By Breanne Massey
Special to the Pioneer
An entrepreneur with several businesses located in the Columbia Valley spent the past weeks planning and implementing safety measures to ensure the communities could cope with the COVID-19 pandemic in a community that typically thrives on the tourism sector.
Ryan Haynes has been busily implementing safety measures at all of his Columbia Valley-based businesses to prepare for both the pandemic and for the Victoria Day long weekend in May.
While the precautions differ slightly at each of his businesses due to the square footage of each storefront, his goal is twofold: to keep staff and customers safe at the Radium Mountainside Market, Fairmont Mountainside Market, the Invermere Liquor Store and the Invermere Cannabis Store.
“We’re managing the anxiety involved with what’s going on, and (we’re) consistently trying to improve operations for both customers and staff,” said Haynes. “We have sanitizing stations as you walk through the door at all of our businesses. We’re finding customers are aware and conscientious about what they’re doing for the most part, but we’re always looking to improve.”
The daily operations had a noticeable change when news of the pandemic became a reality in the Columbia Valley, but Haynes believes his team of staff and his customers are adjusting to the “new normal” that’s changing the economy on a global scale.
“Our staff and store morale has been good,” he explained. “That initial hit of anxiety took a while to help staff and customers feel safe. We’ve just enhanced that.”
At the Radium Mountainside Market and the Fairmont Mountainside Market, customers will now be faced with plexiglass at all of the cashier’s stations, directional indicators to help maintain social distancing efforts and hand sanitizing stations.
For employees, the option to wear a face mask is available to employees and face masks are being offered.
In addition, there are private hand sanitizing stations being made available to employees at each of the businesses.
“Over the long weekend, the grocery stores will have a maximum of 30 people allowed into the store to shop at one time but every store is different because (safety measures) are based on the (size) of the business,” said Haynes while preparing for the Victoria Day long weekend.
“Over the long weekend, at the Invermere Liquor Store, we’ve got no more than 20 people in the store at one time.”
The typical projections for operations at the grocery stores will likely see a decrease in sales compared to the May long weekend in 2019. Haynes indicated that a 30 per cent loss of revenue is expected this long weekend when compared with the previous Victoria Day long weekends in the valley. However, he remains positive about the success of his ventures in the community.
“We’ve been lucky,” Haynes said. “We’re an independent grocery store, so that means we can buy from multiple wholesalers if stock is low.
“For us, some of the outages that larger retailers have experienced, we’re not really dealing with or seeing that because we can buy from other wholesale suppliers and have stock ready.”
In addition, the Invermere Cannabis Store and the Invermere Liquor Store have seen a recent spike in sales.
“Both the cannabis and the liquor store have been busy for sure,” he explained to the Pioneer by phone on May 14.
“The big thing in getting ready for the long weekend is trying to control the number of people coming into the (liquor) store.”
The biggest challenge that Haynes is trying to curb is a scenario where customers go shopping with their family and friends.
“Shopping in large groups has happened in some cases,” said Haynes. “It’s better to come in with one or two people, maximum, or singles if possible. Try to avoid groups of two or three when shopping.”
At the liquor store, Haynes has planned to have staff at the doors to help maintain a healthy number of shoppers in the store at one time period and to try to split up crowds to enforce social distancing norms.
“We’re finding customers are aware and conscientious about what they’re doing for the most part,” he concluded.
Photo by Kelly Sikkema, Unsplash