Three Stories of the Success and Challenges Faced by Local Business | Sep 14, 2020
MP Chris Lewis was in LaSalle, a week ago, Friday, visiting three local businesses to hear their stories of success and the challenges they faced through the difficult days of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Canadians are talking about the many ways that Covid-19 has changed our lives. Small business across Canada has had its share of struggles through this pandemic. Problems include struggling to pay the rent, to maintain a clientele through weeks of forced closures, to find ways to reopen safely with many rules and limitations. Nothing is “business as usual”. Unfortunately, our communities have lost many small businesses, that have closed their doors, permanently.
On Friday, MP Lewis spoke with three businesses in LaSalle with three unique stories.
Joe Schmoe’s is a locally owned restaurant and has been a LaSalle staple for over 13 years. It opened in June 2007 at a location on Front Road and moved their restaurant to the current Malden Road location in 2013. While the pandemic saw restaurants close, Joe Schmoe’s switched to take out of their great food. Owner, Candice Lavigne shared “We weren’t expecting it to be this long-lasting…it’s been surprisingly great. We have learned a lot. It has caused us to reevaluate from a business standpoint.” Her husband, and co-owner, Jon Lavigne said “We answered the phones for the first couple months. So, we got to see how much our customers love us.” The support of their loyal customers has been incredible, ordering take-out and purchasing gift cards for use later and to give as gifts. People were wanting to do things to help them stay afloat. Candice said, “I would get teary-eyed sometimes.”
Joe Schmoe’s was able to take advantage of some of the federal government programs offered to help businesses through these difficult times. They were focused on maintaining local Health Unit requirements while they re-opened their patio at the beginning of July and are now offering a dine-in option, also.
F45 Training Studio in LaSalle, is an international franchise of F45, offering “the revolutionary training system changing lives around the globe.” The Studio at 5881 Malden Road opened in February 2019. Chris Miller, the owner and his partner, Andrea Masson, are happy to promote and maintain a sense of community and inclusion at the Studio. Andrea said, “I can work out next to a 73-year-old and, before COVID-19, we would give each other a high five after our workout.”
During COVID-19, they successfully transitioned from an in-person Training Studio to offering online options for their clients. “It has helped us reach out to the community. Many people said the only way they could work at home was to have F45 in online format because that helped them stay fit and sane. Eighty people signed up for our online Zoom fitness classes. This was a great encouragement to many and showed how much mental health and fitness go together. So now we’ll have to keep the online model going.” This opportunity to personally connect with their members through the Zoom platform has made a significant difference in their effectiveness at training at a distance and it provides a greater connection than just posting impersonal workout videos.
F45 has placed a priority on keeping its clients and the community safe. Protocols have been established to keep the equipment and studio sanitized so clients can feel confident when they come to work out.
F45 was able to participate in federal funding opportunities. The owners shared, “From a federal standpoint the government stood up for us. From a local perspective, our landlord stood up for us”
The Parlour Ice Cream Shop opened just days after COVID-19 began to significantly shut down the country. Owner Crystal Meloche shared “Opening your doors in the middle of the pandemic, if you didn’t have the community’s support, you wouldn’t be successful. Everybody in our community was trying to support businesses. Trying to find ways to do it while having that human connection.”
One of the biggest challenges she experienced was miscommunication from the Health Unit. Crystal would receive information from one representative and different information from another. The clients would come in and share what they understood were the requirements. That was very frustrating, but Crystal put in place measures that were compliant with the regulations put out by the local Health Unit.
“I had thirteen teenagers working for me. Eleven of them – it was their first job, in the middle of a pandemic! Ninety-eight percent of the people were supportive of our staff. We have seen great support from the community.”
Regarding federal funding, Crystal received the response “we don’t qualify because we’re new.” Everything she was able to achieve during the most difficult days was through hard work, creative ways to meet the Health Unit requirements and the support of the community.
These three business owners have faced difficult days and continue to overcome. They credit the support of their community and clients for supporting them during the pandemic. They leaned on each other, not only for support but for motivation.
“I am really blown away by the stories.” Stated MP Lewis, “Honestly, we needed a good-news story, today we got three of them! Kudos to their clients for their generous outpouring of encouragement and support. LaSalle remains steadfast in their commitment to community. It is vital to continue to support our local business. Therein lies the magic. It has only been about, and will only ever be about, the people and the businesses of Essex. In the relationships we build, together We WILL get through this.”