The Bridges to Better Business Resilience and Pivots workshops Retail Industry panel was on Wednesday, October 28, at 9:00 am. This workshop explored how three retail stores were resilient and made quick pivots to mitigate the COVID-19 pandemic effects. Our guests were Luc McCabe and Sue Stewart, owners of The Finch Market, Kristin Davey owner of The Happy Popcorn Company Co., and Barbara Leduc, owner of Mrs. B’s Gifts and Home Decor.
The Finch Market
Luc McCabe and Sue Stewart are co-owners of The Finch Market in Finch, ON. The Covid-19 pandemic was something neither of them had experienced before. It made them fast track and dive deeper into their work on the store. At first, their focus was getting the right information as it was coming in. They started setting up space for social distancing, hand sanitization stations, and printing signs for the store. From there, they grew as Covid-19 grew, adding plexiglass barriers and face coverings for their staff.
One of the most formidable challenges they had to face was, at the time, how to continue to sell groceries to consumers when everyone was staying home. Even though they were an essential service, consumers avoided going out as much as possible to prevent the spread of Covid-19. It was problematic since consumers still needed to purchase food, and The Finch Market was still required to sell products. Their solution came to them when another local business approached them about setting up a delivery system. Then customers could call in their order, and the team would get the order ready for delivery. To add options, Luc and Sue also started offering Curbside Pick-up for their customers.
However, this still meant that everyone was staying home and that there was an audience with more disposable income. Plus, the majority of people were cooking and Barbequing to pass the time. To serve this new target audience, Luc and Sue started expanding their product lines. They began with adding Spiceology, a brand of offers various spice mixes, to their shelves. Sue went to social media to post about their new products. Their customer loved it so, they added more spice brands and even expanded their Dutch cheese selections.
One of the growths that Luc and Sue are the proudest of is that of their fantastic team. When the pandemic hit, the team dove into their work from meeting all the Covid-19 precautions asked of them and the added workload. They started getting stronger and faster. The pandemic brought them close together as a team. The couple offered their team time off to break from the relentless stress, but none of them accepted. Instead, to prevent burn out, Luc and Sue reduced their store hours by closing on Sundays.
With most businesses opening their doors, The Finch Market deliveries are only for a select audience of seniors or other homebound persons. But they continue to offer Curbside Pick-up for all customers. They continue to add new products to their shelves, so stay tuned to the social media channels!
The Happy Popcorn Co.
The Covid-19 pandemic took co-owners, Kristin and Bill, of The Happy Popcorn Co. by surprise. Yet, The Happy Popcorn Co. is one of the few businesses that has seen tremendous growth during the pandemic.
The week before March Break, Kristin and her family had left for their Cuba vacation. When they landed, the country had announced the shutdown. Kristin and Bill immediately contacted their mothers, who were operating the store at the time, to further understand what was happening back home. From there, they started formulating a plan of action when they returned while keeping in contact with their family back home. When they returned home, they went straight into quarantine. During those two weeks, Kristin and her husband fine-tuned the details of their new business plan. First, they needed to put up an e-commerce website. They were already using Squarespace, so it was a simple process to set up e-commerce with Squarespace’s partner Weebly. When the website was up, they posted about it to their following on social media. Their customers loved it! After about a week and a half, they were filling 30 to 40 orders daily.
Soon they were filling 40 – 50 orders daily and were starting struggle to meet the demand. They kept running out of popcorn to sell but didn’t have the space to prepare more of it in advance. It became evident that they needed are larger space. After speaking to their Landlord, they moved to their current location at 109 Pitt Street. Once in, they started expanding their products. They brought more soda and ice teas options, expanded their retro and imported candy lines.
Kristin and Bill have now re-opened the doors, of The Happy Popcorn Co., to their Walk-In Customers. They do continue to offer curbside pick-up as an option.
Mrs. B’s Gifts and Home Decor
Mrs. B’s Gifts and Home Decor is a local store, owned by Barbara Leduc, at Giant Tiger Plaza, 609 Pitt St, Cornwall, ON. She sells specialty items for the holidays and special occasions.
When the Covid-19 pandemic hit, Barbara did what we all did, panic. She quickly brought herself back and started planning her next steps. She knew she needed to make a drastic change to her business plan since she could no longer host large events like ladies’ nights, Christmas parties, or Black Fridays.
When businesses could start reopening, Barbara was concerned about her employees’ safety and customers. She pitched her plan to the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, Bring Your Own Bubble (BYOB). With the BYOB shopping experience, customers can book a time before or after opening hours in a store to shop with their Bubble. The group could be 1 to 10 people for a limited amount of time. So people could shop safely among their friends and loved ones while avoid waiting in the cold. It also increased the flow of customers into the store.
Barbara’s idea for BYOB took off! Not only is it an excellent solution for her customers, but more businesses in the Cornwall area are now participating in BYOB. Just in time for the holiday shoppers.
Next Bridges to Better Business Workshop
To hear more stories like these, be sure to tune in the rest of the week to Bridges to Better Business Industry Panels hosted in partnership by Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce, Cornwall Business Enterprise Centre, and Cornwall & the Counties Community Futures Development Corporation. On Friday, October 30, we will be highlighting how local business owners in the Tourism Industry Sector overcame the challenges presented by COVID-19. You will have the opportunity to listen to the experiences of the owners of Archies Family Golf Centre, Williamstown Fair, and the Mohawk Council of Akwesasne’s Thompson Island Cultural Camp and engage with them in a Q&A.
Click here to view the entire week’s schedule and register. Registration is required. The first 35 people to register per Industry Panel will automatically win one $10.00 Tim Horton’s gift card, courtesy of our Breakfast Sponsor, Tim Horton’s. A special thank you goes out to all of our sponsors who helped make these week-long workshops possible: Tim Horton’s, Eastern Ontario Training Board, Mohawk Council of Akwesasne, McDonald, Duncan, Dore LLP Law Office, and Business Development of Bank of Canada.
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The Finch Market
The Happy Popcorn Co.
Mrs. B’s Gifts and Home Decor: