With mixed feelings, the president of the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association talks about his hope that the businesses of the Oak Bay Village survive this pandemic.
Martin Cownden runs Chef on the Run which already had a customer base of older adults that appreciated the store’s premade meals. Turns out premade meals are exactly what people are looking for, including Chef on the Run’s regular customers, during the social shutdown underway to mitigate the spread of COVID-19.
“For us, it’s tough, there’s more business out there and we want to help more people but the solution for our store is not to chase new business, it’s to retain the staff we have and best serve our customers,” Cownden said.
As it stands, this year’s Spring Nosh is unlikely though the Business Improvement Association is hoping to possibly reschedule it for the summer. The association’s members include all storefronts along the Oak Bay section of the Avenue.
At the same time, Cownden can’t help but have a heavy heart as he sees other businesses in Oak Bay Village struggling.
“There is hope, people need to be reminded that there is hope that we’ll get through this,” Cownden said. “I wish I could say it’s business as usual.”
To keep residents up to date on the situation for each Oak Bay business Heather Leary, of the Oak Bay Business Improvement Association, created a list of each business’ status. She updates it at least every two days.
For example, Bosley’s is open but it’s best to call ahead so that staff can prepare the order in time for pickup.
“One of the hard things is that not everyone understands what we’re going through,” Cownden said. “We have one man who is a regular. He wants to come in as he always has, and doesn’t understand why he can’t. He also doesn’t have a non-touch payment method.”
Eventually, Cownden just asked the man what he wanted.
“He said, ‘four chicken pot pies like always,’ so I gave it to him and I said come back when you can figure out how to pay [with credit/debit].’”
Cownden said he is unsure how many people realize the impact small businesses contribute in our social settings and society.
“When you think of how much money is being pumped into assistance and rescue programs, where do people think that money came from before?” Cownden said. “A lot was from small businesses.”
Right now, the circular economy is disconnected.
“There is hope this will pass we’re just in a valley of difficult times, just like we came back from the 1982 high interest rates,” Cownden said. “Don’t forget that in 1984 many of the Government Street stores were boarded up.”