Small business around the world – Western Canada

by on August 10, 2014

2014-07-31 13.25.40One of my favourite things about traveling is all the opportunities to support small business. And when you travel to exotic locales, even the simplest small business can be such an exciting, fascinating thing –  so different from what you might get at home.

My latest trip was not too far away from my home in Vancouver – a road trip across the Canadian Prairies to Lake Wakesiu, Saskatchewan, about 3 hours north of Saskatoon. But I still wanted to travel with the small business focus and I set out for myself that I would as much as possible only shop at small business, avoiding chain stores and massive corporations.

This turned out to be a bit harder than you would think – it was an eye opener for just how strong of an inroad these massive businesses have made in the North American landscape. For the most part, anything that you might get off the highway or a main road would be a chain, whether it was fast food joints or grocery stores. In some towns, there wasn’t a small business to be seen. It was a little disheartening. All the unsightly strips malls with the parking lots of the MacDonald’s and the Starbucks just packed.

In the town of Prince Albert, where we would do our grocery shopping before heading out the lake, I was determined to find a local grocer to support. So I Googled and came up with the Co-op chain that runs stores and gas stations across the Prairies, based on the cooperative model. I figured that this was the best place to spend my money. But it was interesting to note that once in there, it was just like being in any huge chain grocery store – no local food suppliers were on the shelf. Just all the massive corporations.

But rather than get frustrated by these kinds of scenarios, instead I will celebrate all the opportunities I do have to support small business, and focus in on that. This trip really drove home just how much power we have as consumers for choosing where to spend our money. We can lament that the Walmarts and the Wendy’s of the world are taking over our landscapes, but the fact of the matter is that they are in existence because they are making profits. Choice is a responsibility that we all wield with so much power to effect the changes that we want to see .

It was a joy to see small town small business on this trip. What I found such a refreshing change from city life was the simplicity, personality and humbleness of small business outside of a major metropolis…

…A beautiful handpainted sign for an ice cream store.

…A sign handwritten by the young staff of the gas station full of humour encouraging patrons to grab a mmm…mmm…yummy pastry on their way out.

…The owner of the movie theatre enthusiastically sharing what movies would be on the schedule for next week and just generally taking (and having) the time to chit chat and socialize.

…Each and every person wishing you a nice day at the end of the transaction, and really, really meaning it. Smiles and friendliness not even remotely forced.

…Rather than setting up fancy and expensive storefronts, things were kept simple. Businesses set up in heritage buildings. Fun and funky decor. True charm and personality all over the place.

And I bet not a single one of us from the cities was missing our amenities or lamenting that there was no Costco to go to. Shopping at these stores is an experience in itself. One that is enjoyable and fun. More relaxing and laid back. Perhaps one day this will be a day to day norm that all us city dwellers will experience in all corners of our cities, not just in certain older neighbourhoods that have maintained their charm, or in our holiday vacation towns.

My virtual office - Evergreen Coffee

My virtual office – Evergreen Coffee


Small businesses in heritage buildings - Lake Waskesiu

Small businesses in heritage buildings – Lake Waskesiu

The "super" market

The “super” market

The general store

The general store


The gas station

The gas station

The movie theatre

The movie theatre

Cabins for rent

Cabins for rent

Ice cream shop signage

Ice cream shop signage


Diner - Golden, BC

Diner – Golden, BC

Peach farm - Kelowna, BC

Peach farm – Kelowna, BC

What is the small business landscape like in your neck of the woods? Do you ever get frustrated by the hold of massive corporations? How do you support small biz where you live? Meet you in the comments!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Trevor Stewart August 11, 2014 at 7:21 am

Seems like that was a beautiful place to get away! I am just a little envious yet pictures of the fish that your husband caught would have had me out right jealous! lol Thanks for the story


Martina Iring August 13, 2014 at 8:09 am

Thanks for checking out the post Trevor! Derek caught one fish… and it was delicious 🙂


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