Mark Arike: Businesses defy the odds
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | May 4, 2017
Businesses in the Highlands have a way of handling the ebbs and flows that come with being in a rural, seasonal community rather well.
Many have mastered this art—and managed to not only survive but thrive over the years.
In recent weeks, a couple of these businesses had good reason to celebrate.
McKecks Tap & Grill, an eatery in Haliburton, earned the Employer of the Year Award from Employment Ontario Eastern Regional Group. They’ve employed hundreds, including many students furthering their education, during their 30-plus years in business. For some teens, it’s their first job experience. And many adults have been able to re-enter the work force and stick around because they were hired.
Another Haliburton business with three decades under its belt is Country Rose, a flower shop off County Road 21. Its current owners and staff have focused on building relationships with customers, many of whom are going through pivotal times in their lives. They show empathy to those who have lost a loved one and help create memories in more joyous times. In-store interaction with customers is vital, but they have adapted to technology by expanding their website and focusing on online sales.
Some businesses have done so well in the Highlands that they’ve opened a second location. One example is Up River Trading Co, a cafe and gift/home accessory shop that got its start in Minden and recently opened a store in Haliburton.
These businesses, along with dozens of others, are to be commended for leading the way.
But while they have found the recipe for success, there are just as many—if not more—examples of struggle and failure.
A quick search of property listings on realtor.ca produced about a dozen results across the county. The majority of businesses for sale are restaurants, but you will also find a flooring business, gas station, resort, bait shop and marina.
We are not implying that all of these businesses have been managed poorly; there are many reasons why a business owner might decide to sell. But it sure makes you want to ask some questions.
Local economic development committees, along with municipal staff and councillors, need to identify what businesses are doing in order to help improve the success rate. Dysart’s committee, for example, is moving in the right direction by participating in the First Impressions Community Exchange (FICE) program. It will help uncover the community’s “strengths and shortcomings as seen through the eyes of first-time visitors,” according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
Local businesses are the backbone of the Highlands, and we need to work with them to ensure future growth and sustainability.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.