CALGARY -- Local businesses in Kensington are optimistic that free outdoor music events will provide a much-needed boost this summer to rejuvenate their livelihoods.

A little rain didn’t stop Calgarians from enjoying a performance Saturday afternoon from The Sadlier Brown Band, which helped kick off a new series of weekend pop-up performances.

Every Saturday from June to November will now feature a variety of entertainment including musicians, dancers and street artisans to encourage the support of Kensington’s shops.

Executive director of the Kensington Business Revitalization Zone (BRZ), Annie MacInnis, says each show will run from 12:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.

“We’re just trying to encourage people to start to feel safe again, to come out and experience this neighbourhood – it’s one of the living rooms of the city,” MacInnis said.

“For every dollar spent locally, that generates six dollars for the local economy and the shopping districts like Kensington are absolutely critical to the recovery of Calgary’s economy.”

MacInnis adds that Calgarians are also invited to write a love letter to the neighbourhood for a chance to win $1,000 each week in gift cards that are good to use at any business in the BRZ.

Letters can be dropped off at the orange mailbox attached to the iron rod gate near Kensington Pub.

NEW BUSINESS THRIVING

Amidst the struggles of the COVID-19 pandemic, a total of 13 businesses in Kensington had to permanently close down.

However, several new businesses have since opened up including Deville Coffee, the mini MRKT, Top Notch Cocktails & Patios and Purr Clothing, which reopened a new location on 10th Street.

Another new addition is Chunk’d Cookies by BFF Cookies, which has seen long lineups down the street and has now sold more than 10,000 cookies since opening last month.

“It’s been crazier than I ever though it was going to be,” said owner Annalie Ibarra.

“We’re working extra hours, getting more staff soon so hopefully it will be easier but it’s definitely impressive I think and surprising.”

Ibarra moved to Calgary from Venezuela seven years ago and says Calgary has offered her small business a path toward achieving her dreams.

“I love the city. I fell in love completely and I feel Calgarian for sure because this is home and I’m super happy to start a business here.”

Meanwhile, other businesses like Manana Imports & Gifts are just finally starting to get back to a sense of normalcy.

Stephen Burger has owned and operated the Kensington store for 28 years. His business brings in hand made items from 15 different countries around the world and the pandemic hit his bottom line hard.

“That’s completely stopped. There’s hardly any air freight coming out at all – flights have stopped and it’s a tragedy in a really difficult time, particularly Nepal right now,” he said.

“With the full shutdown, it was just a dramatic drop in sales.”

Luckily, he had a decent stock of merchandise in his garage and has still been able to adapt by bringing in some imported items.

The hope of more foot traffic due to free pop-up events also has him feeling more optimistic.

“It brings that vibrancy and interest back to the area, people can ride their bike, bring their kids and experience more things happening here. Local business is critical and if you want to keep independent retail alive, the only way is to support it.”