Sam Baio, owner of Nelson’s Valhalla Pure Outfitters, says he’s keeping his store closed on Boxing Day due to COVID-19 crowd concerns. Photo: Tyler Harper

Sam Baio, owner of Nelson’s Valhalla Pure Outfitters, says he’s keeping his store closed on Boxing Day due to COVID-19 crowd concerns. Photo: Tyler Harper

Wary of the pandemic, Nelson businesses opt to stay closed on Boxing Day

They say the profit isn’t worth the potential of infection

Every year, Sam Baio looks forward to standing outside his store in a gaudy ski suit to welcome in Boxing Day customers.

The annual Boxing Day sale has always been a big draw at Valhalla Pure Outfitters in downtown Nelson, so much so that Baio wondered if his business wasn’t violating fire codes by having too many people inside.

“In the past I wasn’t sure if the fire department ever shut me down,” he said. “I really enjoyed the buzz of that.”

But this year Baio has decided the buzz — and profit — isn’t worth the safety hazard of having a crowd downtown during a pandemic. So on Saturday, for the first time in 25 years, Valhalla Pure will be closed on Boxing Day.

Baio said when he weighed the draw of Boxing Day against the possibility of COVID-19 spreading on Baker Street, the choice was made for him.

“I have this bit of a moral obligation to think that a decision that I can make actually can change the amount of people downtown.”

Laura Price owns Scout, a women’s clothing store in Nelson. She’s also closing her doors for Boxing Day, which she says will be a first in 15 years of owning a retail store.

Price said she considered the decision for two months before telling her staff they would get a break. Inviting in crowds of customers during a pandemic, she said, makes no sense.

“It just seems bizarre to do this, to do Boxing Day, when it’s a day when the store is packed,” she said.

The holiday season is typically an important time for the city’s small businesses ahead of a usual drop in business in January and February, according to Nelson and District Chamber of Commerce executive director Tom Thomson.

But Thomson said this year, when the spring lockdown led to both temporary and permanent closures, has put many businesses in the position of relying on the holidays to help recover from financial losses.

“Just like in the summertime a lot of the accommodators and [restaurants] need to build up a bit of a war chest to get them through quieter times and the shoulder seasons, I think the smaller businesses need to do the same type of thing,” said Thomson.

”They need to have a really great November, December to carry them through the quieter months.”

Baio said his business benefited this year by selling equipment for outdoor recreation, which the province encouraged. His online business boomed, and Black Friday in November also took pressure off his need to make sales on Boxing Day.

That has put Baio in a privileged position to close on Dec. 26, but he’s also sensitive to the needs of other owners who don’t have that luxury.

“This is when you put money in the bank and it carries you through slow times. So I understand that,” he said. “But I need to do this because I think I’m making a good point here and we draw so many people to our store on Baker Street.”

Price also had a better year than expected. Her customers spent their money in the province this year, and have already supported her decision to sit out Boxing Day.

“I’m totally excited to not be open,” she said.

Related: Black Friday shopping in a pandemic: COVID-19 closes some stores, sales move online

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

Coronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Visitors relax at the natural hot springs located within Maquinna Marine Provincial Park. (tofinohiking.com photo)
Maquinna Marine Provincial Park boardwalk project on track

“The walk down the two-kilometre boardwalk to the springs itself is by far one of the most incredible experiences.”

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino’s mayoralty candidates lay out key differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Clockwise from top right, chamber executive director Jen Dart moderated a Zoom-based forum last week where Tofino’s mayoralty candidates J.J. Belanger, Andrea McQuade and Dan Law made their pitch to lead their community. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Tofino mayoralty candidates face off at forum

Town to elect new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

A Vancouver restaurant owner was found guilty of violating B.C.’s Human Rights Code by discriminating against customers on the basis of their race. (Pixabay)
Vancouver restaurant owner ordered to pay $4,000 to customers after racist remark

Referring to patrons as ‘you Arabs’ constitutes discrimination under B.C.’s Human Rights Code, ruling deems

Dasher is back home with mom Christine Girvin thanks to some help from BC Ferries staff. Photo supplied
The cat came back, with help from BC Ferries staff

After Dasher made a dash, staff in Comox found her and got her home safe

BC Ferries experienced heavy traffic on Feb. 27 following cancellations the day before due to strong winds and adverse weather. (Black Press Media file photo)
BC Ferries sailings fill up quickly after Friday cancellations due to high winds

Waits expected on Swartz Bay-Tsawwassen route, Horseshoe Bay-Departure Bay route

1957 photo shows Six Mile House-sponsored #4 1932 Ford stock car with Frank Morris (from left), Ted Mackenzie, Bill Sim and driver Gerry Sylvester. (Bud Glover/Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame)
Memories race as Western Speedway approaches its finish line

‘It was life to us:’ Vancouver Island racers, crew will never forget what the track gave them

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

Most Read