Steveston’s Retailers Focus on the Positives
The COVID-19 pandemic has drastically altered virtually everything we are accustomed to doing, from going to work, school, medical appointments, dining out, and of course our ability to visit our favourite stores anytime we like.
It is an unfamiliar experience to put on a mask and walk through a store at shopping spree speed while dodging people as we physically distance ourselves.
I have a deep appreciation for retail workers who don’t have the luxury of making a quick in and out visit but instead are serving customers all day. I make a point of thanking everyone who is working so hard to make sure we get what we need. It is a true act of selflessness.
It is not a secret that operating an independent business can be a hard gig, and it is often the owners who you will see behind the counter. They are a devoted lot and are passionate about their profession. Case in point, husband and wife team Grant and Erinn Bryan who own and operate O’Hare’s Liquor Store and O’Hare’s GastroPub.
Rather than venture into the world of takeout orders, Erinn and Grant opted to temporarily close the pub when B.C. restaurants and pubs had to shut in mid-March; they decided to put their efforts into their adjacent liquor store. Their first step was to donate the perishable food in the restaurant to local seniors. Erinn says, “It felt good knowing that it was going to a good cause.”
O’Hare’s Liquor Store is operating daily from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Customers are able to come into the store to shop or if you prefer not to come in there is a pick up window out front. Social distancing protocol is followed. Limited numbers of people are permitted inside the store. Customers respect each other’s need for space when making their selections and line up two metres apart to pay.
Customers enjoy coming to the small shop without crowds or line-ups.
Going the extra mile, literally, Grant has taken on the role of offering free delivery for orders over $50 to customers who live west of Gilbert Road and south of Francis Road. Visit www.ohares.pub where you will find online order forms for beer, wine, spirits, and mixers.
Grant requires orders to be in by 3:00 p.m. for same day delivery and all deliveries take place in the early evening. He arrives wearing gloves; he rings the doorbell, and then stands back a fair distance and waits to make sure someone over the age of 19 receives the order.
The couple is extremely grateful that they have their retail store to help support them while the restaurant is closed.
“We are thankful we’ve been able to stay open and appreciate the support from the locals. We keep focussing on the positives.” Erinn Bryan
Erinn says, “We are selling a lot of local products; people are being mindful of supporting local producers.”
They have seen random acts of kindness from their customers who have ordered wine as a birthday present or as a ‘just thinking of you’ gift.
Sadly, O’Hare’s had to make the tough decision to cancel their three fundraising festivals: Steveston Wine Fest (June), Steveston Ciders and Sours Fest (July), and Steveston Beer Fest (August).
Grant and Erinn are deeply disappointed for the charities that benefit from these events such as the Richmond Christmas Fund and The Sharing Farm Society. They promise they will try to reschedule the festivals and look forward to bringing everyone back together to celebrate.
Erinn concludes, “We are very thankful for our customers’ support. We are trying to do our part too and support our local businesses and help wherever we can.”
Pharmacies are deemed an essential service, and Pharmasave Steveston Village’s owners have been doing their part to adopt new strategies to keep their customers and themselves safe during the pandemic. www.ipharmasave.com
Pharmacy owner Fred Cheng says, “We have a great crew and our spirits are good.”
Pharmacists have background knowledge of the risks associated with COVID-19. As a smaller sized pharmacy Fred and his team have been able to implement changes quickly, for example, they boxed off the dispensary area with a floor-to-ceiling polyvinyl and plexiglass barrier to protect against two-way droplets. He admits that the protective measures of standing behind a barrier and wearing a mask have made conducting business rather impersonal, and this has been difficult for the friendly team.
Customers are kindly requested not to wait inside the store while their prescription is being filled. This is a chance to go for a walk or Fred is happy to offer free delivery in order to keep people at home. Elderly clients are particularly appreciative of this service. Some people have wanted to leave a tip to say thank you but Fred has told them that is not necessary. When he makes the delivery he will safely distance himself from the door while he reviews the medication with his client.
Orders can be placed by phone, email, fax, Facebook or Instagram for curbside delivery. Just call the store when you arrive and the staff will bring your purchase directly to the trunk of your car.
Fred adds, “I give my cell number to anyone who needs it and welcome my existing clients to connect anytime.”
He appreciates the effort people are making to isolate as much as possible and not come into businesses unless they really need to. At the same time, this has been hard for retailers to see their traffic decrease substantially. He admits front of store sales have dropped and with shorter hours of operation he has also had to cut pharmacists’ hours back.
Pharmasave Steveston Village stopped selling lottery tickets to minimize non-essential contact. Fred says, “Initially some people were a bit on edge” until they began to understand the risks associated with this unfamiliar way of shopping. Like many other businesses, they prefer not to take cash at this time.
All pharmacies have been encouraged to implement new dispensing rules. The Ministry of Health, as well as the Canadian Pharmacists Association, and the B.C. Pharmacy Association have urged pharmacists and the public to adhere to 30-day refills on medications where possible, and due to high demand for inhalers such as Salbutamol, they are only being dispensed one at a time.
Fred is deeply touched by customers who have given his staff gift certificates to other Steveston village businesses in order to “help support the little guys.”
Many of our dedicated small business owners are looking for the silver lining.
Fred says, “I feel blessed that we are doing a good job in Canada of keeping the cases of COVID-19 relatively low. I am hopeful Steveston village will bounce back.”
After fourteen days of working without a day off Beth McKercher, owner of Splash Toy Shop realized she needed to slow down a little. Business owners like Beth are pulling exceptionally long hours, and often are doing many jobs to keep their businesses running.
In mid-March, she closed the shop for a week to step back and see where we things were headed as the number of COVID-19 cases climbed. Beth assessed her business and what would work for her, her employees, and the community. With the goal to keep Splash open and at the same time be safe, she came up with a plan.
Initially, limited numbers of people were permitted in the store but since then Beth has revised that strategy. Now customers are invited to come in one at a time only, and with a purpose in mind. Beth points out, “This is not the time for browsing in shops.”
She cut back to a skeleton staff and is now operating Splash with the assistance of her store manager Tracey, and another employee, Darwin, who is working from home on social media. Two more staff have been hired to work on a part-time basis.
“Without the help of Tracey and Darwin, it would be a very different story. Tracey, in particular, has taken the risk of still coming in to work when she could easily have refused to do so,” says Beth.
She adds, “Part-time help is a life ring at this stage! I had to close weekends, as it was too exhausting to keep up. This has allowed us to be open again on weekends from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.”
Inside the store, there is a no-touching rule, not even the door handle. Beth points out how much cleaning is involved to keep a store sanitized so she and her staff handle all merchandise and open the door for customers.
As sad as it sounds to not have children in a toy store, these are necessary measures she must take to keep little hands from touching. She explains, “This is not a light-hearted shopping experience.”
She remarks, “Doing business during the pandemic is taking ten times the effort. Managing all business at a safe level means more phone calls, emails, and social media and giving every customer undivided attention rather than allowing them to browse and pick things from the shelves themselves. It also means no available time during ‘opening hours’ to do all the other things required to maintain business, so I stay late, or go home and put in several more hours of work.”
Ideally, Beth prefers people to phone or email their orders for curbside pick up.
Her customers have been supportive. While online shopping is a thorn in the side of independent merchants, there are many people who still like to see an item in person and wish to shop locally.
Grandparents still want to shop for their grandchildren. Beth appreciates their business, and she is also concerned for their safety so she encourages them to keep their visit short.
Beth says, “People are aware of how hard it is on individuals and businesses, especially when they know the person behind the shop.”
The personal assistance our local merchants’ offer is what makes shopping in Steveston memorable. Celebrating a birthday during the pandemic has been hard on so many children and Beth likes to assist her customers by offering her knowledge to help take those gifts to the next level.
If you are staying at home with your children you will be happy to know Splash carries a variety of math and English workbooks.
Puzzles are by far Splash’s current top seller. Beth remarks with a laugh, “Jigsaw puzzles are like the toilet paper of the toy world. We can’t keep them in stock.”
Families and seniors love puzzles to help keep their minds active. With this in mind, Beth created a special puzzle drive for seniors; purchase a puzzle for donation, and Splash will match it to donate to a Richmond long-term care home.
Beth mentions, “We have donated 73 puzzles to date! Thank you, Steveston.”
Using display space effectively is a cardinal rule for any retail shop, but during this challenging time when browsing is dissuaded, Beth has cleverly utilized her large store windows to show as many products as possible – especially puzzles! People want to be able to see them and will buy what they see on display.
Like other Steveston merchants, Beth is trying her best to remain positive. Doing her part to shop locally, she recently purchased flowers from Prickly Pear to plant in containers outside her shop to keep things cheerful.
Beth says, “I want to recognize what people in the community are doing to help businesses in Steveston by shopping locally and getting meals from local restaurants.”
She concludes, “We will get back to some degree of normal eventually.”
This is only a sample of the retail businesses in our community who are going above and beyond the call of duty. Yes, it is partially because they want to ensure their shops succeed and come through the other side of the pandemic, but the overriding feeling is they are here for you – to offer goods that you depend on and make your lives as normal as possible. Thank you, Steveston merchants.