We’ve all seen the price tags attached to major projects in B.C.’s northwest.
It isn’t a myth that work on a number of those projects has started, and that optimistic forecasts show more plans could materialize too.
But when big industry and the big money behind it start making local headlines, it isn’t easy to gauge how many of those dollars will flow into local coffers.
While many eyes have focussed on the overhaul of the Skeena Mall under new owners and the arrival of new tenants, there’s activity elsewhere.
That’s one of the reasons Terrace and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Carol Fielding says she sees a trend of cautiousness among local business owners in the service and retail sectors when it comes to growing and expanding.
“There’s a consumer confidence that’s reflecting into our retail market,” said Fielding, adding from what she’s seen local retailers haven’t responded to it with full force just yet.
“I think they’re stepping up as much as they can without overdosing on it to determine whether this is a short spurt that’s going to die down after the summer months.
Whether there’s actually a boost in the steady economy.”
With that said, an increase in consumer confidence means an increase in sales.
And a look at booked-up hotel rooms in town means there are more people here, with jobs, who are spending, she said.
“Everybody is still trying to determine what that dynamic is,” said Fielding. “Long-term, I think businesses will react when they start to realize that we’ve got bigger stores coming to town.”
With that said, there are some local retailers in Terrace that are spending now to position themselves for the future.
Kondolas Furniture owner Ben Kandola says he is optimistic about the local economy doing well for the long-term, and has recently decided to build a 53,000 square foot new location on Terrace’s Southside for his business.
“We see a good long-term future in Terrace and we see that Terrace has really become a hub for the northwest,” he said. “That really plays a big part for sure.”
While there are a couple of checkmarks left on the approval list before the project is a go, the new location, immediately east of Tim Hortons on Keith Ave., will be the biggest of the four Kondolas Furniture locations in B.C.
The property is bounded to the north by Keith Ave. and sidewalks will be put there.
Kandola kept mum about the estimated project cost.
But plans include a two-storey structure with high ceilings, two separate retail units opening onto Keith Ave., a parking lot and sidewalks.
South Kalum St., marking the western edge of the property will be widened and a sidewalk will run along Feeney St. as part of an earlier commitment tied to the development.
The current Kondolas location on Laklese Ave. is 26,000 square feet and would be rented out after the move to the Southside. If plans materialize, the shovel is slated to hit the ground in 2013.
Kandola bought the Southside property in 2007 but wasn’t sure what to do with it until this year.
“It was just a good piece of property so we bought it in 2007 not quite knowing what we’re doing with it,” he said, noting that activity in the area sparked the idea to build.
And since Kandola and his family have been living in Terrace for about four decades, he said expanding in the northwest was a no-brainer.
“We love Terrace so that’s a big thing. That influences the decision quite a bit,” said Kandola.
Kondolas is not the only locally-owned business that’s changing with the market here.
optician Irwin Jeffrey and his wife Nancy Almedia Jeffrey have run Northern Eyes Optical on Lazelle Ave. since 1998.
“We heard stories of people who were waiting six months [to see an optometrist],” said Jeffrey, explaining that years ago it was hard to convince doctors from elsewhere to make the trip to Terrace and keep up with demand for appointments through his business.
In 2009, he started a petition, gathering about 150 signatures from local residents to be used in efforts to bring optometrists here.
That goal was in line with the decision to sell Northern Eyes Optical to B.C. company Omni Eyes and Vision, owned by Dr. Amit Mathur who grew up in Kitimat B.C.
Mathur is an optometrist who lectures about health and vision at universities internationally on behalf of pharmaceutical companies.
He and two other optometrists will take turns coming to Terrace as needed.
The business has been renamed Northern Eyes Optometry.
The 37-year-old father owns 14 clinics and eyewear locations across B.C., and says he’s always wanted to bring his business back to the northwest since he left to further his education after graduating from Mount Elizabeth Secondary School in 1993.
“I knew I was going to come back and do stuff up here,” he said, adding there’s a good economic recipe for success here right now.
“The population is going to grow. There’s going to be a need,” he said.
A new name also means a new location, in the old Terrace and District Credit Union building on Lazelle Ave.
The sale also means Jeffrey, who is still working there, will get to enjoy a long-awaited lifestyle change.
“I’ve been doing this myself with my wife and we’ve had a third employee,” said Jeffrey. “One of the things that I’m looking forward to the most is taking some time off.”
Terrace local Kevin Kennedy can usually be seen spending his time off either on or near the hockey rink.
Hockey is just one of the ways through which he likes to engage with the community of Terrace where he was born and raised.
And along with Terrace Totem Ford business partners Mitch Shinde and Shane De Jong, Kennedy will be spending half a million dollars renovating Terrace’s Ford dealership location on Keith Ave.
“It doesn’t have to be done, but I think the timing is right to do it,” said Kennedy. “It just makes sense to do it now. there’s a lot of excitement in town.”
Plans for renovating include a new showroom, new customer lounge, a new entrance tower with updated branding, landscaping, and curbing along the sidewalk out front.
The business, like many in Terrace, went through the down times in the 1990s and into the last decade with the collapse of the forest industry.
In 1994, there were 34 people on payroll. Now, there’s more than 100 and more positions will need to be filled soon, said Kennedy.
“We’re going to need more technicians, parts people, bodymen and painters,” he said, adding two additional full-time accounting positions will be needed as well.
Terrace Totem Ford has also looked south at Kitimat and in May of this year, purchased the Snow Valley Ford Dealership there.
Next week a look at business in Thornhill.