Some long-time Battlefords area businesses are managing to continue operating while adapting to social distancing and a drop in customer traffic during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Battleford Furniture Ltd. laid off eight staff members and reduced their delivery to just one team.
“We are running on half-staff,” said Chris Odishaw in an interview April 7.
He said the first staff to be laid off were those vulnerable to COVID-19, who have underlying health issues, or are living with someone with health issues.
“We did lay them off first to keep them safe.”
Odishaw said that although they have seen a decrease in business, people still need items like fridges, freezers and beds.
“We have been doing deliveries. We have been trying to be as safe as possible and stay sanitized. We are in a constant state of cleaning. We are looking at every situation and doing the best we can to help everybody.”
Odishaw said they sold out of freezers days after the pandemic hit.
“Freezers have been a hot commodity. People are quarantining and trying not to go to the store often. A freezer comes in handy.”
He said they have been scrambling to keep freezers in stock and found a supply in Ontario at a store that is closing.
“We have a couple dozen more coming.”
Beds have also been selling. Odishaw said the owner of a bed supplier in Calgary drove a shipment of beds himself to Battlefords Furniture.
“He drove six hours to bring a load of beds,” said Odishaw. “It’s cool, everybody is pulling together.”
The lockdown during the pandemic could last months but Odisahw said he is prepared.
“For us, we are pretty well established. We have been here 32 years. I thank God I have enough to keep going a few months. I feel bad for the new start-up businesses and younger people that don’t have that equity, and the restaurants, can you imagine how tough it is for them?”
Still, Odishaw remains optimistic the Battlefords will emerge from the pandemic strong.
“I’m confident, we as a community, are going to get through it all. There is no choice. We are all survivors,” he said, adding, “We have to be more cautious of people at risk like seniors and anyone with (health issues).”
Battlefords Flooring Centre has seen about a one-third decrease in business since the pandemic.
“We do quite a bit of renovations and people are still coming in but not as many as before,” said Larry Sager, owner and general manager of Battlefords Flooring. “People have to do something at home and I guess some are renovating.”
Battlefords Flooring has not had to lay off staff because it’s a smaller, family run business and the installers are contract.
“The installers aren’t as busy as they were but they are staying alive.”
Sager also said because their business is established in the Battlefords they are managing and don’t plan to apply for any federal aid.
“I can last a long time. We own the building. We are in good shape.”
Still, he added, they have to pay high operational costs such as power and gas.
“Your overhead doesn’t go away.
“We will all get through it, hopefully sooner rather than later,” added Sager.