Local businesses are adapting to life under COVID-19 restriction (Town of Ladysmith photo)

Ladysmith businesses carry on in the time of COVID-19

Local businesses struggle to stay open and serve the public

As the world shuts down around them, some local Ladysmith businesses have chosen to remain open and serve the public.

Any business currently operating is under strict regulations from the provincial health officer to enforce social distancing. Businesses must maintain a space of one to two metres between customers. Some have had to limit the amount of customers that can come in the business at one time, and others have switched to delivery or pickup order models.

For Pets Sake has remained open, and is allowing customers to stock up on only double what they normally do to prevent stockpiling. After every customer comes in the store they sanitize any touch surfaces.

“We only allow one person at the till at the time to enforce social distancing protocols,” Meagan Cozens, of For Pet’s Sake said. “Be nice to the staff, be nice to the customers. Everyone’s got to work together here.”

Cozens said that the staff are happy to know that Ladysmith pets are being fed. For Pet’s Sake plans to stay open until the government orders them to close.

Paul Bouma of Bouma Meats has found himself short staffed for the crisis. Since closures and social distancing protocols have gone into effect, Bouma has been averaging 14 to 16 hours a day.

One of Bouma’s employees is immunocomprised, and another of his employees had holidays booked to spend time with his grand children on the Island – that employee has now returned.

“He’s going to work nights. He’ll be able to prep and meat pack for me,” Bouma said. “I’m going to be the only one serving customers.”

Bouma is only allowing one customer in the store at a time. He’s also limiting orders within reason to prevent the stockpiling of meat. Customers can call ahead to place their orders for pick up at the store. Orders are first-come first-serve.

Despite the long hours, Bouma says he’s hanging in there.

“Right now I’m doing alright. I’m keeping my head down and not thinking about doing anything except serving my customers. There’s times you feel a little depressed about the whole thing, but you just kind of think, people have to eat to survive. That’s why I’m doing it. If I didn’t have food or meats I’d shut my doors and stay at home,” Bouma said.

Another store staying open to provide Ladysmith with food and groceries with the Ladysmith Health Food Store. They are not letting any customers in the store. Instead, customers can pick up or place orders at the door.

“People can call us, we’ll pick it off the shelf for them. We’ll run it through, process their payment, and bag their order with their name on it. Then we hand it out the door to them,” [name] said.

For pre-orders they require credit card payment. They are also taking tap payments at the door. Cash payments will not be accepted. The measures have made the staff feel secure enough to continue working.

“I think staff are feeling that they’re safe behind the door,” [name] said. “Of course we’re providing hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies so they can continuously apply and feel like they’re not in danger. Keeping that real distance between the customers and the staff is our number one goal.”

Ladysmith’s Old Town Bakery developed a creative solution to enforce social distancing. Co-owner Kate Cram came into the business around 3:00 am last week and measured out spaces each a metre long to indicate where customers could safely stand. Old Town Bakery removed all of their interior seating, and have even applied social distancing rules to staff.

“We had a team meeting. I physically showed them the measuring tape and told them this is the distance we need to keep from each other, and from our customers,” Cram said. “We’ve took some equipment out so there’s more standing space.”

Old Town Bakery has installed a take-out window to keep customers and staff safe. Customers can call in with their orders to pick up at the window, or place their orders at the window. Old Town Bakery is also offering a meal delivery service. Cram said it was a priority for her to prepare healthy meal options and get them to people in need.

“It’s tough to know whether to stay open, or to close. But there are a lot of elderly people and those in isolation who we’re feeding, so I think it’s important they have healthy pre-made meals coming to them,” she said.

Cram has also been forced to layoff staff to accommodate social distancing restrictions. Her other business, the Wild Poppy Bistro closed on March 16. Before the COVID-19 crisis, she employed 34 people between both businesses. She now employs eight.

In the Beantime Cafe had remained open for as long as they could, but on March 23 they closed up shop. Owner Campbell McIntyre said 15 staff members were laid off a week prior, and he laid off his last two employees before the business closure. McIntyre in closing because there’s not enough business for him to remain open.

“We’ve had our dining room closed for several days, and it’s been a contactless pick up outside the door. We’re going now to a take and bake model. We’ve prepared a bunch of meals people can order online that we’ll deliver contactless to their home,” he said.

McIntyre said the crisis has been a big burden on him, and expects a tough road ahead for the business. McIntyre also operates the Oyster Bay Cafe at the Ladysmith Community Marina, and there is no telling what the business impacts could be. He said he’s not impressed with what the government has offered to help small business owners.

“They’ve offered to loan more money, which just puts us deeper in a hole. It’s a short term help, but a long term burden,” he said. “I’m not feeling a lot of love from the business as a small business owner.”

Every business that is still open is open becuase they are passionate about supporting the community. If there was ever a time to support them in return, it’s now.

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