Jillian Rutherford and Andrew Hayden - owners of the Fernie Distillers. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Jillian Rutherford and Andrew Hayden - owners of the Fernie Distillers. (Scott Tibballs / The Free Press)

Shopping local more important than ever

Spending dollars in the Elk Valley keeps businesses open and workers employed

With travel advisories, bans on gatherings and indoor sports given the axe (for now), communities around British Columbia are looking inward to support local businesses and each other.

Brad Parsell of the Fernie Chamber of Commerce says that with the new orders, “we need to triple down on shop local.”

For every $100 spent at locally-owned businesses, $63 is re-circulated back through the local economy compared with only $14 for multinational companies.

Owners of local business Fernie Distillers, Andrew Hayden and Jillian Rutherford said that it was more than just dollars.

”I think its probably the most important time to support local businesses now because of what we’re all going through,” said Hayden.

“Trying to support your neighbour and help your neighbour is even stronger today,” he said, explaining that locals can find almost everything they need here in the Elk Valley.

“Yes there’s sacrifices because (local stores) can’t stock everything that everyone wants, but I think its important to make sure we’re all helping each other out on a really macro level.”

Rutherford said it was about keeping locals at work.

“I feel by keeping the money local you’re keeping more of your community employed.”

While Fernie Distillers was able to pivot during the pandemic and make hand sanitizer for a time before returning to traditional operations, Rutherford said that despite all the hardship, all of Fernie had an opportunity to come out ahead.

“Fernie has the opportunity to come out the other side of the pandemic in pretty decent shape if we keep supporting each other.”

Louise Ferguson of the Arts Station said that the danger to local businesses and artists was dire.

“Obviously everyone’s been hit hard during this period, but artists have really been hit very hard. Because of all the restrictions in place, a lot of them can’t do what they would traditionally do to sell their work,” she said, given that arts fairs had all been cancelled.

“Local artists also support the community – our organization provides opportunities for kids to learn new skills and come to workshops, and the artists are the ones that are making that happen, so we want to make sure that they are being supported during this time and when we can get back to a bit more of a normal, they’ll still be there. If they can’t continue to create then they might not survive this period and we’re going to be seeing a lot less creativity in our community.”

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