July/August 2020 – Facing the Music

With a mission to inform, empower, celebrate and advocate for British Columbia's current and aspiring business leaders, BCBusiness go behind the headlines and bring readers face to face with the key issues and people driving business in B.C.

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BC 2.0 APRIL 2020 JULY/AUGUST 2020 BCBUSINESS 37 Blaine McNamee had already brought the dead back to life once in B.C.'s retail world. Then the pandemic came. McNamee is the guy who took over the empty storefront that had been home to the cherished Wonderbucks on Vancouver's Commercial Drive—an emporium of sometimes trashy, sometimes stylish but always cheap housewares whose demise in 2017 was widely reported as a sign of The End of Beloved Local Vancouver Retail as We Know It—and transformed it. It became a third successful outlet of the for- merly west-side-only Rufus Guitar and Drum Shop. During Wonderbucks' final days, he'd visited the store, where its owners talked about rent zooming up and property tax increases that made the business unwork- able. He heard what the rent was—then $12,000 a month, with a planned hike to $16,000—and thought, That's actually not bad. McNamee opened the new shop in April 2019, after the property had changed owners. In the first two months of this year, sales looked set to keep chugging on at a healthy pace. For the 38-year-old escapee from Edmonton, who had worked in music stores before buying the original Rufus at Alma Street and West 10th Avenue five years ago, his success was proof of his firmest belief: in-person, store retail is not dead. THE COVID-19 PANDEMIC FORCED SOME PROVINCIAL RETAILERS TO SHUT AND LEFT OTHERS STRUGGLING. BUT FOR THOSE NIMBLE ENOUGH TO ADAPT TO THE NEW REALITY, IT'S AN OPPORTUNITY TO REINVENT HOW THEY DO BUSINESS b y F R A N C E S B U L A / / p o r t r a i t s b y T A N Y A G O E H R I N G

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