Bragg Creek store closure hits struggling business community southwest of Calgary
Many Bragg Creek businesses say tourism never fully rebounded after the 2013 flood
The closure of another business in the hard-hit community of Bragg Creek has residents wondering how they will keep their hamlet southwest of Calgary vital and thriving.
"With huge mixed emotions I have decided to close my store at the end of February," Suzanne Thibodeau, owner of Creekside Home and Garden Essentials, announced in a post on the store's Facebook page.
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"I just have seen such a drastic drop in new customers in the past 12 months, I am no longer able to sustain the costs," Thibodeau added, after four years in business in the tourism-dependent hamlet.
The announcement did not come as a surprise to residents.
"Rents are high, traffic through the week is really low — so a lot of weekend warriors — and then pair that with the flood, I don't think we fully recovered, and I think it looks like a war zone," said Sarita Stanier who lives near Bragg Creek.
Some key businesses in the hamlet were casualties of the floods in 2013 and in such a small market those closures have affected other retailers.
"You have less diversity in the hamlet, you have less attractions [so] there's still a lot of traffic, but mostly people are … going skiing and hiking and biking, rather than stopping over in the local businesses," said Beata Pankiw, .
Adaptation is key
Mark Kamachi, vice-president of the local Chamber of Commerce says a five-figure rebranding of Bragg Creek has identified outdoor users as a target market, but more needs to be done by retailers.
"We as businesses and service providers have to find ways to get them to stop and have a coffee, buy clothing, buy some souvenirs, and help our businesses," Kamachi said.
He thinks retailers have to understand the needs of niche groups that use Bragg Creek to better serve them.
"There are businesses like bike shops and coffee shops and retailers that are bringing in clothing that is different from what we usually see, so again, adaptation is the way to grow here."
With files from the CBC’s Mike Symington