The global economic downturn of the last several years may have been felt across the Columbia Valley, but one local business owner says it’s all going to change in the coming years.
“Radium is going to take a turn again and go back to the big tourist town it was years ago, which is a wonderful thing,” said Arnie Wassing of Radium Bighorn Gift and Souvenir.
Wassing, a long-time businessman who spent 26 years in the wholesale market, opened Radium Bighorn Gift and Souvenir with his wife Angie Matchett just over a year ago, and the pair are off to a great start at their location at 7535 Main Street West in Radium Hot Springs. In addition to having a fantastic location and a highly visible shop, Wassing said their store focuses on delivering a high-quality product line that is always changing to meet the needs of their customers.
“Definitely we’ll be changing our product line all the time to meet the needs of locals, and we call them ‘weekend warriors’ out of Calgary and Edmonton,” Wassing said. “Making sure that we have different product every time they come in, that there’s something new and unique for them to see.”
To aid this endeavour, Wassing has taken advantage of his wholesale business background to compile a complementary array of merchandise from all across the globe. Leather purses from India, wool sweaters from Nepal and hand-crafted sculptures from Montana are just a few of the goods on display, although Wassing said they try and purchase local products whenever possible as well.
“We try to buy as much as we can Canadian content, but at the end of the day some of it does need to come from other countries,” Wassing said. “We try to really go low on the Made in China.”
The store also offers books, sleepware, photo prints, jewelry and more, including clothing branded with the Radium Wonder Land logo as part of the new Radium community marketing plan introduced this past May. Wassing is a strong believer in the tourism industry, but said that he wants the store to appeal to locals just as much as international visitors.
“We’re getting a lot of (international) tourists… but especially the American travellers,” Wassing said. “I would say they’re 60 per cent of our business right now, which is amazing, that’s one that surprised us.”
Having customers visit from all over the world also plays right into Wassing’s hands, as he said his favourite part of the job is meeting and talking with new people. Having grown up in Radium, Wassing also has a good knowledge of local history and landmarks which definitely comes in handy.
“It’s almost like we are another visitors centre,” Wassing laughed.
Radium Bighorn Gift and Souvenir also takes an active part in the community they call home, sponsoring a number of local events. In their first year of operation, Wassing and Matchett have already sponsored Music on Main, the local Rod and Gun Club, and the Headbanger Trail Challenge, with no plans to stop anytime soon.
“We’re definitely involved with helping with anything that Radium needs,” Wassing said. “Just to make sure Radium keeps growing in the right direction.”