In quick response to last week’s unprecedented province-wide health order, the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce distributed over 150 posters aimed at reminding residents to wear masks while in businesses and public buildings, and to Think Local. L-R: The Chamber’s Val Yowek, Denise McInnes and executive director Tom Thomson, mask up and buckle down. Photo: Darren Davidson

In quick response to last week’s unprecedented province-wide health order, the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce distributed over 150 posters aimed at reminding residents to wear masks while in businesses and public buildings, and to Think Local. L-R: The Chamber’s Val Yowek, Denise McInnes and executive director Tom Thomson, mask up and buckle down. Photo: Darren Davidson

BUSINESS BUZZ: Stay calm and shop on, Snowwater sells Valhalla, Grey Owl gives ‘er

Columnist Darren Davidson on the latest happenings in business

by Darren Davidson

As the province moves into a second lockdown, Nelson business owners and community leaders alike are reminding us all to take a deep breath, use our COVID safety savvy and keep shopping local.

A few weeks ago, the City of Nelson staff made masks mandatory in municipal buildings. Smart move. The mandate was the extent of the City’s jurisdiction — they couldn’t tell the business community to do the same. But, a number of businesses noticed, and started to do the same, with made-in-house mask requests popping up on front doors and windows within days at places like the Kootenay Co-op, Valhalla Pure, Tribute and Baker Street Menswear.

Last Friday, the Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce and Nelson and Area Economic Development Partnership rolled out 150 ‘Wearing Is Caring’ posters within a day of the province’s public health order. Most were gone within 24 hours. (There’s a new press run at the Visitors Information Centre in Railtown.) Watch for the Chamber’s upcoming campaign aimed at promoting the importance of local support for not only businesses but cultural, art and non-profit agencies too — and a reiteration of the sensibility of wearing masks indoors.

“The No. 1 thing to remember,” adds Nelson Kootenay Lake Tourism Executive Director Dianna Ducs, “is to stay calm — and that this isn’t forever.”

Ducs says there is cautious optimism the winter tourism season could be better than expected, as was the summer.

“When I walk around downtown, I see people being kind to one another, staying safe and being patient with those who may not be wearing masks all the time. It’s important not to judge and to be understanding.”

***

Some sage advice regarding online shopping, as we head into the Christmas season, from 20-year Baker Street business veteran Sam Baio, owner of Valhalla Pure.

“Watch out for Amazon,” Baio warns, noting that once you start buying from the online colossus, the algorithms that now drive internet shopping habit surveillance — and everything else — will begin to solicit your business with instant and expert understanding of your likes and shopping trends. Spend that money locally, folks. The community is depending on it. More than ever.

***

On that note, congrats to the teachers at Trafalgar School for sitting some of their students down for a screening and discussion of The Social Dilemma. It might be the most important documentary of our time.

***

In other business news… congrats to Ben Greschner and his new company Grey Owl Moving Services. The 25 year old and his trusty sidekick George The Dog started business last year with a used truck and some how-to from the Community Futures Self Employment Program.

Grey Owl is niche, focusing on small scale moves, waste removal and delivery.

But this summer, Ben and his used truck collided with an elk, totalling the 1/2 tonne. That gave him an opportunity to lease a big new rig that helped him up Grey Owl’s game.

“Within two years I’d like to have another truck and teams of two employees per truck doing jobs,” says the young go-getter. “I’m proud to be able to offer a great service in high demand for people around here as it allows me to meet awesome folks and help them out. It’s been a crazy journey the past year but I am so grateful for all of it.”

***

To the cultural front lines, and ticket lines, quickly — good luck to Eva McKimm, who’s decided to see what else is out there, after 15 years with the Capitol Theatre.

***

On the construction front. Nelson’s Urban Systems office, Kays Contracting and Trail’s Hiltech Contracting completed a visionary City of Nelson project this year. The City completed a 2.2-kilometre, 16-inch water line to transport water from Selous Creek all the top of Stanley Street to its reservoir at Mountain Station, to mitigate future drought, climate change, wildfires and water contamination. There’ll be a similar project next year from Fell and Anderson Creeks.

***

The owners of Snowwater Heli-Skiing and Boarding, Patric Maloney, Maria Grant and Chris Beresford have sold Valhalla Powdercats to the Baldface Lodge ownership group.

Baldface CEO Jeff Penseiro credits his GM Simon Hanbury and Snowwater Heliskiing Inc. GM Ben Whitton for their hard work in putting the deal together.

In addition to the 32,000 acre tenure Baldface already manages, they’ll now run VPC and its 21,000 acres in the Koch Creek drainage, with plans to build a lodge in the beautiful Slocan Valley parcel over the next few years. Baldface, which is closed for the season, will start bookings for Valhalla Powdercat guests Dec. 1. Snowwater is taking bookings too, and will be hosting Canadian guests on the operation’s 22-acre boutique and off-grid micro-village west of the city.

***

There’s an interesting backstory to Valhalla… the business was started in 1999/2000 by Eastern U.S. businessman Lindsay Hoyt and local guide Martin Keyserlingk. The pair single handedly built the tenure and all its infrastructure in the Airy Creek/Russell Creek drainage. But snowmobilers and backcountry users in the Slocan Valley were concerned they’d be losing a beloved playground. So, in an act of great community stewardship, Hoyt and Keyserlingk went back to the drawing board, applied for a new tenure and rebuilt again in the Koch Creek drainage. Everyone was happy. The business was later sold to Maloney and his team. Keyserlingk is now Chair of the School of Hospitality and Tourism at Selkirk College.

***

There’s an insightful story on the struggles BC’s cat and heli ops are facing this season, in the latest issue of BC Business.

Also — local lumberman Chris Kalesnikoff and the family’s 81-year old business, Kalesnikoff Lumber, are amongst three independent forestry companies noted in another BCB article, entitled “Against The Grain,” which chronicles the success of visionary small producers bucking the tough times that much of the province’s forest industry is grappling with. Speaking to the company’s $35-million investment in a mass timber plant last summer, Kalesnikoff says: “We recognized we needed to do more with our timber supply, and value-added is in our blood.”

That’s it for this month everyone. Keep on keeping on.

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