By Stan Ashbee
Perhaps it’s OK to call small business owner Bob Siemens “The Puzzler” — because during the recent lockdown and self-isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Maple Creek’s Cowtown Kids Toy and Candy shop did record business in puzzle retail.
Proudly touted as, “Home to Western Canada’s largest puzzle display” — the downtown staple store has had a lot of visitors throughout the global ordeal. There’s also a book store located down the street.
“People are enthusiastic to get out of the house. With this store, it’s become quite iconic for a lot of people, as part of their annual vacation,” Bob explained. “It’s nice to see people that have wanted to come back and have been able to come back.”
Bob said he’s glad travellers can once again return to the area’s local attractions and come into the store, as part of their summer vacation. The store reopened on May 19 with Phase 2 of the provincial government’s reopening Saskatchewan plan. “
“We were able to ship hundreds of boxes of primarily puzzles during the lockdown, which we’ve noticed that has brought a lot more customers to the store. Over the lockdown, that’s when they learned about the store. Now, they’ve followed up with sometimes a visit to the store or reorders to get more puzzles,” Bob pointed out.
Bob noted the popularity of puzzles is enormous in Canada right now. “We have one of Canada’s largest puzzle displays. There are over 6,500 puzzles on display upstairs.”
“That’s something people just have not seen,” he added.
According to the puzzle king, the shop is the only large-scale set-up customers can just walk into at anytime and browse at their delight. “A lot of people are surprised to find that in Maple Creek and in a small town. That’s exciting too.”
Customers, Bob said, might see something in stock not available in the bigger centres —which helps put Maple Creek on the map in a unique way.
People are always looking for unique candy and other hard-to-get products to tempt their sweet tooth and quench their thirst. The shop also features a vast assortment of sodas to imbibe, too. “Candy in the summer is always a popular item. The cool vintage drinks are always a hit,” Bob said, adding the shop recently unloaded a full display of imported drinks in vintage glass bottles. “That’s always a very popular item in the summer.”
Customers always like to get crazy flavours, Bob said. “Like bacon and pickle juice soda. New this year is butter soda. We’ll see how that goes.” Other wild and wacky flavours include grass soda, Canadian maple syrup soda, mustard flavoured soda, and an always festive pumpkin pie. Vintage glass bottles include a Three Stooges’ “Wise Guy Root Beer” and a “King Kong Cola.”
Bob said the store opened on April 11, 2015.