The Wrecking Crew — Cory Scanlon and the longtime team at Western Auto Wrecking. The business celebrated 50 years in operation last week. Not pictured: Clint Scanlon. Photo: Darren Davidson

BUSINESS BUZZ: Visitors versus the virus, Western Auto celebrates a half century, Lytle does a lot

Darren Davidson’s monthly column about business in Nelson

By Darren Davidson

They’re here.

Tourists. Lots of them.

And while this is normally the time of year when Nelson needs and welcomes them with open arms, doorways and wilderness, 2020 is of course a year like no other.

The mid-COVID-19 crowds have been a main topic of conversation around the businesses and backyards of Nelson these past few weeks. How much is too much? Are we being safe? Do we need to turn a blind eye to make up for severe economic loss now, and perhaps again? And what’s with the U.S. licence plates?

City Hall and the Chamber of Commerce have some thoughts worth sharing.

“We want our visitors back, and we need to get back on our feet after the first phase of COVID,” says Mayor John Dooley, “but we don’t want to get shut down.”

“People have to be thinking in terms of sound health protocols,” the mayor adds, “because it’s virtually impossible for businesses to watch everyone in their premises. The general public will play a major role in helping us through this, and we all need to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.”

The solution? Stick to the basics. We all know the drill.

“There’s an onus on people to make sure they continue to follow social distancing protocols, wash their hands, and take care of one another. You can have signs in businesses asking people to hand wash and social distance — but that’s only as good as the customer who walks through the door.”

Chamber Executive Director Tom Thomson agrees — Nelson and the many cities and economies opening back up after a terrible couple months, are indeed walking a fine line.

“There’s still a segment of the local community that are concerned with the added activity and complacent social distancing. We can not afford to get complacent, especially with our retail and dining operations. Our businesses are in a very precarious position and could close permanently with a failed or partial restart.”

Another wall-to-wall closure due to a summertime COVID wave could spell the end for some businesses. “It’s hard enough with reduced capacity to turn a profit,” Thomson notes, “even those days that look busy.”

The Chamber boss says everyone’s support of all local venues is more important than ever — that includes arts and culture, food banks, charitable organizations, non-profits, personal services businesses and of course all the traditional brick and mortar stores and restaurants.

***

Beyond the noticeable crowds coming to visit, many are evidently planning to stay or move back. Kootenay Association of Realtors monthly figures show upwards trends since COVID-19’s initial disruption at the end of March. June real estate sales numbers are better than June 2019. Sales are up 20 per cent over this time last year — throughout the Kootenays. The price of an average house is up about nine per cent. Listings are down about 2.4 per cent.

The local construction industry is buzzing. There are three affordable housing projects underway. Single family home builds are steady in town and through the city and regional district. All good news for local building trades, sub-contractors and building supply stores.

***

It’s been a half century of pushing, pulling, dragging and scrappin’ out at Western Auto Wreckers and Towing. Cory Scanlon, his father Clint and staff — some who’ve been aboard for 25 years — celebrated 50 years in business last week. Cory left the logging business to take over the 14-acre Granite Road operation from Clint, who in turn stepped in after his father, Grandad Oscar Scanlon started things up in 1970. Cory’s 22-year-old son Braeden is now learning the ropes. Aside from towing and wrecking pretty much anything, Western has made a great name for themselves with heaps of donated support for kids sports, charities and the fire department’s Jaws Of Life program.

***

Here’s a sticker worth stuckin’ somewhere important. Tom Atkins and the fine folks at the Nelson and District Credit Union are encouraging NDCU small business members to post their new Embrace Local decals on storefront windows, work vehicles or wherever they feel NDCU and community members can see it. The message is clear: Shop, Eat, Stay, Bank, Embrace Local. Consider this: Locally owned businesses create 4.6-times more economic impact than other venues, like chains and franchises, and recirculate $63 out of every $100 back into the local economy.

***

Local designer Nichola Lytle and her startup site ThingsMyKidsDo.com is one of 27 companies to advance in the next round of the New Ventures BC Competition hosted by Innovate BC. Two hundred proposed start ups were in the running. The site is a free digital platform that helps busy parents find and manage their kid’s activities, by notifying parents about upcoming events and activities that match their kids’ interests. The competition awards $275,000 in capital and in-kind business services to the most promising startups in one of North America’s largest business technology competitions.

***

Lastly but sure not least, sincere congrats to Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine. The beloved publication — in business for 20 years now — somehow managed to get a hybrid issue out for the summer, despite the global meltdown. Find the new issue at your nearest outdoor shop. The edition is a compilation of fresh tales and photos from KMC and its now departed partner-publication Coast Mountain Culture, which has folded its tent after 10 years, due to the pandemic. You can, quite literally, raise a pint to the hometown magazine either way. KMC has joined forces with the Nelson Brewing Company and owners Kate and Matt Walker, on Spruce Tip Ale, available at your nearest beer store.

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Cory Scanlon and his dad Clint are part of a family-owned business that was started by Clint’s father Oscar. Photo submitted

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