‘It takes a pandemic to knock us down’: Local BC favorites lost to COVID

After closing two of her beloved stores last year, Kristina Egypt avoided walking past her empty East Vancouver store.

“I am heartbroken,” said LaLa’s owner.

“LaLa is truly a part of me.”

Click to play video: 'Longtime Nanaimo business succumbs to pandemic and online shopping'

The perennial Nanaimo business succumbs to the pandemic and shop online

The perennial Nanaimo business succumbs to the pandemic and shop online – October 29, 2021

Egypt founded LaLa in 1996. The idea was successful until COVID-19. Egypt turned to online sales – generating cash flow but no revenue – before accepting that the pandemic did not support her gift shop’s business strategy.

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“LaLa’s is built on a foundation of casual and fun socialization inside a brick and mortar store,” Egypt told Global News.

“And that model, as far as I know, will be on hiatus for at least three years, if not more.”

Kristina Egypt at her LaLa gift shop on Commercial Drive in East Vancouver.

Instagram: lalas_ca

It was a gamble she was not willing to take with her personal fortune.

Egypted moved as much inventory as possible in the summer of 2020 — before the closure of its Deep Cove and Commercial Drive locations — at a time when she should have been celebrating nearly 25 years in business.

“I could feel that leaving those communities would leave a hole in those communities and that was hard for me,” recalls Egypt.

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A business owner in Nanaimo faced a similar dilemma.

“We’re the victims of this,” said Pattie Walker as she prepared for her last Halloween at her popular Nanaimo store.

The pandemic is the final blow to Pattie’s Party Palace.

After nearly 23 years of selling costumes year-round, Walker will close on November 20 with one last party.

She told Global News on October 29: “We are completely event-based, so the business losing all events is very bad for the business.

Sites like Amazon are siphoning off sales as COVID-19 draws more online shoppers and halts celebrations.

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New survey reveals COVID-19 costs for BC . businesses

New survey reveals COVID-19 costs for BC businesses – January 19, 2021

“As a small independent company, you can’t compete,” says Walker.

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At least 84 street-level properties have closed in downtown Vancouver since the start of 2020, according to DVBIA’s May 2021 Downtown State report.

45% of them are independent shops or restaurants.

Business owner Brendan Ladner said: “Having to fire everyone, it hurts.

“It’s a really, really hard thing to do.”

In October, Ladner was forced to lay off 17 employees when he closed a trio of quick-service restaurants in downtown Vancouver.

“It’s all we’ve built, and we’ve worked hard and done a lot,” he told Global News.

The exterior of SMAK on the West Pender prior to opening in May 2013.

SMAK Healthy fast food

Ladner opened his first SMAK in 2013 – on West Pender Street in the city’s financial district.

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His healthy eating of fast food serving locally sourced produce in compostable packaging has quickly become a fan favorite.

Followed by two locations on Granville Road and Howe Street.

“It took a pandemic to knock us down. You know, you’re growing and then the pandemic hits,” Ladner added.

He is optimistic that things will change until this past September’s sales were slower than in 2020.

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“People aren’t going back to the office and they probably won’t be back for a long time,” said Ladner, who has since moved to Whistler.

“When you take all the customers away, you’re left with a business model that doesn’t really work anymore.”

With more losses expected, Egypt says supporting local and independent BC businesses is now more important than ever.

“This will be an important season for those who have been struggling for the past 18 months,” she told Global News.

“Show them some love.”

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© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.


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