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Ken Ly looks around his store with a sad half-smile on his face.
"Retail is really bad," says the owner of Golden Gems Jewellery in Rutland.
"Business for us has dropped so much, by more than half. Some days we have no customers because they aren't coming out to shop because of COVID. We have no choice but to liquidate all inventory, clear everything out and close at the end of June."
It will be the end of an era because Golden Gems has been a fixture in Rutland for 30 years.
Its first decade in business was in Plaza 33 and the past 20 years in the storefront at 105 Highway 33.
Ly, who runs the store with his wife, Nai, says Golden Gems had a loyal customer base, in some cases three generations of families.
"But everyone is watching what they spend because of COVID and it seems jewellery is the first thing they don't spend on," says Ly.
Ly, 61, was hoping to hang onto the store until he retired at age 65.
But the pandemic has forced his hand.
"I'm not sure yet if I will retire or what I will do when the store closes," he says.
"I have no plan."
Considering COVID, and all its societal and economic disruption, has dragged on for almost a year, there have been very few business closures in the Central Okanagan.
Earlier on in the pandemic, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business estimated one in seven businesses was on the brink of closure.
Yet, there hasn't been droves of companies calling it quits.
Many may be dangling by a thread with drastically reduced revenue and laid off staff, but they haven't officially shuttered.
Some of the businesses that have closed locally in these pandemic times include Waterfront Cafe, Fun Bugs indoor play centre, Soft 103.9 radio, Starbucks downtown, Bliss Bakery West Kelowna and the Orchard Park mall locations of national chain stores Le Chateau and Stokes.
Other businesses that haven't closed, but which have been severely impacted, include hotels that are at 20% capacity, restaurants at half capacity, UBC Okanagan and colleges with students online and the Kelowna Rockets Hockey Club and Playtime and Chances casinos, which have been out of commission for the past year.
A couple of weeks ago, KelownaNow put out a call to anyone who has found themselves jobless or any business that had closed down because of COVID to tell their story.
We received no responses.
We can only assume people may be ashamed to come forward and declare their unemployment or company failure publically.
However, the intent of telling their stories was never to embarass or shame, but to make stories of the pandemic human and possibly help people impacted find new opportunities.
The offer still stands.
If you are jobless or have closed your business because of COVID, contact KelownaNow reporter Steve MacNaull at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell your story.
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