Businesses reliant on Calgary Stampede suffering this week

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WATCH: This week would have been big for businesses in our city with thousands of tourists flocking to the Calgary Stampede. Instead, no visitors from around the world are here and as Jill Croteau reports, businesses are feeling it – Jul 6, 2020

Countless businesses rely on the 10 days of the Calgary Stampede to fuel their bottom line. Because the event is cancelled this year due to COVID-19, those businesses are feeling a big impact

Smithbilt Hats has a long-standing history dating back to 1919. Typically over Stampede they sell over 4,000 cowboy hats. Master hatter Brian Hanson said it’s the custom-hat experience that draws people from around the world.

Read more: Drag queens dance in Calgary park to drum up Stampede spirit

“It’s pretty lonely actually. Usually we’d be lined up out to the streets,” Hanson said.

“We’d have 10 or 12 people working instead of two today and we would be as busy as we can be,” Hanson said. “Stampede is half our business, we can’t pivot that quickly.”

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Smithbilt also hosts private events at their store and would typically have two or three bookings a day. That part of the business is temporarily stalled.

Catering businesses are also taking the brunt of the Stampede cancellations. Ernie Kleinsasser runs Ernie’s Mobile Barbecue. He said he’s had to have some hard conversations with his family about whether they can keep going.

LISTEN BELOW: The cancellation of the Calgary Stampede is hitting businesses hard this week

On Monday alone he would have been booked all day long, catering to thousands. Instead, he’s got zero clients.

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“They’re gone, it’s nothing. After this interview, I’m just going to go home,” Kleinsasser said.

“You’re talking 3,000 people for a party and now you’re lucky if you get 800 and that’s how serious this is,” Kleinsasser said. “We are actually in the process of thinking should we go on? But I don’t think quitting should be in our vocabulary, still this is tough.”

He and his family are trying to rework the business and have separately packaged up their meats for a take-home service. But his profits aren’t going to be sustainable.

Ernie Kleinsasser packaging up BBQ pulled pork and beef. Jill Croteau/Global News

“The meat, just 2 weeks ago, I bought $23 a pound. We are down to zero and we are talking $200 to $300,000 in the hole and we are not the only ones,” Kleinsasser said.

Read more: First-ever Calgary Stampede drive-thru pancake breakfast puts the boots to COVID-19 gloom

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The family is planning to meet with one of their suppliers to see how else they can modify their business in hopes of keeping it afloat.

The Calgary Stampede announced the 2021 festival would not go on in April, marking the first time in 100 years the annual event has been cancelled.

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