Despite pandemic, hundreds apply for business licenses on Vancouver Island

Despite pandemic, hundreds apply for business licenses on Vancouver Island

It’s just 49 square feet of prime retail space in the 500-block of Victoria’s Lower Johnson Street.

That may sound small, but Taylor Warnes, owner of the business, Cultured Swine Barbershop, it’s just right.

“It’s not something I thought about when I was opening,” Warnes, said. “But it is very friendly during COVID. Because there are only two people, right?”

Warnes opened her doors, or rather, door for business on Aug. 17, in the middle of a global pandemic. She wanted to get into business for herself and saw an opportunity.

“I guess I decided now because there was available real estate. So I was looking online and I noticed there was a lot more things open.”

With a number of storefronts empty, the result of businesses closing or relocating, it can be timing that pays off.

As it did for Michael Rodgers, the owner of the stationery shop, The Papery.

“Fantastic. Wonderful,” he said.

Rodgers stands in the middle of The Papery’s new store, opened just three weeks ago. Business is booming.  “This is 3.5 [times] larger than our old space. but when I saw it I just, my wife and I came and had a look, and we just decided that we could make a go of it.”

That means 20 customers at a time instead of four allowed in their old space.

Despite the pandemic, business owners feel optimistic, according to Jeff Bray, executive director of the Downtown Victoria Business Association.

“Entrepreneurs are by nature, risk-takers. And they are resilient. They don’t mind working eighty hours a week.   And so it does speak to the structural strengths we have in Victoria.”

According to the City of Victoria, 575 first time business owners applied for a license from June 1 to Nov. 26, about the same number as last year. In Saanich, the number of licenses is up by 400. And there were 234 applications for home-based businesses in Nanaimo.

“We’re seeing a lot of that activity across all sectors. So that’s really exciting, is that it’s not just not restaurants. It’s retail. It’s really is across the board,” Bray said.

And heading into the Christmas season, these business owners are hoping for a merry season.

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Mary GriffinMary Griffin

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