VICTORIA – Re-opening and getting back to business, after closure due to COVID-19, is resulting in unexpected surprises and challenges for some small business owners in Victoria.
“I have been planning for our re-opening since the day we closed our doors in March,” says Tanya Higgin, owner of Emerald Day Spa. “When I began the process of re-opening the spa last week, I expected there would be some challenges. I have three young children still at home and I’m essentially trying to re-launch my business. What I didn’t anticipate was the amount of energy that would go into staffing. Some people are still nervous about returning to work, some have childcare issues, some are just not ready to work yet. I am confident all my staff will be back working soon, however, other employees may be surprised to find their employer has had to close up shop, and when they end their CERB there may be limited employment opportunities available.”
“Also, because we are one of the first spas to open early with all the health and safety procedures fully in place, our spa is an incredibly safe place to return to and our customers are keen to book an appointment. I am working 50 to 60 hours a week and having to manage client expectations around when they will be able to get in to see us again,” says Higgin.
For Tiffanie Home, owner of Just Matcha Tea Shop, re-opening has been bittersweet. “We started out the year with two business locations, but unfortunately we’ve had to permanently close our Oak Bay location, which was my baby, and we’ve lost one of our business partners,” says Home. “We are now operating solely out of our Pandora location, by Fan Tan Alley. We’re looking for ways to connect more with locals as we estimate sales will be down about 50 to 60 percent, due to the lack of cruise ships, few if any international travelers and the summer markets being cancelled. It’s also a challenge navigating new safety procedures when our customer service model is to create an intimate experience when you come to our store.”
At BPM Fitness Centre, Keelan Clemens is figuring out a way to re-coup the massive cost investment of having sufficient masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies and protocols in place to keep all the fitness equipment up to Island Health guidelines. “We’re having to get really creative about how to recover the losses from being closed and significant new PPE costs, all while having restrictions on our ability to bring in more clients as a result of physical distancing constraints,” says Clemens. “I am crunching numbers and trying to figure out how to get more, smaller classes running while trying to cover costs.”
Despite the challenges there have also been some positive surprises.
“I’ve always known the important role small businesses play in the heart of the community, but what has blown me away is the incredible support of the community and the connection we have with our customers. People have been so engaged and caring,” says Higgin. “We’ve had to adapt quickly and find new ways of doing business, like touchless payment and curbside pick-up. I have been able to manage these past two months because people have stayed invested and connected to us.”
“Through social media, the boutique fitness industry has begun networking and sharing ideas. We are stronger as a collective group, rather than trying to do it alone as individual businesses. I really feel like we’ve come together as a community of like-minded businesses,” says Clemens. “Shutting down has also really highlighted the positive impact of fitness on mental health. Exercise helps us get back to routine, get energized and to get out of a negative funk. Our passion for helping people get healthy and fit physically and mentally is even greater now than ever before.”
“Like many local businesses we’ve had to quickly pivot, and we are very surprised how successful our home delivery model has turned out. It’s not something we would have typically considered as a viable service offering and it has allowed us to stay connected to our customers during these difficult times, which beyond being good for business has been important for our mental health,” says Home. “We are also incredibly thankful that our customers and the community are really making an effort at the moment to support shopping local, and encouraging their friends and family to do business with us. Now more than ever is the time to buy local!”