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Buy-local attitude drives optimism among Whistler businesses

CFIB says BC businesses most optimistic in Canada

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Even though it's the first week of August, the doors to Prior Snowboards and Skis are open wide and the Prior crew is hard at work on projects in varying stages of completion.

"In summer we build all the retailer stuff, so we're pretty busy with that," said Emilie de Crombrugghe, general manager at Prior.

"We definitely have (fewer) customers ordering their private orders; however, we still have some every day... we're busy year-round."

Even in summer, it would seem business is good — but Prior isn't the only small-business feeling the optimism.

A survey recently released by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) shows that entrepreneurs in British Columbia are the most confident in Canada for the third month in a row.

"(It's) obviously great news for our economy and our communities if our entrepreneurs are feeling optimistic about the future," said Richard Truscott, provincial director with the CFIB.

The optimism is driven in part by government stability following the last provincial election, Truscott said.

"Regardless of which party was elected, I think business people — like a lot of British Columbians — were really looking just to get a little bit more stability in the environment, some confidence that they could move forward," he said.

And stability is the name of the game for Prior, going strong since 1990 with a 25th anniversary right around the corner.

An emphasis on quality, custom-made products and customer service has meant prolonged success for the homegrown company.

"People call us saying, you know, 'I've been riding for 40 years and I've never got the exact board I wanted,'" de Crombrugghe said.

"And we can make that for them. That's really special."

The company has also benefited from the recent resurgence of the "buy local" attitude.

"I feel like people are more and more trying to reconnect to what they own, and what they eat and what they do," de Crombrugghe said.

That emphasis on reconnecting has been beneficial to Whistler businesses of all sorts.

"It's really an advantage to any small business," said Mark Lamming, co-owner of Whistler-based bakery Purebread.

"People are looking to connect a little bit more with the producer of the product they're buying."

Considering the circumstances — the November 2013 fire that forced Purebread from its Village location — optimism is high at the bakery.

"With all the trials and tribulations we've been through over the past eight months or so, the winter was very strong for us," Lamming said.

"As of now we're focused on our store in Function, and we've actually just started construction on a location in Vancouver which we hope to open in October."

One of the biggest challenges facing the bakery is the same one currently afflicting many other Whistler businesses — the need for staff.

"Every employer I talk to in town is struggling (with staff) right now," Lamming said, citing the recent changes made to the federal Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

"If you don't have the employees, it doesn't matter how strong the customers are and how strong the economy is," Lamming said. "

You can easily just fall down if you don't have that workforce availability."

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