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The Cattail Ridge Family Market in Sackville, New Brunswick. Image: Sam Macdonald/Huddle

Market Owner Closes Business To Escape Pandemic-Fuelled Pressures

By Sam Macdonald Feb 15, 2023 | 5:47 PM

Pandemic fatigue and two consecutive buyers backing out of potential sales have prompted the owner of Sackville’s Cattail Ridge Family Market to permanently shutter her business in its iconic roadside red barn.

Kim Ripley, who owns the Cattail Ridge Family Market in Sackville, said exhaustion from the rigors of exploding local demand during the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as the pedal-to-the-metal style of work required to keep up with it, made her turn to retirement.

“Anybody that ran an essential service through Covid is absolutely burned out. There are many facets behind the decision to close but the number one reason is that I am burned out from Covid,” said Ripley.

“There is no provision from the federal government for me to take a break, so in order to take a break I need to sell the business.”

When the pandemic closed the border between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, business picked up to a frantic pace at the market that sits in an iconic red building a stone’s throw from the Trans-Canada Highway.

“Nobody was going to Moncton and nobody was going to Amherst, and everyone was ordering online – but there was still more business and consumers in this area — more than my little businesses could support,” she said.

When the border opened again, Ripley said demand promptly returned to normal. She put the market up for sale about half a year ago. Two different proponents showed interest but both backed out of a sale at the last minute.

“Neither negotiation came to fruition. So you keep trying to run your business thinking you have it sold, and then it falls through,” said Ripley.

She noted that when mulling a potential sale it becomes difficult to operate the business because of unknowns relating to stock.

“It’s beyond frustrating; when you’re trying to run a business and people are trying to buy the business, you run into situations where you can’t order something because you don’t know whether or not that’s going to continue,” she said.

“You hold your business back and you try to make the most of it.”

While business has been brisk at the market and Ripley says it’s still doing as well as any small-town market can, within proximity to some of the larger grocers on either side of the border.

“There have been many tears this week and many wonderful customers – we had some absolutely amazing customers that supported us through thick and thin,” Ripley said.

Ripley told Huddle that if she had six months to physically and emotionally regroup, she might consider carrying on a little longer with the market, but that’s not an option.

She stressed that another factor in her decision to shutter the business and put its 1,800-square-foot home back on the real estate market is the lack of support many small businesses receive.

“There’s never been any support for small business owners. Yes, I incorporate and pay myself and all that, but a lot of small businesses can’t do that,” said Ripley.

“Banks don’t support us. They say they’re there but they charge outrageous fees and there’s no longer an atmosphere of ‘let’s see what we can do and help you grow.’ It’s now ‘prove to me you can do it.’ It’s not a decent atmosphere anymore.”

Ripley, who is 63, told Huddle that her shortest work week during the pandemic was 52 hours. She noted that many small business owners are also Baby Boomers and the kind of energy and time required to keep a small business going will result in more people walking away.

“In my mind, the town and province are certainly responsible for making it a welcoming and great place to open a business. After that, it is totally the consumers’ responsibility to keep a business going – it’s their choice,” Ripley said.

“If you don’t know what you have locally, and you’re not checking locally first before you move to the other, bigger centers, it can hurt [small local business].”

The Cattail Ridge Family Market opened in 2008 and Ripley bought it from its original owners in 2017. The market sells groceries, produce, meat, crafts, pet food – much of which is provided by local producers and vendors.

“My whole thing was local flavours, local towns. In actuality, this little market supports over 100 small local [and area] businesses. They all had shelf space and a storefront all year long.”

Sam Macdonald is a Moncton-based reporter for Huddle, an Acadia Broadcasting partner. Send him your feedback and story ideas: macdonalds@huddle.today


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