1991. Cohoe took on sole proprietorship in 2004. The 2,000 square foot shop and its seven designers, stitchers and sales/marketing staff now sell to over 80 shops throughout Canada and the U.S.

The Lillie and Cohoe celebration was also a promotion of the Economusée/Artisans at Work Network.

An economuseum, or économusée, is “small-scale production of goods in a workshop environment focusing on the preservation and perpetuation of traditional skills and craftsmanship.”

The idea being that artisans open their workshops to the public, so they can share their passions and skills, and sell products right out the front door. Canada’s Economusée network is huge in Quebec (as well as nations including Denmark and Norway). The network has since spread across Canada, into B.C., and includes three Nelson businesses — Lillie and Cohoe, Kootenay Bakery Café Co-op and D.E. Walters eARTh Studios.

The Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce has devoted a portion of its Visitor Information Centre to the local Economusée effort. There’s a Nelson’s Artisans at Work contest underway right now in fact — you can win $700 in prizes and an exclusive tour of the Nelson Economusé circuit. Stop by any of the local shops to get your, well, name in the hat.

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Scott Matson is an entrepreneurial fella who’s been ahead of the artisans-at-work curve. In the spring of 2021, Matson opened a Baker Street storefront and micro-manufacturing space for his company Northern Ultralight, which makes super-light backpacks. The aim? To increase brand awareness, boost production capacity and shorten turnaround time.

The business has seen rapid growth in two years and its payroll went from two to five. NUL is able to make its products available with almost zero lead time now. But, like a lot of business owners across the country, Matson is reading the economic headwinds well, and has decided to tighten the Northern Ultralight belt, close the Baker Street shop and relocate until inflation, supply chain and interest rates blow over.

“The storefront has been a great asset to help grow local awareness,” says Matson, adding that the state of the global economy “doesn’t necessarily contribute to the friendliest business environment.”

In the meantime, the NUL team will be working on a lightweight ski touring backpack and selling its wares on-line at northernultralight.com.

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Congrats to Laura Price and Erin Dooley.

Nine years after opening Scout Clothing, Price has sold the Ward Street business to Dooley, who’s been her partner, buyer and merchandiser right from the get go.

“It was a natural progression and everything fell into place at the right time,” says Dooley, adding that business has grown a tonne, thanks to great local support but also strong online presence. Scout carries clothing lines from labels based in Denmark and Los Angeles, plus local skin care products.

The boutique will be hosting its annual fashion show Nov. 12.

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How’s your business doing anyway? The BC Chamber of Commerce wants you to take a few minutes to chime in on the largest economic snapshot of B.C.’s business climate, the Collective Perspective. Click on bcmindreader.com up until Nov. 29.

If you’re looking to end October with a business-after-business bang, Nelson Chamber members and everyone else are invited to come on down for a beer and a bite at Devitos Shoes this Thursday, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. — hand out a few high fives, talk some shop and sure, take your Halloween costume for a test drive.

Scary. See you in November.