The local business scene in Canal Flats is looking vibrant, despite the closure of the mill a few years ago, due in no small part to the launch of a new business centre/artisan market in the old high school building.

Canal Flats residents Kelly Kask and Kate McLean took over the space last year, revamping the Base Camp Coffee Shop. They have since proceeded with plans to develop out the rest of the building, dubbing the whole venture Mountain Mercantile. Much of the retail space has been filled out by artisanal-style boutique small businesses selling local products and services. Indeed Mountain Mercantile has become the site of a local weekend vendors market, run by Tammy Chadney.

Business in the summer was brisk, and Mr. Kask and Ms. McLean are looking forward to this winter, which will be their first full winter for their new venture.

“People expect a small town market, and we wanted to step it up a notch with some high-end offerings,” said Mr. Kask, adding that the overwhelming number of hockey tournaments at the Canal Flats arena, most of which involved kids’ teams from Calgary, provide a perfect business opportunity to cater to the otherwise idle parents of these hockey kids. The old school is located right across the road from the arena, and the Base Camp now features a lounge, complete with comfy couches and wifi where hockey parents can, when not watching their kids on the ice, linger (“some even put their feet up and have a snooze,” said Mr. Kask) in a more enticing environment than a chilly arena with hard benches.

“It was our first summer with the coffee shop and it was busy. Even in the part of winter we operated last year, we found there was a huge impact, we could barely keep up,” said Mr. Kask.

The decision to expand their operation beyond the coffee shop was any easy one, according to Mr. Kask, since Canal Flats has comparatively few commercial ventures, leaving village residents driving long distances to do their shopping, yet has a number of skilled and creative locals with products or services to offer.

“Mountain Mercantile acts as a venue for people to share their wares,” he said. “Sure, there’s a grocery, a gas station, and pub. But there were some things we were missing here in the village. Everybody wants or needs those things at some point, and to get them, half the people from Canal Flats would be driving down to Cranbrook and the other half would go to Invermere. It’s 45 minutes either way. Why not have them here?”

So far Mountain Mercantile has a fitness centre/gym; a boutique beauty and clothing store; a yoga studio; a dance studio; a boutique carpenter who makes gourmet cutting boards and adult-sized jenga games; local artists; a gourmet pickle maker; a pasta maker; locally made potato chips; at least two jewelry designers/creators; organic cold pressed juice; local ice cream; farm feed and supply; local sourdough bread; and homemade soda. There’s also handcrafted eco bags; sea salt; gourmet soups; hand crafted soap; a candy company; art kits; pet wear; custom reclaimed furniture; custom lighting design and fabrication; and essential oils.

“There’s a lot of talented people in the Valley,” said Mr. Kask, adding he and Ms. McLean are looking to add a pharmacy and pet grooming services to Mountain Mercantile.

He said the mix of local and high-end, designer type offerings is an intentional blend, one that will appeal to both Valley residents and Calgary hockey parents.

The vendors’ market in Mountain Mercantile currently is open Friday through Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., but plans are afoot to expand that.

“We’re trying to get it to a seven-day a week operation,” said Mr. Kask.

A website for Mountain Mercantile is in the works, but in the meantime those interested to learn more can check out the Base Camp website at