As the economy came to a standstill and businesses across the Okanagan, and the country, had to close when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, it was time for business owners to get creative and think outside the box. Since then businesses have shown their creativity, courage, and adaptability and we want to celebrate and recognize the resiliency of those in our community that have made necessary shifts with a handful of inspiring stories.
With their doors closed and no dine-in options, many of our restaurants and markets had to quickly pivot and start offering alternative options. The Train Station Pub located downtown Kelowna not only adapted but gave back in the process. They began with free deliveries from their take out menu, turned their parking lot into a drive-through hot dog and lemonade (and beer) stand, and offered essential workers half-price deals. They also collaborated with many other local companies and offered “take and bake chef kits’ and grocery sales, before they could finally, once again, open their doors.
Similarly, Old Vines Restaurant and Quails’ Gate Winery, not only began to offer boxed take out options, curbside pickup and local delivery but also converted the Allison House, a quaint rustic cabin on the property, into The Market where guests can pick up delicious treats, meals, as well as their favourite wines all to take home and enjoy or use one of their socially distanced picnic tables. From May 15 to July 1, they also donated $5 from each bottle of their limited edition Rosé magnum sold in their wine shop to BC Hospitality Foundation, who raises funds to support hospitality workers facing financial crisis due to a health condition.
When the pandemic first hit, Start Fresh Kitchen, a small family-owned business specializing in catering and events, took their cooking workshops online, sharing recipes with step-by-step virtual cooking classes. Since then, they have transitioned their efforts to Start Fresh Grocery, offering a “socially responsible online and pick up grocery store” that helps support local Okanagan products. You can find a variety of local cheeses, dairy products, meats, sauces, as well as a line of environmentally-friendly home essentials, and ready to go meals. Not only that, but they also started to work closely with the Central Okanagan Food Bank. The stretchable soups program allows them to use fresh produce, meat, and dairy products from the Perishable Food Recovery Program to create whole-ingredient soups, delivering 900 servings of soups to the Food Bank weekly and saving tonnes of fresh food from going into the landfill.
Many of our small retailers also had to shift the way they do business and interact with consumers. Kelowna has a great array of small independent boutiques, most of whom did not have an online purchasing system. In the weeks following the closures, we saw many of these quickly adapt and learn an entirely new way of doing business. Strut Footwear and Apparel, Textile Apparel, and Healing Hollow, showcased their resiliency as they adapted and launched business models which allowed them not only to survive in the months of total closure but also expand their client base to those outside of the Central Okanagan. Morgane, another small boutique in Kelowna, took a different creative approach and used social media and new technologies to engage with users and allow them to book virtual fashion appointments and get some 1:1 virtual personal shopping.
Many of the wineries that make up the Kelowna wine scene are family owned and have small tasting rooms, which meant significant changes in how they operate and welcome guests. Redistributions and conversions of space, new structures, and new approaches were all needed to make sure guests were kept safe and that health rules were followed. This meant many wineries had to create new and exclusive experiences. Spearhead Winery, for example, made the most of their beautiful lawn area, adding picnic tables and creating sit down, personalized tastings outside.
This is only a small sample of our community adapting to the circumstances. We know there are many stories of resilience, success, and hard work, and we want to give a huge round of applause to all of our local small businesses who have adapted throughout these challenging times. If you would like to share your story or the story of a business you know, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to tell us about it.