At a time when many businesses are struggling and some are even closing because of Covid-19, a Hay River couple is going in the opposite direction.
Treena Eyford and Mark Benoit have just opened a business called Paradise Pets, which offers pet and farm supplies.
They both admit to being a little nervous about opening a new business in the face of a pandemic.
However, that nervousness seems to have found an equal match in an entrepreneurial spirit and an admitted stubbornness.
“You’ve got to be stubborn in order to own a business,” said Benoit. “We would know within the first six months. Covid is the best time to open, because it’s your worst time. So you’re going to know if you make it or if you’re going to break it right away.”
The co-owner added that some businesses open in good times, only to later experience bad times.
“If you can make it through the worst of times, your good times are coming,” he said.
Eyford said it’s a bit of a gamble opening during a pandemic.
“And we are still nervous,” she said. “Because you never know if a second wave is going to hit.”
Eyford noted that some people are surprised to see the new store, which opened on Nov. 9 in the Caribou Centre.
That’s partially because the store’s opening wasn’t really advertised, she said. “We didn’t put it out there because of Covid, too. Because we don’t want a big grand opening, hundreds of people rushing in. You’re only allowed so many people. And I don’t want people sitting outside in their car waiting to come in.”
So she and Benoit decided on a soft opening and to let the community learn of the store by word of mouth.
Eyford said business has been good so far.
While she and Benoit are co-owners, he continues to work full-time at Eagle 88 Enterprises and she works onsite at the new store.
Paradise Pets sells pet supplies and food, along with feed for farm animals like chicken, pigs and rabbits, along with hay and straw.
The new store builds on a business at Benoit’s Farm in Paradise Valley, where they had been selling farm supplies.
In March, Eyford received a temporary layoff because of Covid-19 from her job in the service department at Aurora Ford.
“We just turned it around from you could look at it in a bad way getting laid off from your job and having to be at home and having to home school your kids,” she said. “We just took it and decided to make an opportunity out of it.”
Eyford said they decided to take it to the next level.
“I said, ‘Let’s do something with this,'” she recalled. “We’ve been talking for a couple of years about starting the pet food chain. We had looked at a couple of locations. It never panned out. Obviously, I was fully employed at the Ford dealership at the time.”
Eyford returned to her job at Aurora Ford in early July, but she left that work in mid-October to concentrate on the new business.
The store sells food for a variety of pets, including cats, dogs, fish, birds and hamsters.
“I think we’ve got all the food bases covered,” said Eyford, noting the store also sells pet toys and supplies for fish tanks.
Right now, Paradise Pets also sells live tropical fish.
“And I think eventually I’ll get into the small little critters – the hamsters and that kind of thing,” said Eyford, adding there won’t be sales of dogs and cats.
Both Eyford and Benoit are from business families.
Benoit’s family owns Eagle 88, while Eyford’s grandparents operated J & M Wholesale, a grocery store that once existed in Old Town.
“We’re pretty proud just because we’re both from families that have had businesses in Hay River,” said Eyford.
As a reminder of her grandparents’ business, she has two small shelves at Paradise Pets that were once in J & M Wholesale.