Saturday, November 27

Fox Glacier companies consider whether to close after the latest lockdown

Fox Glacier businesses are hoping for a boost during the school holidays after a long and difficult winter.

Several companies have already closed in the city and others are considering whether to hibernate or close, especially after the last closure.

While most companies were closing hatches, some at Fox Glacier took the plunge and opened amid the pandemic.

Sean Langton and his wife moved to the city earlier this year and bought Fox Glacier General Store with the support of their mother.

“I used to work in the freezing workshops in Taranaki and my body had just finished working, so we wanted to be business owners. We sold everything we had and bought this place.

“The pandemic was bad, but we only saw the optimist (sic) on how good the city had been before the Covid and said ‘let’s take a risk and jump into it.’

Sean Langton and his wife bought Fox Glacier General Store earlier this year.

Sean Langton and his wife bought Fox Glacier General Store earlier this year.
Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

It had been difficult to order some items, including flour, during the closing.

“It’s a fight. Every night you go home and think ‘what are we going to order tomorrow?’ We don’t have the budget to go against other cities and stuff, so if people want to come here, we have to say ‘what are we asking for? Are they going to eat bananas this week or are they going to eat apples? … to buy?'”

Without the support of the community, he wasn’t sure they would have stayed.

“My mother had to move to Invercargill to get a farm job and Becka and I didn’t pay each other for a week. We just live off our savings, so we can’t pay ourselves or my mother.

“We are not really making a profit.”

While it had been difficult, he said they hoped to hold out until international visitors could return.

Fox Glacier General Store

Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

Erica McClintock opened her Betsey Jane restaurant about a year ago.

Erica McClintock opened her Betsey Jane restaurant about a year ago.

Erica McClintock opened her Betsey Jane restaurant about a year ago and plans to try and wait for delivery in custom due to Covid.
Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

He would like to open for lunch, but said there were not enough people passing by yet.

Contractors who have been fixing the road and laying fiber have been very welcome to do business and to see new faces in town, he said.

“That was really cool. That can make a big difference in one night just having maybe six or eight of them and they’re usually here during the week.”

Betsey Jane at Fox Glacier

Betsey Jane at Fox Glacier.
Photo: RNZ / Tess Brunton

He was planning to hire more staff for the summer, but hoped it would be a challenge to find them after losing the regular visa workers and the local youth who have since moved.

But overall, she was happy to welcome customers through her doors, especially after the good support from the locals.

“I had originally thought about not opening and delaying opening for about six months or so. Which I’m glad we didn’t because nothing changed in the year, really.

“We will keep moving forward and obviously we will try to wait.”

Fox Glacier Main Street.

Fox Glacier Main Street.
Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

On the main street, the sound of a lawnmower, not motorhomes or cars, filled the air.

Fox Glacier Guiding CEO Rob Jewell said they would typically look for commutes with up to 150 people at this time of year.

Instead, they only got up to 10 clients a day, making them highly dependent on government support.

“Without STAPP and Jobs for Nature, I would say the business would be in hibernation or closed.”

Fox Glacier Guiding CEO Rob Jewell.

Rob Jewell said they currently only receive about 10 clients a day.
Photo: RNZ / Nate McKinnon

They launched Experience Fox Glacier with horseback riding and electric bike rentals in late 2019.

Jewell was more optimistic about the upcoming school holidays and summer visitors, and said he expected good bookings.

But as co-chair of the Glacier Country Tourism Group, he said many businesses are facing a much bleaker outlook.

“Companies that have gotten to this point and done really well surviving to this point are now starting to consider their options of do we hibernate or shut down? Since cash reserves are basically pretty depleted and companies are really finding it very difficult, there is not much on the horizon in terms of what this summer will be like. “

Development West Coast is preparing to study companies in glacier country to find out how many are close to bending and how many are holding out.

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