COVID-19 steers local businesses onto information highway

by Gayle Wilson

  • <p>FACEBOOK PHOTO</p><p>The Barn Coffee and Social House in Mahone Bay chose to stay open for business for people who remain working in essential services and are &#8220;holding us together right now.&#8221;</p>

Like others across the province, businesses and services in Lunenburg and Queens are scrambling to meet the challenges posed by COVID-19 and the Nova Scotia government's decreed State of Emergency.

Often with little option than to post "Closed" signs on their doors and windows on the high streets, they're turning to the information highway and telephone circuits to offer products and services largely to current customers who are likewise impacted by the virus.

Restaurants and bars that were forced to close seated service have joined other businesses that have begun taking orders by phone and online for pre-arranged pick-up and doorstep delivery. And communication mostly is by updates to their existing followers on social media.

The Biscuit Eater Cafe and Bookstore in Mahone Bay is offering complete three- and seven-day meal plans.

"Set your food budget and choose one of our meal plans or work with us to make a custom one for your needs and financial ability," the café suggests on its Facebook page.

The Hell Bay Brewing Company in Liverpool is offering a similar advanced order service with parking lot pickup. "Simply call in your order, pay over the phone or e-transfer, drive up to the side door and pop your trunk, we will place your order in your trunk," the company also advised on Facebook

With the State of Emergency directive that gatherings must be limited to no more than five people, many restaurants and businesses have simply opted to close and not offer take-out until further notice. Among these are the Salt Shaker and Grand Banker in Lunenburg. Other non-food-related businesses, such as Kitchen Witch in Bridgewater, and SPRIG Marketplace Apothecary in Mahone Bay, have indicated they were closing in respect of government health guidelines and to do their bit to help stop the spread of the virus.

The Lunenburg Farmers Market closed and started moving online. In the meantime, it was encouraging customers to contact its vendors directly so they can still obtain essential local food and goods.

Mike and Amelia Bishop, owners of The Barn Coffee and Social House in Mahone Bay, shared their angst over the best plan for their business in a prepared statement. The couple reported on Facebook March 23 they had come closest than they ever had to deciding to temporarily close as a result of Covid-19.

While the statement said the couple has "immense respect for those who have decided this was the correct choice for their staff, family and customers," it advised that The Barn would remain open.

"To be clear, we are not open for the people who have been told in no uncertain terms to 'just stay home.' We are not open for people who just need a coffee or who want to get out of the house. We have decided to stay open for the guy delivering the newspapers, the doctor, the health care worker, the truck driver, the paramedic, the police officer, the grocery store worker, the mask maker, the pharmacist, the utility worker, and all the other essential people out there holding us together right now," the statement said.

In order to ensure "complete safety," the shop was closed to indoor traffic for to-go orders which would be served through a new, purpose-built take-out window. And it was no longer accepting cash.

Meanwhile, Donna Hatt, chair of the South Shore Tourism Cooperative and the director of national marketing at Authentic Seacoast Company in Guysborough, tried to breath some life into stagnating revenue of businesses in the province.

"Flatline the virus, not our businesses," she pleaded on the business and professional networking site, LinkedIn. She asked those who "have the capacity" to drop by a local, independent store or shop.

"Look for their hours of operation OR look for their newly revealed/existing ONLINE stores." Hatt indicated that purchases of $20 to $40 a week, "spread out among us will make a difference .. fiscally, and morally."

Having worked within and with private, independent businesses, she added that she spoke from first-hand experience.

"Let's not let them die, just this virus," said Hatt.

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