Businesses adjust to curbside economy
By Zachary Roman
Adjusting to new rules and regulations is never easy in the best of times, but county businesses have had to do it in the worst of times and find new ways to survive amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shawn Chamberlin, the owner of The Dominion Hotel and Pub in Minden, has been feeling the effects of the COVID-19 economic shutdown in full force. The Dominion has lost a major source of their income as they have not been able to rent rooms. They have started doing takeout from their pub, and while it is going well, Chamberlin said it won’t be enough and is especially worried about those he employs. To do takeout, the Dominion set up an online ordering and payment system, and will put your food right in your car when you pick it up for a completely contactless and safe experience.
Chamberlin said that the Dominion Pub will be continuing to do takeout throughout the pandemic. “When they forced us to close, nothing stopped, our bills are still coming in, and we have to find a way to pay for those and that means everything we’ve got, we’ve got to pull the stops out … we’re going to be doing whatever we can do, within the limits of law, to generate revenues,” said Chamberlin. “We desperately want to get our staff back, we’re concerned for all of them and their families. It’s a hard time for businesses but it’s just as hard a time for employees. “We’re really concerned, we take very seriously the fact that we’re supporting all these families, they all rely on us. Our staff is like family, and we just hate to see this come on them too.”
As far as government support goes, Chamberlin said he is not interested in the Canada Emergency Business Account. The account provides interest free loans of up to $40,000 to small businesses and non-profits whose revenues have been impacted as a result of COVID-19 – and if the loans are paid back before December 31, 2022, loan forgiveness of 25 per cent will be granted. “I would say that we’re pretty much left out to dry,” said Chamberlin. “We’re going into debt like crazy now and the last thing we need is another loan.”
Chamberlin said he is optimistic that the government is trying to get things open, but said that even if things do progress the Dominion will probably not be functional until next year. Despite the tough times, Chamberlin’s current situation has taught him an important lesson about not being so hard on himself. “A lot of us business owners in particular, we tend to self-flagellate. Anytime our business goes down … or the money doesn’t come in, we tend to blame ourselves. And we live with this continual amount of guilt, because well, maybe we should have advertised more or maybe we should have stood out front and shook hands,” said Chamberlin. “This time around, I think that we’ve all learned that it’s not always our fault … there’s comfort in knowing that you can’t control everything. And maybe the lesson we learn is that, you know, we may be smart business owners but we’re not in control of everything.”
Schiedel-Webb is the co-owner of Haliburton Highlands Brewing. Things
have been a little different for his company, as they are classified as
an essential service. “We’ve been able to allow people to come inside,
we can pack their orders for them, they can pay for their purchases,”
said Schiedel-Webb. “But we’ve also made it a bit easier by building our
online store, allowing people to order online [and] pay online … so
they can have curbside pickup without having any contact.”
While people can come into the store to purchase beer, the brewery’s tap room is closed and Schiedel-Webb said that has been the hardest part. “We’re a family business … we live and work together,” said Schiedel-Webb. “What’s really missing from our lives right now is the social aspect that we get when we have friends and customers in having a pint of beer and chatting.”
Haliburton Highlands Brewing has also added a delivery service, which they try to line up with Canoe FM’s radio bingo – on Tuesdays they will deliver your beer and bingo cards all at once. Schiedel-Webb said getting delivery set up was a challenge because of their location being a bit out of the way, but that it is under control now. “Shippers used to working in the city have a harder time getting used to where we’re located,” said Schiedel-Webb. “Making a delivery of a six pack of beer out to Tory Hill is a long way to go and then it’s a long way to come back. So it can be a challenge from that perspective, but business is picking up on that front.”
Paul Roy, co-owner of UpRiver Trading Company, said they had been completely closed at both their Minden and Haliburton locations until May 20. They launched an online shopping component to their site while their storefronts were closed, but said it was the kindness of their customers that really kept them going. Roy said that some customers had even purchased gift cards for future use, knowing the business could use the help now in these tough times. “Our community of customers are some of the best people around,” said Roy. In order to reopen on the 20th – in compliance with phase one of the Ontario government’s plan for reopening the province – UpRiver installed acrylic barriers at the cash registers, put in floor markers two metres apart and installed a cleaning station at the door.