Anxiety high among businesses as Olympics get closer 

VANOC to hold ‘Game Plan’ this month to answer questions


There's an undercurrent of stress and anxiety pulsing through small businesses in town as the 2010 Games draws nearer.

From Function Junction to the village, the overriding sentiment is that there is still a black hole of information about what business will be like before, during and after the Games.

Without a crystal ball to put business owners at ease, this gathering feeling of uncertainty, combined with these difficult and tentative economic times, has some Whistler business owners on edge.

"I don't know what to sell, to who," said Rusty Long, who has owned Katmandu on the edge of Marketplace for the past 16 years.

"I'm in a position where I'm probably just going to close my store if I can't lease it out because I don't want to take the chance of buying a whole whack of inventory and not selling it."

Long has done the research; he knows the town will be jam packed with media and Olympic organizers and Olympic family and sponsors. He knows they typically buy just a small Olympic related souvenir to take home as a keepsake of their time at the Games.

What he doesn't know is just how this new visitor will affect the sales in his alternative ski and bike shop.

"(It's) not knowing our market at all," said Long, who relies on local and seasonal workers as his core customer base.

"I don't see me being able to run my business as it is right now."

He's tried to develop a Plan B - changing his store to a temporary food venue. But, he asked, where do I get 20 competent staff and, more importantly, where do I house them?

Unlike Long, Dan Ellis at Armchair Books, knows just what to sell. He knows he has to stock souvenir books and any literature related to the Olympics.

What he doesn't know is how slow or busy his village bookstore will be next season. His research tells him that business will be down; it was down for bookstores in Park City at the 2002 Games.

"How do we prepare for a possible soft season?" he asked. "I guess we just have to hold on tight and see what happens. Hopefully that's not our experience and we have a really robust retail experience, but there are a lot of question marks about that. Who knows? We don't know what to expect. Absolutely no idea."

Ellis, however, is staying optimistic.

Even businesses that are expecting to be slammed from morning to night during the Games, like Black's Pub at the base of the mountains, have some concerns.

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