Calgarians stock up on guns, water filters, cannabis and home gym equipment

Some stores are seeing more traffic as people prep for the COVID-19 pandemic


Pamela Fieber CBC News·Posted: Mar 24, 2020 2:03 PM MT


J.R. Cox, owner of The Shooting Edge, says customers are buying ammo by the case in preparation for hunting season, but he's busier than usual this month.(Helen Pike/CBC)

While many Calgary businesses are shutting their doors in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, some are busier than ever as Calgarians stock up on guns, cannabis, home gyms and water filters.

At the Shooting Edge in southeast Calgary, owner J.R. Cox is entering his busy season.

And this year is no exception as customers flood in to buy shotguns, gear and ammunition.

"We're selling a lot of shotguns. We're selling a lot of hunting ammunition. I mean, our hunting ammunition is picked over," he said.

He noted that a steady flow of people are coming in, washing their hands and getting what they need at his location in the southeast, beside the Calgary Farmers' Market.

Many don't want to miss out on hunting season, he said.

Beau Gebal and his staff at Queen of Bud, a cannabis dispensary, are wearing masks to protect themselves and their many customers who are elderly or have compromised immune systems.(Helen Pike/CBC)

Across town, it's a similar story at cannabis dispensary Queen of Bud.

"It is almost as if it was just legalized again," said Beau Gebal. "That's how busy it has been."

Gebal says many customers are coming in to make sure they have what they want and need before isolation or complete shutdown, and he wants to supply it.

He and his staff are wearing face masks and taking every precaution. Ideally, he would like to be able to offer home delivery, especially to his many customers who are elderly or have compromised systems.

"Unfortunately, due to government regulations, we're not allowed to do deliveries. But, for sure, if that's something that we were able to offer, we would be on that immediately," he said. "But due to government restrictions, cannabis delivery is not legal at the moment."

Gebal says although business is brisk, he still has a good supply of his product.

Retail shops like Queen of Bud are doing what they can to keep surfaces clean, offering hand sanitizer and wearing masks. At this time, they cannot offer cannabis home delivery.(Helen Pike/CBC)

While some are worried about their mellow time, others are worried about pumping up.

Graham Garrity sells gym-quality equipment at Apple Fitness Store.

"It's been a very interesting week," he said. "We caught wind that in Alberta most if not all of the gyms would be closing for reaction to COVID-19, and shortly thereafter, we have been flooded with phone calls, web inquiries, walk-ins," he said.

Customers are looking for everything from a single pair of dumbbells to a full-fledged gym with cardio and strength equipment. Bikes are also popular.

"It's been interesting times, for sure," Garrity said.

"Basically wiping out a good portion of our strength inventory and, you know, down to the point where we're selling off floor models to try and help people cope with stress and anxiety at home, and try and get that relief from that piece (of equipment) that they're accustomed to getting on.

Apple Fitness is allowing just six customers in the store at a time in an attempt at social distancing. Garrity said they do normally offer a delivery service as well, and they encourage people to pick up their pre-assembled items right at the front door.

John Cumming, owner of Crown Outdoor & Tactical, has been busy filling orders for water filters and survival gear.(Submitted by John Cumming)

And then there are those people who think it may all get much, much worse. They're heading to army surplus stores like Crown Outdoor & Tactical (formerly Crown Surplus), where business is brisk.

"I can't complain, we're only open three hours a day, and in those three hours it's good," said John Cumming, owner of the Inglewood store.

What are they buying?

"Gas masks, water filters, dehydrated food, backpacks — they call them a three-day assault pack just to get out of town," he said. "We'll have the odd one or two coming in looking for a gas mask."

The Russian-era gas masks are sold as a novelty item, Cumming said, but people are suddenly buying them up the way they did right after 9/11.

"I'm finding it a little frightening, actually. It's beyond me. Sometimes I wonder if I've missed something in the news because it gets really ramped up, some customers are just almost paranoid in the sense of wanting to protect themselves," he said.

"And I tell them, especially with gas masks, I'm not guaranteeing this will protect you in any means."

Cumming, who is a third-generation owner at the store, said the COVID-19 pandemic is on par with the 9/11 attacks, when people were buying gas masks and fire evacuation hoods.

"We used to do a lot of business back then," he said, adding most of his customers just want to be prepared.

For anything.

"There's two types, there are the preppers, and they're pretty much prepped already, they are just coming in for their last-minute things," Cumming said. "And then there's the people who are afraid of what could happen, they want personal protection, or the water filters, that's another big thing for us, our water filters for some reason."

Crown Outdoor & Tactical offers curbside pickup.

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