Menswear shop in Downtown Vernon asks for help on social media amid business troubles

Store asks for help

The owner of a clothing store says she received a wave of support following a vulnerable post on social media Wednesday.

Amanda Homeniuk owns ANTLR Menswear, a clothing shop in downtown Vernon. She put the call out on Facebook, saying that business has been slow.

“We need your support,” reads ANTLR's social media post. “If you can like and share our page we would be very grateful. And if you can shop at the store we would be even more grateful.”

The store has seen some recent blips in business, Homeniuk tells Castanet. One was last summer, when the provincial government implemented a travel ban forcing tourists to go home as multiple wildfires burned throughout the Okanagan.

It had an unfortunate side effect on Vernon, said Homeniuk, because tourism drives business in the downtown.

She's not the first to speak on the detrimental impact of the ban, in February this year Claus Larsen, chair of the tourism commission, told Vernon City Council the ban "literally destroyed our peak season."

Homeniuk added economic pressures are impacting her clothing business as people use more of their income to keep up with costs of gas, food and housing. After business pressures pushed her to ask for help from the community, Homeniuk said she was relieved by a surge of support the next day.

“It’s been really really heartwarming," she said. “We’ve had quite a busy day today. Actually today has been really great."

On Thursday the store saw customers come in concerned that it may close. More than a hundred people online circulated her social media post describing that the store was looking for support.

Homeniuk emphasized her message was not that ANTLR is going to close, but that it's dealing with a stack of challenges and hopes to see more people stop by in a tighter economy.

When asked what an ideal summer would look like for business coming up, Homeniuk said, “No fires. Lots of visitors. Lots of people enjoying the downtown.”

Castanet reached out to the manager of the Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce about how businesses are fairing in the downtown.

"We're always concerned to hear when a business is struggling, especially our local small businesses," said chamber manager Dan Proulx.

He agreed with Homeniuk that "with inflationary pressures and increases in the cost of living, some businesses are seeing a slowdown in consumer discretionary spending."

Proulx added the climate is tough for businesses today, due to increasing costs for labour and taxes, but tourism was steady last year. Though, he said wildfires are causing tourists to change when they visit, choosing to come early and late in the season rather than the peak of summer.

"According to Tourism Vernon, our visitor numbers were actually up last year, although the wildfires were a factor."

For business in Vernon in general, Proulx emphasized that the future has strong signals.

"We are also seeing a population growth that is making Vernon one of the fastest growing cities in B.C. which will help with labour shortages and adding to the consumer base so there are some positives to draw from that."

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