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  • Small businesses facing challenging times in the city

    Lack of exposure biggest challenge for Chestermere's struggling business community

    It’s no secret that operating a business in Chestermere is a challenge.

    So far in 2019 the city has already seen several businesses including restaurants Masala Twist and Joeys Urban.

    “We’ve had quite a substantial loss of some of our businesses that’s for sure,” said Chestermere Chamber of Commerce President Michelle Eldjarnson.

    Eldjarnson is in her first term as President of the Chamber of commerce and has lived and worked as a realtor in Chestermere for about eight years.

    To Eldjarnson, there are three major challenges facing city businesses.

    The sluggish economy and an oversaturation of certain kinds of businesses in Chestermere make it difficult to attract and keep customers.

    “And number three is that juggernaut that is so close to us,” said Eldjarnson referring to the City of Calgary.

    The majority of Chestermerians commute into Calgary to work.

    “And they pass those other business on their way home to us again,” said Eldjarnson.

    “A lot of the money that they take with them to spend in the city sure would make a big difference here for our small businesses,” she said.

    Not only does the commute to work take money out of the community but it also harms resident’s awareness of what there is available here at home.

    “We have citizens in Chestermere that don’t even know we have a No Frills up on Rainbow Road,” said Eldjarnson.

    “Which is unfortunate,” she said, “if they don’t know about that No Frills on Rainbow Road, I can guarantee they don’t know about the smallest businesses that are in that quadrant as well.”

    Because of this lack of awareness, Eldjarnson said that the chamber believes the best solution for local businesses is to work on their exposure in the community.

    Residents need to be made aware of what is available to them in Chestermere.

    “I think a lot of people are not aware of some of the businesses that are out here,” said Eldjarnson.

    “There’s 400 business here between commercial storefront and home-based businesses.

    “Whether they’re minor or major there’s a lot of businesses here,” she said.

    When it comes to businesses that have an actual storefront, Eldjarnson said they are split into four areas, with the most noticeable being Chestermere station.

    “People drive by it all the time, they know it’s here,” she said.

    The other three major commercial spaces according to Eldjarnson are in Kinniburgh, Rainbow Falls and Rainbow Creek, and West Creek.

    “Those are all areas that need more exposure and more support from people around here,”

    Crazy Pasta’s Owner, Carl Dupre said his restaurant has been open for just over a year in the strip mall off Rainbow Road.

    He said when he first opened the crowds were good, but they have slowly tailed off to the point he is struggling.

    As a last ditch attempt to drum up business, Dupre wrote a Facebook post on his situation.

    “I just wrote a note on Facebook because that was my last chance,” he said.

    “I wrote that on a Tuesday night, and for all week, Wednesday to Sunday it’s been like busy,” he said, “but it’s tailed off again.”

    Dupre, who is a member of the Chamber of Commerce, agrees that something has to be done to improve the exposure of business in the city.

    He said that he wrote a letter to the city asking about whether a sign could be put up at the intersection of Rainbow Road and Chestermere Boulevard advertising the businesses along Rainbow Road.

    To date, Dupre said he hasn’t received a response.

    When asked, City Communications Team Lead Megan Matthies said that city staff are looking into this but there are some barriers around land use at that intersection.

    As part of their goal to foster a positive business environment in the city, the Chamber of Commerce is continuing to work with the City of Chestermere on initiatives to support local businesses.

    Eldjarnson also met with representatives from the Strathmore and Langdon chambers to discuss regional solutions.

    When it comes to the challenge of making sure a business is known, Eldjarnson said that constant and consistent advertising is needed.

    “Being consistent is huge, they’ve got to keep that consistent advertising going,” said Eldjarnson.

    Knowing the challenges that they face, Eldjarnson said she is still an optimist.

    “It’s looking challenging,” she said, “but I’m an optimist…everything is cyclical, and we’ve been through the recession part of it and now we’re slowly ramping back up again.”

    Although she believes and hopes that the economy is recovering, Eldjarnson still believes that 2019 will be much the same as 2018.

    Knowing that, she strongly recommends that local businesses work hard to get their name advertised out to the community.

    “Everybody needs to know you’re there, cause if they don’t know you’re there they’re going to leave you behind,” she said.