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The ups and downs of business on the West Shore this COVID Christmas

More people staying home helps some local shops
Joanne Arnold, owner of Soulful Sister Aromatherapy, appreciates the way more people in the community are supporting local businesses by shopping locally. (Rick Stiebel/News Staff)

The West Shore Chamber of Commerce and local businesses herald the support the community is providing this holiday in making an effort to shop local during the pandemic.

Julie Lawlor, executive director of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber is appreciative of local support.

“Local businesses make up the fabric of our community,” said Lawlor, who begins her sixth year with the organization in January. “It’s our local businesses who do so much to support the community through funds and donations in kind to local non-profits and charities. The creativity and resilience local business owners have shown in such a short period of time is really impressive. The chamber would like to thank our members for supporting our work during these challenging times. We have a wealth of resources available and welcome any business owner to get in touch with us.”

Visit for more information, or call 250-478-1130.

The Cloth Castle in Langford is weathering the storm by inspiring a wave of newcomers to the art of needles and thread.

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“We’ve found that more people have gone back to their hobbies because they’re spending more time at home,” said manager, Maria Porter, daughter of the original owner Sylvia Ratcliffe, who launched the business more than 50 years ago.

“There’s a higher demand for classes than we expected, so we have restructured our classes to follow COVID protocols and health guidelines,” said floor manager Natasha Cloutier.

The demand for material for masks and inquiries on how to make them in March and April helped business as well.

“We’ve come up with new kits with easy projects for gifts for Christmas,” Porter said. “There’s a lot of new sewers and kids learning to sew out there. We’ve seen a lot of young entrepreneurs as well, school-age kids starting businesses that revolve around fabrics. We want to inspire the next generation of sewers, so that’s really neat to see.”

While it’s important any time to support local businesses, people are taking the time to come in to discuss the best way to achieve what they want to do instead of just ordering online, Cloutier said.

Although The Cloth Castle has curbside pickup and mail order available for those that prefer that, Porter said most people still prefer to come into the store. For more on classes and products, weave your way over to

The stress caused by COVID-19 has more people seeking solace through more natural means, and that’s led to quite an increase in people looking for essential oils, said Joanne Arnold, the owner of Soulful Sister Aromatherapy. “A big part of that is many people are home more and they’re looking for natural ways to relieve their stress,” said Arnold, who operated out of her Colwood home for more than 10 years before opening her store in Langford three years ago.

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The pandemic has also impacted her business in negative ways.

“I normally sell to about 100 other stores across Canada and that’s down by two thirds,” she said. “A lot of gift stores have closed or are really struggling. I usually travel across Canada at this time of the year doing about six major craft shows, but they’ve all been cancelled because of COVID. I’m super fortunate to have a retail store to sell our products from. I’ve been selling online for 10 years, and that’s gotten better since COVID. More people are definitely shopping online.”

As someone who’s been part of the community for 20 years, Arnold understands the important role shopping locally plays in keeping small businesses afloat.

“There’s been an amazing response,” she said. “Many people come in and say they want to shop local and support local businesses.”

Arnold is pleased to pass that support along that along this year by donating 15 per cent of her profits for a week in December to the Goldstream Food Bank.

For a look at the products, visit

Julie Lawlor, executive director of the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, said the resilience shown by local business owners duringthe pandemic has been impressive. (Courtesy West Shore Chamber of Commerce)