As the COVID-19 pandemic extends deeper into 2020, many Canadian small businesses are still forced to navigate a wave of uncertainty. Despite the easing of certain restrictions, there’s growing concern about the second wave, rollbacks, and potential new restrictions on the horizon. Hence, small businesses need support from their local communities now more than ever.
A unique business, with a loyal following
A great example of a small business adapting to change and benefiting from local support is a specialty spice store, located in St. Mary’s Ontario, called Troyer’s Spices. Here you’ll find husband and wife, co-owners, Dan Troyer and Amie Rankin’s quaint storefront, in the Stonetown’s central business district.
One step inside reveals a place where uniqueness, quality and affordability all converge. In fact, they have over 140 spices and blends available for purchase. As Dan explains, “at some point in your life, you’ve opened a recipe book and realized you need a spice that you’ve either never heard of or have no idea where you’ll find it.”
He goes on to say, “Spices are the primary focus of our business, not our side business. A customer can walk in and buy as much or as little as they need to complete their recipe.”
It’s Troyer’s Spices’ willingness to work with their customers and the optimal quality and freshness of their product that’s enabled them to build a loyal following of local chef’s, everyday customers and tourists.
Making changes due to COVID-19
Despite their best efforts, the business was not immune to the effects of COVID-19. As Dan recalls, “overnight, tourism sales disappeared and orders from restaurants stopped. Online sales were pretty much nonexistent prior to the pandemic anyway. We were only averaging about one online sale per month.”
The forced closure due to the pandemic made Amie and Dan realize that they needed to make some changes to their business.
Right away they established a new online sales platform and implemented curb-side pickup and porch deliveries. They leveraged Canada Post for long distance orders and skillfully used their social media channels as an effective communication tool to engage, inform and show appreciation for their customers.
“Grocery store shelves were bare, especially for spices; however, our specialty suppliers remained stocked and we were able to keep spice racks and drawers stocked throughout the pandemic,” Dan explained.
Their efforts didn’t stop there. The duo also used this time to renovate the store and implement a health and safety training program for their staff (vetted by their local health agency). They also instituted an in-store four-customer maximum to keep everyone as safe as possible.
Staying resilient and looking ahead
When asked about his approach to the pandemic, Dan’s philosophy is not to focus on where we are today, but rather where we need to be in the future. Despite the hardships that COVID has brought, it’s also created new opportunities. Additionally, he’s thankful to our varying levels of government, health agencies and financial intuitions for their commitment to supporting small businesses and upholding public safety.
Overall, Dan admits to being an optimist at heart. “We’re all in this together and we need to collaboratively work to find new solutions”.
With respect to the impact in his local St. Mary’s community, he concludes, “we’re all struggling through this together and we’ll continue to keep supporting each other in any way that we can – the whole community has embraced shopping and supporting local now more than ever.”
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