AIRDRIE: A local area business owner got creative over the holidays and built a rainbow igloo to entice people to come and utilize his property for their outdoor winter photos.
Cody Shepherd, owner and operator of Homestead Market, located just south of Airdrie, created the icy structure out of 400 blocks of coloured ice, which he illuminates at night to create a rainbow-coloured spectacle.
“It's a lot of fun and surprisingly easy,” he said. “It's good to be able to just get out there and have a project to focus on – and with COVID-19, and all that, it's a safe thing families can do in their backyard. My daughter really gets excited when she sees it lit up at night.”
He added building the igloo was a small project that can help people forget some of the negative emotions they’re experiencing for a moment.
Shepherd made the coloured ice blocks using 300 disposable turkey roaster pans and food colouring. After some frosty temperatures and a little bit of construction work a couple weeks ago., he managed to complete the igloo structure.
The igloo is an addition to Shepherd’s existing outdoor photography locations at Homestead Market, which are often used by verified photographers.
Photographers with a business license can rent out makeshift studios located on his property, including a renovated farmhouse, a rustic cabin, and an antique fire truck. Last year, Shepherd planted a thousand peonies, ten thousand tulip bulls, and had two acres of sunflowers, which were a hit among photography businesses.
“It's kind of like a mini Butchart Gardens out there,” said Joy Soepono, Shepherd’s mother-in-law and owner of the property.
After Christmas, Shepherd said there weren’t many things to entice people to come out to the property, and the igloo is another unique winter feature that isn’t holiday-themed.
“People seem to be interested in it, but I still think it's a little bit too cold for people to entertain the thought of being out there for family photos. But that might change,” Shepherd said.
Photographers have options for indoor and outdoor photography all year round.
Shifting business model
Homestead Market’s property just south of Airdrie used to be home to a dog kennel, but when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down travel in March 2020, nobody needed boarding for their pets anymore.
After 16 years of running the kennel, nearly all their bookings were cancelled overnight and they had to make a decision whether to keep going or to make changes to their business model in the hopes of making it through the pandemic.
Soepono explained that her son-in-law began selling plants and bushes on the front lawn, which quickly grew into a miniature outdoor market with multiple vendors.
“We realized we had something going there and food trucks showed up and it kind of blossomed from there,” Soepono said.
The inside of the dog kennel was renovated to host vendors, but the outdoor parks remain as a private off-leash dog park that can be rented out.
“We were fortunate that through COVID-19 we could still utilize those parks and have some income through that. Certainly, there was a big dip in income when COVID-19 hit,” Soepono said.
Shepherd always had a dream of opening a market, according to Soepono, and the pandemic was almost a blessing in disguise because it opened the door to offer something different. The market attracts local makers, bakers, producers, and artisans. Food trucks and live music can often be found there in warmer months.
“It's in the country but in the city, and it's just a real change of atmosphere and it feels good. It's a beautiful location, so it's very relaxing,” Soepono said.
On top of the great vendor community they’ve built, Homestead Market has hosted some larger public gatherings like a pet expo and local charity events.
Free stalls are provided for non-profit organizations and a business for kids program allows young entrepreneurs under 18 to launch their business at reduced rates.
To find out more about Homestead Market or how to get your family photos taken at their property, go to homesteadmarketalberta.com.