Chemainus Theatre patrons weren’t left in the dark during the power outage, as the show went on. However, it was difficult for many of those with tickets to get there. (Photo by Don Bodger)

Chemainus businesses take a direct hit during storm

Last few days before Christmas important to many to compensate for slower times

The Dec. 20 wind storm literally dealt a big blow to Chemainus businesses.

“It was almost a perfect storm at the peak of our inventory,” said Peter Richmond, 49th Parallel Grocery president. “It couldn’t have hit at a worse possible time.”

The two 49th Parallel Grocery stores in Chemainus plus locations in Ladysmith and Cedar were out of commission for a few days. The power at the Duncan store was only out for a short time by comparison.

“Chemainus, unfortunately, was hit the worst,” noted Richmond. “It was out of power the longest time.

“Believe it or not, our freezers held temperature for three days.”

Deli case, meat and dairy items were ultimately sacrificed. “There’s nothing you could do to save them,” conceded Richmond.

He acknowledged every business was enduring some sort of challenge during the long outage.

“I don’t ever want to go through that again,” said Richmond, who expressed his appreciation to many people for their help and the community for being patient.

“Obviously, we got back open for Christmas Eve and had a very busy day. Our staff did wonders in restocking.”

”The timing of the storm was unfortunate from the perspective of a small local business,” noted Chris Istace, the president of the Chemainus Business Improvement Association, and wife Judy, who own Beyond The Usual in downtown Chemainus.

“Many of us brought in extra inventory for the the holiday season or in the case of our restaurants brought in larger than normal food shipments. Statistically, December 21st is the single busiest retail day of the year in Canada and our entire town was closed for that day. The busy days prior to Christmas are often that added cushion of revenue that helps see us through the slower times of January and pay off the bills from the year prior. Many of us such as us at Beyond The Usual, Chemainus Health Foods and Magpies Antiques opened our doors in the dark, helped customers with flashlights and did the best to salvage what sales we could of the powerless days prior to Christmas.”

Chris Istace added businesses were thankful the power was restored to the downtown core on the evening of the 23rd so there were some sales on the 24th.

”Our many loyal local shoppers and amazing community did their best to rally behind the local businesses and for that we are grateful. The power outage affected so many people and we are just lucky that everyone stayed safe and remained out of harm. Sales can be recouped in the future but the love and support of a community is irreplaceable, so with that we thank everyone in Chemainus who supports us throughout the year and not just in the holidays.”

Those with food-related orders had to cancel them with so little time to spare before Christmas. Some businesses such as the Maple Lane Cafe that sustained damages will be closed until repairs are made.

Many shops in Chemainus traditionally are closed during January or operate under reduced hours and that remains the case.

At the Chemainus Theatre, it was business as usual. Well, sort of.

The theatre ran its full schedule of six shows of Little Women during the outage on a Perkins diesel generator, including the evening of the storm when 58 brave souls made the journey to Chemainus past barricades and fallen trees.

However, the Theatre couldn’t run the Playbill Dining Room on the same generator so it had to close. Staff ingenuity resulted in most of the food inventory being saved.

“All patrons that couldn’t make it to their scheduled performance received a credit or a refund,” noted managing director Randy Huber. “Patrons were so understanding through the outage.

“The only damage the theatre incurred was a section of shingles on the rehearsal hall, but we re-shingled it ourselves before the next rains set in.

“It was pretty surreal driving into Chemainus at night and everything was dark except the theatre was like a beacon of light.”

Duncan had the shortest power outage in the area and fast food outlets were completely packed with people looking to warm up and enjoy a cup of coffee and something to eat.

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