Vendors face uncertainty after Symons Valley Ranch fire

More than 30 vendors have likely lost their small businesses in a massive blaze at Symons Valley Ranch. Regulars say finding another stall in the three remaining farmer’s market is unlikely.

Thursday’s fire engulfed the building at 144th Avenue N.W., home to a popular market since 2013

Mylene Latouche-Gauvin expects that her business at Symons Valley Ranch, called A Taste of Quebec, was destroyed in a massive fire on Thursday. She has a second location in the Calgary Farmers' Market, but not all the vendors have that advantage. (Dave Gilson)

More than 30 vendors have likely lost their small businesses in a massive blaze at Symons Valley Ranch.

Thursday's fire engulfed the building at Symons Valley Road and 144th Avenue N.W. where a popular farmers market has operated since 2013.

The blaze has likely destroyed the only year-round farmers market in north Calgary and regulars say finding another stall in the three remaining year-round, permanent farmers markets is unlikely.

At the Calgary Farmers' Market, Mylene Latouche-Gauvin worked the till at her business, A Taste of Quebec, on Thursday.

She hadn't visited Symons Valley Ranch, but expects her stall there is gone, meaning the loss of a job for an employee and the potential loss of the customer base she'd built in north Calgary, which will no longer have a year-round indoor farmers market.

"Honestly, my heart goes out to all the vendors and the owners of the market. I'm hoping this will be resolved fast, but obviously it takes a lot," she said.

Jo-Anne Wilson, owner of Herbal Healing, has stalls in a handful of farmers markets, including one in Symons Valley Ranch, which was likely destroyed in Thursday's fire. (Dave Gilson/CBC)

Latouche-Gauvin says while every vendor has insurance, she's worried about those who don't already have another place to sell their products, because finding a stall in the three remaining year-round farmers markets could be tough.

"Some of them only operate by themselves and that's their only store that they have," she said.

Symons Valley Ranch shared a list of alternative ways to buy from its vendors on its Facebook page, writing: "We are so thankful for all of the love and support we are getting. The best way to help is to please visit our vendors at their other locations to continue to support them."

Loss for neighbourhood

Jo-Anne Wilson, owner of Herbal Healing, says she is fortunate to have stalls in other farmers markets because she suspects she lost the one she had at Symons Valley Ranch.

"Some vendors up there, that was their kitchen, their only kitchen and their only place of business and their livelihood," she said. "So very devastating."

Some farmers market regulars said the loss of the Symons Valley Ranch may also be hard on those living nearby.

"That community sense at a farmers market is lost for people in that neighbourhood in particular," said Lindsay Papuga.

"You know a lot of people up there loved that accessibility of something that close," added Mike Will.

Firefighters searching for answers

Calgary fire crews were cautiously making their way into the rubble of the Symons Valley Ranch on Friday morning, alongside heavy machinery.

A firefighter sprays water on the fire that heavily damaged the Symons Valley Ranch in northwest Calgary. (Monty Kruger/CBC)

"They need to be safe and they don't know the extent of the damage to the floor," said spokeswoman Carole Henke.

"My understanding is there is a basement and so obviously they don't want to step into something where they're going to be put in danger. But they do need to get as close to the origin of the fire as possible so that they can start determining what caused the fire."

Henke says they are keeping a crew on scene with a hose in case hot spots flare up.

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