Like many business owners in Williams Lake, Tom Wong has found creative ways to weather the storm of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Wong purchased Caribou Ski Source for Sports in 1989 and has been providing the community with sporting goods for more than 30 years.
Growing up in Williams Lake, Wong’s parents co-owned the restaurant at the Lakeview Hotel. They sold it to retire in 2004.
Wong had gone off to the University of British Columbia after high school to complete a commerce degree in marketing and, after returning home to the lakecity, discovered an opportunity he felt was lacking in Williams Lake.
An athlete himself, Wong saw the need for a sporting goods store in the city and, when the chance presented itself, purchased Caribou Ski Source for Sports.
“In 1989 when I bought it we did cross country, downhill [skiing], footwear and a bit of clothing,” Wong said.
Soon expanding to offer a wide variety and selection of sporting goods and clothing to the community, Wong built a new building on First Avenue North — where the business is currently located — in 2005.
Now in his 31st year of business, Wong prefers to stay out of the limelight, but anyone who knows him personally knows his loyal and generous nature.
Many local sports organizations have benefited from Wong’s generosity as a backer of youth athletics over the years.
Wong weathered the storm of the wildfires in 2017, which forced him to close over the summer months and, now, has adapted to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s been very interesting,” Wong said. “After going through the wildfires, honestly, it’s a little hard to get too amped up over anything so, it’s kind of gotten like, we’re kind of used to this.”
Wong remained open with reduced hours at the start of the pandemic, allowing customers to phone ahead if they needed to purchase any supplies, and used the opportunity to make the transition from winter to summer sports apparel and equipment.
“Obviously right now there’s not a lot of organized sports going on which plays a huge factor in what we do, so we’ve been affected on that side,” he said. “But there’s really no use beating your head against the wall. You just try to cut your costs as much as possible and ride things out. It’s not anything you can really plan for.”
Back to full-time hours for the past two-and-a-half weeks, health and safety precautions like hand sanitizer and plexi-glass at the counter have been taken.
On his more than 30 years in business, Wong said it’s been great to be a part of the downtown business community in Williams Lake.
“It’s nice to be able to do a variety of different things,” he said. “It’s less boring that way.”