Local businesses adapting to “new normal”
When the pandemic struck, Jennifer Yaeck at Creemore Village Pharmacy found herself in a quandary. As large numbers of city residents migrated to country homes and transferred prescriptions from their city pharmacies, the volume of refills she was handling increased 100 fold. Yaeck was faced with a choice. Should she hire additional staff and train them while struggling to keep up with the increased demand, or was there a better way? Without a crystal ball to predict how long the situation would last, she opted to manage the prescription service with existing staff and began transitioning to on-line orders for prescription refills. The change was well received, and with some long hours, Yaeck and her existing pharmacy staff were able to meet the needs of both long time residents and those who have elected to weather the storm in this area. Pharmacy staff are still available by phone for those who prefer live interaction.
The positive experience with the prescription order system led Yaeck to branch out into online shopping for clothing and giftware. She had always wanted to experiment with online shopping, but once pandemic shopping restrictions were imposed, she found herself stuck with lots of inventory and no customer traffic. The change has not been without challenges. In order to allow customers to choose Mothers’ Day cards, staff had to take pictures and post images of each card, then handpick orders for curbside pickup. To date, Creemore Village Pharmacy does not offer a “pay online” option, but they will continue to update and refocus their offering going forward.
As she looks ahead to fall, Yaeck says flu shot season will be the next big challenge. Plans are being developed to offer flu shots by appointment, possibly on Sundays while the store would normally be closed. Details will be announced once protocols are established to provide the service safely.
Just a few doors south, darci-que’s store was a fixture on Mill Street for five years. Her storefront in the old meat market building offered balloon bouquets, make-your-own wine and original art. Her world came crashing down on March 13. Darci-que says, “Suddenly, there were no cars, no people, no business. It was weird.” After three months with no income, she was forced to abandon her Mill Street location, which she claims made her feel like a loser. Then in the space of a few weeks, everything changed.
Darci-que was able to rent a small space from the Creemore Pizza Company to service a dozen long-term customers of her wine business. Today, she has a waiting list. The balloon business has been “going crazy” as people look for new ways to celebrate during a time of social distancing. Her new line of children’s t-shirts and infant onesies featuring darci-que illustrations has just launched on Shopify. Best of all, Darci-que says she has no more stress. Having survived those dark days in March, she is now feeling optimistic about her ability to cope with whatever comes next.
When the province mandated COVID related shutdowns, hardware stores were declared essential. Patrick and Sarah Charlebois at Creemore Home Hardware quickly instituted curbside pickups and home delivery with “pay at your door” service. Pat says the biggest challenge was arranging daycare for their young children. If not for grandparents to help them out, one of them would have been forced to stay home. That, and the hysteria over toilet paper, will be his lasting memories of the pandemic.
Since in-store shopping resumed, Charlebois has seen a lot of new people becoming regular shoppers. Hot items this year were seeds, gardening supplies and paint, as people used the extra free time to take on projects around the home.