How Sask. businesses are 'navigating the unknown' and adapting to stay afloat during COVID-19

Some Regina businesses have taken a creative approach to keep working during the pandemic.

From food and drink to working out, nearly everything has changed because of the pandemic

Glenn Valgardson, owner and GM of Pile O’ Bones Brewing Company, had to close his bar and restaurant on Saskatchewan Drive in Regina. He said it doesn't qualify for government subsidies because it hasn't been open more than a year. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Saskatchewan has started talking about how to get some industries back in business, but many have had to adapt to continue operating in the age of COVID-19. 

Some Regina businesses have taken a creative approach to safely reach customers and stay afloat.

Tim Schultz runs Local and Fresh and Local Market, which includes a hyper-local grocery store, eatery and event centre.

He stocks baked goods, meats and produce from greenhouses year round along with prepared foods like frozen pizzas from Ogema and homemade perogies. 

Tim Schultz, co-owner and CEO of Local and Fresh, kneels in front of his brick and mortar location which opened in Regina's warehouse district about a year ago. You can no longer go in and browse, but you can get an employee to shop for you and do pickup or delivery. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

You can no longer browse around, but you can go in and ask for items or get your grocery order delivered. Schultz already had the infrastructure set up, having started deliveries five years ago. Once he opened a brick and mortar location the delivery service wasn't as popular, but demand has skyrocketed because of the coronavirus.

Right now is the time to just encourage each other and to just help each other get through this.- Tim Schultz, owner, Local and Fresh

Schultz said they've been at capacity many days, with up to five deliveries per hour from 7:30 a.m until 8 p.m.

He said he started his business because of his passion for the local economy and local producers.  All of the products are grown or prepared in Saskatchewan or other parts of Western Canada.

Schultz said he's been impressed with the community's support for local businesses, including his own, during the pandemic. He encourages people to find out how companies have pivoted and keep doing what they can to support them. 

"As a small business owner myself, every order that comes through is kind of like a pat on the back and an encouragement not only to us as the owners, but to our staff, that the community is just encouraging us to keep going," Schultz said.

"Right now is the time to just encourage each other and to just help each other get through this."

What some Saskatchewan businesses are doing to reach customers and stay afloat during this uncertain time

2 years ago
Duration 4:40
Premier Scott Moe says the province is coming up with a plan to get some industries back in business but for the time being, many have had to adapt to continue operating in the age of COVID-19.

Restaurants update operations 'just to survive'

Just two days after Premier Scott Moe called a provincial state of emergency on March 18, restaurants were required to halt dine-in service.

Most now offer takeout, delivery or curbside pickup.

ZamZam Wraps had to temporarily close its location in the Cornwall Centre, but has introduced special deals hoping to drum up business at their east location.

Manager Hussein Nahle said it's also a way for them to make their food more affordable at a time when many people are facing financial hardship.

"We are navigating the unknown," said Nahle. "So it's very hard. We have to put in more plans just to survive."

Hussein Nahle, store manager of ZamZam Wraps, says the restaurant has been rolling out special 'stay home' specials for delivery in hopes of drumming up business and making food affordable for people during the pandemic. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

Nahle said they sanitize and clean the counters and debit machines after each customer and are even washing the money that comes in and out of the till. 

Quarantine happy hour

You can now also get beverages right to your door. Pile O' Bones Brewing Co. has set up an online portal called Sask Beer Delivery.

The bar and restaurant attached to the brewery on Saskatchewan Drive in Regina had to close, so bartenders have become drivers. 

Valgardson and his team created the online portal Sask Beer Delivery and is now delivering beverages from 14 other breweries, a number of distilleries, wineries and one kombucha company in Saskatoon and Regina. (Matthew Howard/CBC)

In Regina, they do up to 150 deliveries a day between the hours of 5 and 8 p.m. CST. The service is also going in Saskatoon. 

Owner Glenn Valgardson teamed up with 14 other breweries, several distilleries, some wineries and one kombucha company to deliver beverages made all over the province. 

On top of that, Valgardson and others under the Craft Brewers Association have brewed a new beer, with plans to give 100 per cent of the proceeds from its sales to breweries directly affected by COVID-19. 

"With all the breweries in the province of Saskatchewan we all have a very collaborative effort," Valgardson said. "We're very friendly with each other. It would kind of be like seeing your neighbour go bankrupt. 

"You'd do anything to help them."

Valgarsdson said 70 per cent of his business came from selling kegs wholesale to bars and restaurants. With those closed he said he's had to lay off half his staff. He said he doesn't qualify for government subsidies because the bar opened less than a year ago.

He said he's sent letters to local government and the Prime Minister's office and is waiting to hear back. 

Turning to music in a difficult time

Since people are not supposed to leave their homes, many music teachers have switched to online lessons. 

Music is a great stress reliever.- Matt Cudmore, performace director, School of Rock Regina

School of Rock Regina performance director Matt Cudmore said teachers can't really jam with students because of the lag, but it's been the perfect time to focus on music theory.

Students at School of Rock Regina are taking their time off from school to practice their instruments and connect via Zoom. (Facebook/School of Rock Regina)

With kids out of school, they have more time to practise. One of his guitar students learned an entire Alice In Chains album in a week. 

"Music is a great stress reliever. Whenever I'm feeling angry or upset in any way that's immediately what I'm going to do is play music," said Cudmore. "Pretty much everyone's at home right now with a bunch of time on their hands you know obviously you can binge watch some series on Netflix but why not pick up an instrument as well."

At-home workout has whole new meaning

Exercise is another common stress reliever. All the gyms in the province are closed to the public now, but many are helping their clients work out at home. 

Villains Strength & Conditioning teamed up with other local businesses right away to post free workouts online on multiple Facebook pages. It has also created an online virtual program, with live video workouts and free nutrition plans for members. 

Villains Strength & Conditioning members are now working out live through an online video platform. The gym moved their membership online when their new location in Harbour Landing was mandated to temporarily close because of COVID-19. (Facebook/Villains Strength & Conditioning)

Manager Julie Baldock said it's not a good time to focus on losing weight, but she is encouraging people to set a routine and keep up with physical activity.

"Working out isn't always about getting those chiseled arms or those six packs. It's often about just feeling good, honouring your body and your mental health," Baldock said. "We wanted to try and reach out to as many people as we can and just say, this is something you can do in your house. Don't worry. Don't feel trapped. We got you."

The gym opened its new location in Regina's south end one week before it was forced to shut down. Owner Brendan Kozack said he's taken a financial hit, but he's more worried about what comes after the pandemic, with people having lost income and likely being uneasy in crowds.

Working out isn't always about getting those chiseled arms or those six packs. It's often about just feeling good, honouring your body and your mental health.- Julie Baldock, manager, Villains Strength & Conditioning

"What's this going to look like three to six months immediately after we're done this kind of quarantine phase and we're kind of getting back into the swing of things and and businesses are kind of back open and stuff like that?" he said. "It's going to be vastly different and we're talking about people that got laid off and perhaps didn't get hired back on. There's going to be a large hit."

Premier Scott Moe is expected to release details on reopening Saskatchewan later this week. 

He said that plan will likely start with more businesses being deemed essential, but it might not happen for weeks or months. 


Alex Soloducha is a reporter for CBC Saskatchewan.


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