Bright Spots in Covid

2020 and now into 2021 has taken its toll on everyone, and our local businesses were far from exempt.  From the stay-at home orders to ever-changing regulations, businesses continue to face an incredibly challenging and unprecedented time.

While things have been hard, an impressive number of businesses and organizations have found ways to use the current volatile landscape to their advantage, and to the advantage of our local community.  Here are some of the Bright Spots our local businesses have seen through creative problem solving and adaptations during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Expansion in Uncertain Times

It may seem strange to undertake a major business expansion into a totally new community during a pandemic but we saw the incredible opportunity in a perfect location in the Altona Mall so we jumped at it.  Our business model here is slightly different as we don't do pet boarding and day care but we have the same values: good quality and low prices for our pet food (which is mostly sourced in Canada) and other products.  We also have added more special orders and online e-commerce through our website. 

We have been happy to continue to raise money for Forever Friends and to donate food for pets to Helping Hands and Dog Park.

We have felt welcomed in Altona and were happy to hire good staff.  We have tried to keep our staff and customers safe with the mandated health and safety protocols, offered curbside pick up when requested and free delivery.  We found that the pandemic brought the community and local businesses together especially through the Chamber of Commerce Shop Local programs and Chamber Bucks.

 

"Do it the right way, be honest and it comes back.  We believe those values helped us be ready for whatever comes."

Guy Britton - Ruff Mutts Pet Food & Supplies

Driving Response

Covid-19 made us adapt and change our business philosophies after over 100 years in business, and we were thankful to receive a lot of help and direction from FORD and Health leaders.  We were deemed essential from the start so we strictly followed all the sanitation protocols for our staff and customers. We stopped having in-person meetings, provided masks and wipes and required physical distancing at all times.  The Service Department stayed steady but we lost a lot of work hours due to regulations that required anyone sick to stay home.  We wanted everyone to stay safe.

We were lucky to be in a position to "Take Out to Help Out" promotions.  We paid the first $10 of staff food bills; provided Chamber Bucks instead of our regular Christmas banquet and gift bags.  We tried to celebrate and have some fun during a trying time.

The pandemic also afforded the opportunity for us to update our website and social media.  We made the site easier to navigate, added e-commerce, credit application and inventory.  It is now possible to choose options, arrange payment options and purchase a vehicle from beginning to end, all on the website.  We were surprised to experience our worst sales month ever and our best sales month ever - all during the pandemic!

"It was small changes and dedicated family and staff that led us to where we are today.  We enjoy our involvement with the Community and look forward to carrying through in the future."

Jim Dyck - Rhineland Car Company Limited

Taking Opportunities

We are governed by the Province who required PPE, limited visitation and restricted programming.  Those clients in Community Living and Disability Services are under tight constraint.  So, we had to get creative.  We have 135 staff in day programming and in 9 homes.  All staff are now utilized in the homes so we were able to avoid lay-offs.  The good thing is that the staff now have a better understanding about what each department does and are working very well together.

Our commercial output also needed to change as with restrictions, we were short staffed much of the time.  Even with that, we were able to increase our output of pallets (thanks to the donation of funds to purchase new equipment), crokinole boards (Crokinole Canada ordered 1000 boards in 2020 and have ordered 3000 for 2021) and our recycling department is busier than ever.

Our transportation service is pretty much nonexistent right now due to government restrictions whereby out-of-town clients must stay isolated.  We will restart as soon as we are able.

We were unable to hold a Christmas banquet but Cards that were donated by the Community were delivered to all our clients.

Richard Neufeld - Blue Sky Opportunities

For Today's Needs & Tomorrow's Dreams

Covid 19 forced us to implement many changes as we moved all business and board meetings online which was also a bonus because it made it easier for out-of-town Board Members to participate.  We soon realized that they had to change how we operated and find a way to work with Youth in Philanthropy and continue the 24 Hour Giving Challenge while eliminating in-person interaction.

We offered one grant intake period in 2020 and were very happy to extend the application date beyond what is normal.  We also participated in two rounds of the Emergency Community Support Fund with Community Foundations of Canada and The United Way.  This is federal funding that is invested in the Community through us.

Although we couldn't run our usual fundraisers, we found the Community reaction was very positive; we were happy to note that the donations were only slightly below 2019 levels.  "Donations are essential to the work we do and we thank the Community for its support."

Chris Sumner, Board Member - Altona Community Foundation

Inspiration in Trying Times

For the most part I have been isolating and working from home during the pandemic.  For the first 3 months, business was pretty much nonexistent which I took as a welcome break while I figured out what's important and refocused.

 

I saw there was a business need for social media management, branding templates, design and logos, etc.  I worked on designing social media posts and websites with a website builder.  I keep my eyes and ears open to the needs of the community and how I can help make YOU look better.  I have had good support from Altona & Area businesses who are also shopping local.

There have been few in-person meetings, most business now is done online via ZOOM or telephone but it works and I can also design wedding stationary, event posters and such and make them useable on social media as well.

I have been happy to have time to give back by helping deliver groceries through my Church and as a small group leader hosted a virtual youth pizza party.

Doralin Ginter - DG Inspired

Taking a Leap of Faith

I panicked a bit in the beginning as I had just completed the purchase of the business and I wasn't sure what would happen.  Luckily, we were considered essential so it really wasn't a big deal.

Pretty much everything closed down for about 2 weeks in March (2020) so, to keep our staff working, we took the opportunity to build on our 40 years of service to the Community by building plexiglass screens for businesses.  We were able to meet the need with a premium level product and service at affordable prices.  We are very proud of this.

 

One difficult issue we are dealing with during the pandemic is supply chain management.  It has been very difficult to find a reliable source for the material at the price we need to meet customer orders.  In June (2020) the price stabilized and since we have been busy with commercial builds.

We appreciate the patience of our customers during this time.  We pledge honesty and transparency and will never use Covid-19 as an excuse.

Jesse Voth - Red River Glass & Hardware

Priority Pivot

The Covid-19 Pandemic completely changed our priorities.  We wanted to help local businesses with signage they required while being flexible with prices.  We went from creating first-class signs for businesses to printing distancing decals and Covid signs.  There were many specific orders for colour-coded stickers and clings for windows.  The pivot continued by making sure businesses had what they needed and things got really busy over the summer (2020) with orders for schools as well.

 

Everything Covid-related was a priority for us.  We were very proud to contribute free decals for school zone signs and we donated social distancing stickers to all local businesses.  We participated in town signage, covers for school signs, co-op decals and school decals.

This has actually resulted in more traffic to the business as people have gotten to know us and feel comfortable dealing here.  We are proud to have upgraded our products by purchasing a new embroidery machine so we have started doing screen printing and embroidery in house.  We have upgraded our printer so our work is now higher quality and more efficient.  We will be hiring more staff.

Marlon Bergen/Ryan Bergen - Alt Signs