Comment: In its 25th year, Heirloom Linens grapples with a rethink of how to do business

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected every local business — the ones owned and operated by your friends and neighbours. There are thousands of stories about the impact of the pandemic on business — here is one.

A commentary by one of the owners of Heirloom Linens, on behalf of another owner, his wife Joan, and their daughter Kristen Stannix, chief operations officer.

What started as a celebratory year for Heirloom Linens to celebrate our 25th birthday has been anything but.

Joan and I returned from a vacation on March 15 to a whole new world. We had been following developments throughout our travels and were genuinely thankful to be home safe.

We began our self-isolation, unable to offer anything but moral support to our daughter, Kristen Stannix, as she managed all operations of the store.

article continues below

We wanted to keep the store open for as long as possible with the few staff remaining, but shortly thereafter, everyone was laid off.

So, we were down to a team of three: Joan, Kristen and me.

It was decided to focus on our online business and, in addition, to offer curbside pickup. Any customers having issues making purchases on our website were invited to call in and we would process their orders on their behalf.

This new focus on business still required one thing. In order to offer curbside pickup, we had to be open.

A decision was made to open from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday to allow clients to pick up their orders. The three of us would man the store.

We ensured all the required COVID-19 health protocols were in place because some clients wanted to physically come in and make purchases. A sanitization station was placed at the doorway of the store, and a barrier to separate the customers from us at the cash desk. Counters and point of sale machines are wiped after each use.

We limit the number of customers in the store and practise physical-distancing.

So where are we now? Frantically answering the multitude of calls, picking products, packing products, bagging goods for curbside pickup, cleaning, sanitizing and attempting to maintain a flow of goods to replenish the shelves.

Thankfully, our bigger suppliers are continuing to ship during these times, but we empathize with them, as they have so many customers who are not open for business and they face the same challenges as we do, namely all the overhead costs of running any business.

We worry that our suppliers might not make it through this with so many of their small-business clients not able to pay their bills. We need to carry on our business, as much as we can, so we can continue to pay our suppliers for our goods.

We will do whatever it takes to get through this. We have been here for 25 years and plan to be here for 25 more.

Customers have been overwhelmingly grateful that we are able to maintain some level of service and the support from the community has been nothing but positive.

We spoke with Al Hasham of Maximum Express about the number of orders we were shipping locally, and said we would prefer to support another local community-minded business rather than the big courier companies.

This has been a great move, as our customers get quicker delivery, we support a fellow local business and Maximum Express keeps their drivers working.

What does the future hold? This is the obvious question.

We are unsure, as this has been a dynamic situation and seems to change regularly. Remember that 25th birthday I mentioned?

Product had been purchased for the event already, the marketing plans were in place and we were set for big things. That has been scaled back as we now communicate the message through Facebook, our email database, the Times Colonist, and local radio and TV stations.

They, too, are struggling as many businesses are not advertising right now. What will the future hold for them? Can they survive?

So, supporting local businesses will also support your favourite radio and TV stations, as well as your local newspaper, as these businesses can start advertising campaigns again, hopefully soon.

We still have smiles on our faces. Sometimes it might be a little forced, but we soldier on. Thanks for your support, Victoria. Stay safe and stay well.

Read Related Topics

© Copyright Times Colonist

Most Popular