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What you need to know about COVID-19: September 25, 2020
Brad Doiron and Alan MacLean of Founder's Delicatessen
The COVID-19 pandemic forced the face-to-face focused business to shut down in mid-March.
Switching from a bricks and mortar retail operation to selling deli meats wholesale to stores, markets and restaurants has cut costs and saved the business.
Brad Doiron found a silver lining when his Charlottetown business shut down in mid-March because of COVID-19.
Like many business owners, the co-owner of Founders’ Delicatessen was wondering what would happen next. In fact, the break gave Doiron a chance to reconfigure the business and focus on other ways to sell products. And rather than wait around for Founders' Food Hall and Market to reopen, he decided to leave in April at the end of his rental agreement.
"We were doing really well at Founders Hall and people really enjoyed our products. We were happy to be there," he said. "We just felt that our skills would be better suited for production as opposed to retail."
Doiron, a butcher by trade, partnered with Alan MacLean to open the deli in 2019. MacLean has owned The Butcher’s Stop in Mount Stewart for more than 40 years. In Mount Stewart, they process the meat, not only for deli items, but wholesale for Island restaurants.
With the deli closed down in Charlottetown, Doiron now works out of the Mount Stewart shop.
In March, just before COVID-19 shut down the business, Doiron was training someone to run the deli so he could help out more on the meat processing side of the business. At first, Doiron thought the closure would only be for a couple of weeks, but then it became known that the shutdown would likely be months. He said the building's owners, The Charlottetown Harbour Authority, worked with tenants to help out with rent. Even so, they decided to move on for business reasons.
As Atlantic Canadian provinces have been lifting restrictions to allow businesses to reopen, some have decided to remain closed while others have decided not to return to their original spots for a variety of reasons. One issue involves the inability of some businesses to meet their rent. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business has called on the federal government to reoffer the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program, which ended coverage for eligible businesses in July. The CFIB wants to see a program in place that makes the application process less complicated for landlords to participate and easier for businesses to qualify.
Founders' Food Hall and Market is in the historic CN Car Shop, where locomotives were repaired from the time it was built in 1906 until it closed. After years of renovations, the building opened on Aug. 16, 2019. It now has about 15 tenants.
Founders Hall is owned by Charlottetown Harbour Authority Inc. Mike Cochrane, the organization's CEO, said he believes that four tenants didn't come back when the building reopened earlier this month.
He wouldn't go into specifics about the ways the authority helped tenants with rent or say whether the organization participated in the Canada Emergency Commercial Rent Assistance (CECRA) program.
"We just tried to work with each (vendor) to see if we could try and assist in any way we could to get them through it," he said.
In the early days at the Mount Stewart shop, Founders’ Delicatessen offered pick-up and home deliveries, and then had a website built to enhance the customer experience by allowing online ordering and payment.
People became more comfortable with going to grocery stories and the online side of the business has slowed down since May. But the wholesale side has picked up, especially with restaurants reopening. Founders products are also being carried by the Copper Bottom in Montague, the Kent Street Market in Charlottetown and at a relatively new business, Cured Creations, also in Charlottetown on Queen Street.
"We were relatively limited with what we could do at Founders Hall with regards to the space we had. Our plan was always to build a larger bricks and mortar somewhere where we could do fresh meat as well as value-added products. You know, focusing on local, pastured animals and that's just not readily available unless you’re buying direct from a farmer, which is confusing and not extremely convenient for a lot of people," he said.
The redirection of the business allows customers to buy large orders, such as a whole pig, from Doiron rather than from a farmer, but it would also allow the business to offer customers local, organic and ethically raised meat products.
"We’re wanting to help those farmers out because they don’t really have the experience or knowledge from a retail setting.”
If you know of a business that has had to make big changes to adapt, send an email to email@example.com.