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A New Direction

Local Businesses Evolve and Emerge During Pandemic
Author: Jen Brignall-Strong
4 years ago
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After COVID-19 restrictions shuttered shops, restaurants, and all non-essential businesses virtually overnight, many were left wondering “what’s next?”

As lockdown measures were eased, business owners scrambled to come up with new safety protocols, secure PPE, and in some cases, were forced to find a new way of doing business altogether.

Amid the chaos, however, an opportunity to pivot emerged. For some local entrepreneurs, it meant quickly adapting to an online platform. For others, it became a chance to explore new ventures that could help the community during an uncertain time.

“Local Amazon” Helps Brick-and-Mortar Shops Go Digital—ShopMyTown.ca

When businesses were forced to close to curb the spread of Covid-19, the team at Splice Digital saw an opportunity to help small brick-and-mortar shops move their offerings to an online platform.

“With the uncertainty of the economy, we tried to think of something we could do as a software solutions company to help our local community,” says Christine Ricker, operations manager for Splice Digital.

The Windsor tech company quickly went to work designing a new website, ShopMyTown.ca; a community-based e-commerce marketplace where local businesses could sell their offerings in one centralized location without having to make a large, upfront investment.

ShopMyTown.ca features over 30 local vendors from across Windsor-Essex, with more being added weekly. From arts and crafts to food and beverage, fashion, and wellness products, the site is a one-stop shop for a diverse array of items from all across the region.

“Customers can purchase from multiple local stores and have it all in one shopping cart,” explains Ricker. “It’s really convenient and allows people to support multiple businesses at once.”

As an added boost to the community, a portion of every sale is donated to three local charities: Transition to Betterness, In Honour of the Ones We Love, and Windsor-Essex Respite Services.

“I think this is something that’s fantastic for Windsor and Essex County,” says Ricker. “To have residents supporting businesses, and businesses and residents both supporting charity—it’s positive all around.”

Perfetto Bistro Reopens during Imperfect Time

When signing a lease on a new location in early March, the owners of Perfetto Bistro had no idea the struggles they would face trying to reopen amid a worldwide pandemic.

At the onset of COVID-19, Giampiero Mastracci and Ivana Perfetto decided to temporarily close their family-run Italian restaurant on Wyandotte Street East and focus on renovating their new South Windsor space.

“It was a difficult decision. We were still doing takeout and had not planned on moving until the end of summer,” explains daughter Loren Mastracci. “We wanted to properly say goodbye to our customers in Pillette Village.”

With limited resources, no professional contractors, and no care options for their son Giordano, their journey was wrought with setbacks. Building materials were hard to come by. A shipment of supplies from Italy was delayed. To make matters worse, the family patriarch and head chef Giampiero fell six feet from a ladder during the renovations, breaking his wrist.

“The incident taught us to pace ourselves,” says Loren.

With help from close friends and family, the gruelling project was finally completed by mid-summer. The new bistro is a unique space that reflects the family and the kindheartedness of the Windsor community. After being closed for four months, Perfetto Bistro has now reopened at its new location on 3850 Dougall Avenue.

A Clean, Green Spraying Machine—Go Fog It Windsor

As word of the novel coronavirus began circulating early in the year, three business partners were exploring a new venture that would enable businesses to easily disinfect their high-traffic areas.

Beau Dubois, Scott Woodall, and Kyle Devine had been watching a new London-based company, Go Fog It, with great interest and quickly became their first franchise licensee.

“We had been following the brand for a few weeks and wanted to connect with them,” explains Devine. “We really liked what they were doing.”

The new business specializes in spraying or “fogging” indoor areas with a sanitizing mist that settles onto surfaces and cracks that can’t be reached with other cleaning methods. The all-natural, botanical spray kills 99.99% of contaminants and allergens and eliminates odours.

From agricultural facilities to bars, bowling alleys, and daycares, the Go Fog It team has worked with businesses across Windsor, Essex County, and Chatham-Kent. They’ve even partnered with local real estate teams to disinfect properties between open houses.

In addition to offering scheduled cleanings performed by their technicians, Go Fog It Windsor also sells smaller versions of their fogger machines to companies like fitness studios and other small businesses hit hard by COVID-19 closures. “We wanted to have a cost-effective solution for people to help them get back to work,” says Devine.

Takeout, Taking On, and Taking Care—The Maggios

For restaurateurs Vito and Michelle Maggio, the first month of the pandemic was a dizzying blur; adapting their three dine-in restaurants to a “takeout only” model while simultaneously taking on an all-new venture.

“We really had to restructure our entire business model,” explains Michelle Maggio. “It was quite a process for our whole team, but we adjusted quickly.”

With the support of their suppliers, the owners of Vito’s, Kildare House, and Ortona Café began featuring daily takeout specials—family-style servings of some of their most popular menu items—offering value to the community during a financially challenging time.

They also strived to showcase local retailers, selling pantry staples from Borrelli Gourmet Foods, as well as a selection of Essex County beer and wine.

Adding to their plate, the Maggios had purchased Factory House restaurant just as COVID-19 hit North America. Despite the initial uncertainty of the pandemic, they were excited to welcome the new addition to the family.

“We have some big shoes to fill,” says Maggio. “The previous owner did such a wonderful job. We’re very excited to continue on with the same staff and same recipes that make it such a great place.”

Despite the challenges that lie ahead for the hospitality industry, the duo remains hopeful for the future.

“My husband Vito really had a gut feeling to persevere through this,” says Maggio. “We don’t know what tomorrow brings but we look forward to keeping our staff healthy and moving forward to the next stage.”

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