“People probably think I’m crazy to be opening a new business during a pandemic,” said Sharon Hickin, general manager of the new Lake House Diner and Days Inn Sylvan Lake.
Over the past seven months numerous new businesses have opened in Sylvan Lake, despite the pandemic closing the doors of many others.
Even though a pandemic may not seem like the best time to start a new venture, Bryan Lang, owner of Forge – Games and Hobbies, says with most new businesses, like his, you don’t have a choice but to open anyway.
“So much planning goes into opening a new store… To decide to wait until the pandemic is over would cost more than opening now,” Lang said.
However when the pandemic hit back in March, Lang said he didn’t alter his course and maintained his plan to open his shop in September.
He said he, like everyone else, expected the pandemic to be over by the summer and then life would go on like normal.
Opening a new business comes with many hurdles and difficulties, during a pandemic extra hurdles are put into place.
For both Lang and Hickin the most difficult hurdle to overcome is dealing with other businesses, such as suppliers and distributers, especially when those businesses are working reduced hours or from home.
Hickin says it takes longer to get anything done.
“With reduced hours and working from home it will take people days to get back to me on almost anything,” Hickin said.
Lang said his major hurdle has been working with his distributers, and the ongoing delays on shipments.
The shipment delays are only exasperated when expecting a shipment for a major game launch.
“I understand that they are dealing with the pandemic just the same as everyone else, but when I tell my customers that a product is coming in on Friday but I don’t actually get it until maybe the next week, that hurts my reputation,” said Lang.
Shipment delays kept the shop from opening on time, and pushed opening day back by about two weeks.
The biggest fear related to opening a business during a pandemic is for it to be traced back to an outbreak.
Both Hickin and Lang say they are doing everything in their power to keep potential spread of the virus to an absolute minimum, but the concern is always there, especially in places where people gather.
Hickin decided to move at a slow pace when opening the new restaurant. She said ensuring social distancing and having a smaller menu to begin with will help.
“We are doing everything we can. We are doing everything according to the rules, so we just have to hope for the best,” Hickin said.
Having a contingency plan in place is also important when opening a new business, especially during a pandemic.
If restaurants are forced to close again, Hickin said they will look at their options avialable and offer take out kits or menus if possible.
Lang said the safety of his customers and their family is important and will do everything in his power to ensure they are safe and healthy.
“I have hand sanitizer available, our gaming tables have plastic table cloths over them for easy cleaning, and when playing with miniatures the only person able to handle them is the owner,” Lang said.
On the positive side, the pandemic has reshaped how many people think when it comes to shopping.
While online shopping has increased during the last seven months, so has the drive to shop locally.
Lang hopes the increased shop local drive will benefit the new businesses that have opened and those that will open in the future.
“I may not have locally produced products, as I am a game shop, but I am a local business owner, who needs the support of the community all the same,” he said.
Ultimately, when it comes to opening a new business, in a pandemic or otherwise, one needs to be optimistic.
“You just have to be positive and hope for the best,” said Hickin.