This year, Lakes Artisan Centre will be completing 10 years at its current location, but instead of planning a celebration, the cooperative is brainstorming ideas to ensure they don’t have to permanently close down.
The centre, that currently has seven artists as members, has been having difficulty covering their overhead expenses including the rent, the electricity, interac charges and other miscellaneous charges to keep their doors open. They have also had to reduce the hours that they were open, causing them to losing business.
At the end of July, the centre wrote a letter to the Village of Burns Lake seeking rent relief.
“We had to write this letter because it wasn’t really just the pandemic that was our problem. It was more about losing members over the past year,” said Beate Marquardt, one of the founding members and artisans with the centre.
The centre lost at least three to four members in the past year with them either having moved away, or in one case a member passed away and one got a new job somewhere else. Now, the centre has seven members, of which one cannot work during the pandemic for medical reasons. The centre now has six people manning their store with reduced hours.
“We are a cooperative, and we share the monthly expenses, so with the reduced members and the reduced hours, it brought the expenses up. This was the main reason why we asked the village if they could reduce the rent drastically otherwise we are really struggling and we won’t be able to stay open,” said Marquardt.
The Lakes Artisan Centre will be deciding on an action plan by the end of the month for the fate of the centre.
During the village’s council meeting on Aug. 11, the council discussed the letter, expressing their concern over a possible closure of such an important space in the village. Although the village didn’t pass the motion to provide rent relief, they decided to come up with ideas to help the centre.
When asked whether the centre could get any Covid-relief grants, Marquardt said, “Because we are a cooperative and the grants are for small-businesses, the village could apply for a grant to reduce our rent because they are our landlord but it has to go through them; but we are a co-operative so its a little difficult. But Lorie Watson, the Economic Development Officer with the village is looking in to it to see if she can find anything for us.”
In April, the village had agreed to excuse the rent for the centre for two months, bringing some relief to the members who had to keep their doors closed during the peak months of the pandemic. Since then, the centre has tried to expand their reach through social media, advertising but has still not been successful in bringing in new artists in to the cooperative.
“We are looking for new members. That’s our major goal. If we have more members, we have more hours and that way the rent goes down because we split it all,” said Marquardt.
Artists can choose to be featured as guest artists where they would have to pay a commission on any sales to the cooperative, or sign up for a full membership that would require putting in store hours and having to contribute towards the rent. Alternatively, artists could also apply to work as Associates, with a one-year contract to experience what it would be like to become a full member of the cooperative. For questions around the centre community members can contact Beate Marquardt at firstname.lastname@example.org.