Oh, Canada 🚧

Yesterday (Sunday, October 25, 2020), I took a walk through Sault Ste. Marie's biggest mall — Station Mall — with my sisters. I have not been to downtown Toronto since the pandemic started and I've heard it's very eery and almost dystopian down there. People are very scared to be close to each other and there tons of shops that have been closed. I'd say that Station Mall is the closest to seeing that in The Soo. (luckily for us, we've had less than 40 cases total in the Algoma district from the time of writing this article, so things are pretty business as usual here PLUS wearing masks).

Here's what I noticed:











Former Teavana



Former Foot Locker



Former Bentley



—>Not pictured: both anchor tenants at either end of the building are shut down + a sit down restaurant, which were all closed prior to Covid.

I'd like to admit a few things before jumping into this essay:

  1. There were more people at the mall than I expected even given all these empty stores. Station Mall really is "the centre of it all" for SSM.
  2. I haven't been to another mall outside of the Soo for months. I think the last one was Conestoga Mall in Waterloo at beginning of September. But prior to that, it's been a long time.
  3. I have not really researched this essay. It's more of a means to get some thoughts out of my brain. 🧠

I shop online a lot and I sense a lot of resistance and judging from others. People telling me I should #ShopLocal and screw Amazon and shopping online. It's funny; even people who are in the online industry are badmouthing Amazon / positioning themselves as morally superior lol Tons of people I worked with at Shopify were retweeting and responding to this tweet:

I totally understand where the former are coming from. Ask anyone I know who's not from The Soo, I talk about The Soo 24/7 lol I love the Soo and I want The Soo to succeed long-term.

With that being said, I don't think the answer is to Shop Local. It obviously doesn't hurt to Shop Local but I think it's only a small part of a larger, more complex solution.

When David's Tea, Le Chateau, and Aldo are all going out of business, 3 Canadian companies who I'd consider big companies with lots of resources at their disposal comparatively to small mom-and-pop shops, I think we have a problem and only more trouble is going to come for smaller boutique businesses that don't have those resources at their disposal.

I think the main thing that will save The Soo (and maybe other communities like it and even Canada itself) is the following formula:

Radically embrace reality + Adapt to new behaviour AQAP

Firstly, we need to accept that the world is changing in many different ways. People don't buy like they used to.

I am all for traditions. If things have been traditions for XXX number of years, there must be some utility in them. It's very #Lindy and seems like a time-tested principle. With that being said, I don't think humans have ever faced a society that is evolving and changing as quickly as we are. As most things in life, it needs to be a balance of both. #TheMiddlePath

Rather than complaining and judging others for shopping in different ways, I think we need to accept reality as the way it is. We are going to lose in the long-run if we delude ourselves into thinking "this is the way it should be" as the world passes us by with what actually is.

go to where your customers are , not where "they should be" or "where you want them to be"

adopt new trends (includes willingness to try and fail, iterate)

learning as quickly as possible. need cutting edge.

that's why I don't like why people judge me for buying on Amazon. There are actually mom and pop shops on there. And I would say they are the smartest ones. Bc they have adapted more quickly.

My dad has a funny quote in his office:

If you don't like change, you're going to hate extinction. i.e. adapt or die.

As a whole, I think Covid has been a blessing. It's kind of like the glass full or glass empty question (PSA: the glass is always full. It's got water in the bottom half and air which is composed of elements in the top half. Thus, it is always full 🙃).

I cannot pretend to imagine what it would be like to own a business that has had to close down shop due to Covid. With that being said, I think it has given us all a great opportunity to reimagine what we thought was possible for businesses. And even stress test the current systems we had in place. It reminds me of the Square peg in the round hole analogy.

It definitely takes a leap of faith + some optimism in the future but I think we can do better than we were prior to Covid if we are willing to embrace the mindset:

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” (i.e. we must forget who we thought we should be to become who we are) — Joseph Campbell

"No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it." (i.e. what got us here, won't get us there) — Albert Einstein

Written: October 26, 2020


  • I have not read The Innovator's Dilemma but I know the idea and I think it might discuss what I'm laying down here?
  • To their credit, SSM did apply for Amazon HQ2. But that was something that in all reality we probably never had a chance at getting at in the first place and maybe we could have reallocated those funds to something else. I'm not sure though. Might have been a marketing campaign just to draw other businesses here.
  • Shane Parrish's We need to talk Canada.

Additional notes:

  • We fear what we do not understand

Person from Silicon Valley came back for a speech in Toronto. And she said something along the lines of "We need less people with Canada thinking, we need more people with SV thinking. In SV, they think 10x. In Canada, it's 1x."

How I think we will win:

  • Covid is a blessing for Canada IMO. Because we are so geographically dispersed, I think it's hard for us to compete by selling physical products. Further, we don't have as high wages are people working in the States. However, this remoteness now seems to be a good thing. With more and more things going online (software), we don't need to all be in cities. Further, people can make great money and live with low cost of living in Canada.
  • We should embrace our diversity as a strength.