McMurray Musings: Not Your Usual Suspect...Cora Dion
Wife, mother, pet owner, animal lover and now local business owner: Cora Dion, co-owner of the new Borealis Pet Centre in downtown Fort McMurray wears a lot of different hats on any given day.
Dion, who has been a Fort McMurray resident since 1998, came to the community from Fort Saskatchewan. In 2002, she began working at a small, independently owned pet store called Northstar Pets and quickly came to enjoy the work, her colleagues and the customers who visited the store in need of supplies for their pets. In 2016, it appeared that after twenty-five years of operation the store was at risk of closing permanently, and this is when Dion stepped in.
“I wanted to continue on the family owned and operated legacy. The store was in danger of closing,” says Dion of a situation that could have resulted in the loss of a small local business and seen several community members lose their employment. The store, which has been in the same location for all of the years of operation, had developed a steady and devoted clientele, and Dion was keen to ensure the store continued to operate and provide opportunities for local pet owners and potential employees.
While operating a business is occasionally challenging, Dion finds the experience gratifying as well. “I find it rewarding because I know the enriching experience of sharing your life with pets and I love seeing people and happy pets,” she says of owning and operating a local pet store dedicated to the needs of pet owners and their furry, scaly, finned or feathered pets.
While the store was one of the only pet-related businesses in the region for some time, other pet stores have moved into the community in recent years as it became clear there was a tremendous opportunity for successful businesses catering to pet owners to operate here. Dion says her store is different, though: “The difference is that we are family owned and operated. Our staff is like family and we treat you and your pets like family”. This difference allows Dion and her staff to take a personal approach to serving their customers, developing strong relationships that go beyond that between store and client and more similar to one you would find between family and friends.
Dion, who owns a variety of pets of her own, also found some degree of notoriety during the May 2016 wildfire when she and her daughters were forced to evacuate not only themselves and their small pets but also their horses, eventually meaning her daughters had to ride the horses to safety. Media coverage of their exodus followed, with attention focused on an individual who clearly views pets as family, and who would do anything to ensure no family member was left behind during a time of crisis.
When asked what she loves about Fort McMurray, Dion responds: “I love Fort McMurray because it’s a city but it has a small-town feel.” Perhaps this is the perfect summary of why Dion would take a leap of faith to purchase and operate a small, independent business; the small town feel of a community that embraces local businesses and the individuals who are willing to invest their time, money, heart and soul into ventures that serve the residents of the region. Dion is a prime example of the spirit, determination, and tenacity of the people of Fort McMurray, and her commitment to this region shines as she embarks on a new adventure as a local business owner serving people – and their pets.