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2018 flooding, then a pandemic: Grand Forks downtown businesses face tough times

Floods, then a pandemic: Grand Forks downtown businesses weather through tough economic times

While surviving the pandemic hasn’t been easy for independent businesses anywhere, those in downtown Grand Forks have been particularly hard-hit.

Entrepreneurs in the small community spent months trying to recuperate from devastating floods that happened two years ago, and just as they were getting back on their feet, the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“Before the flood, the downtown of Grand Forks had this pulse, and it was coming alive for the first time in a really long time,” Board Room Cafe owner Savanna Hines said.

READ MORE: City of Grand Forks makes offers on homes flooded in 2018

“The flood sort of took the steam out of that a little bit, and then it felt like it was coming back again just before the pandemic,” she said.

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Kelowna residents prepare for flood season, firefighters train for swift water
Kelowna residents prepare for flood season, firefighters train for swift water

Hines had opened her cafe just before the 2018 flood hit.

“How the flood turned out, for us anyways, was that there was good support with the Red Cross and the DFA and stuff, so we didn’t take too big of a hit, and there was also insurance coverage,” she said.

READ MORE: Grand Forks residents unhappy with proposed flood plan: ‘I’m not prepared to move’

“The pandemic is totally different.”

Even with the federal government’s help through programs like wage subsidies and rent assistance, business is still a struggle, Hines said.

“There just isn’t the same support financially that there was for the flood,” she said.

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Hines said sales are down, and she had to lay off most of her staff.

READ MORE: Grand Forks flood victims protest post-flood values in home buyout program

Roger Soviskov, owner of Jogas Espresso Café, said the flooding wiped out his business for more than nine months.

“Rebuilding and insurance and it was a lot of heartache, but you know, we rebuilt, and next thing you know, we’re down again,” Soviskov said.

“Laying off the staff hurt,” he added. “I tried to keep them on as long as I could, but that was the worst part.”

READ MORE: Nearly $50 million in funding announced for Grand Forks flood recovery

However, both business owners are optimistic that most Grand Forks businesses will survive the pandemic.

“We made it through the flood,” Hines said. “I’m just hoping we can make it through this. Grand Forks has proved to be resilient, and I’m just hoping we can do it again, and then maybe we’ll have exceptionally good luck for the next decade.”

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