Some Winnipeg businesses manage to stay afloat downtown during COVID-19
WINNIPEG -- It’s been nearly a year since COVID-19 arrived in Manitoba, forcing many to work from home.
A lot of businesses in downtown Winnipeg relied heavily on foot traffic, and with more people working remotely, some entrepreneurs have been forced to close their doors for good.
However, some new businesses in the area like Bagelsmith on St. Mary’s Road are making the most of the pandemic.
Currently they’re operating at 25% capacity, but working under restrictions is all this business knows.
“We were open for about a week and a half and then code red happened,” said Phil Klein, owner of Bagelsmith. “(That) kind of changed everything for us unfortunately, so we kind of had to pivot.”
Klein said in order to stay afloat during the lockdown he used online and home deliveries, he also made some local wholesale connections.
“We’re sold in a variety of different grocery stores now too, and that’s been taking on a life of its own if you will, and been growing at a pretty good pace for us which had been really encouraging.”
Bagelsmith isn’t the only downtown business finding ways to thrive during the lockdown.
Modern Electric Lunch on Main Street opened in November of 2020, right after code red restrictions came into effect.
Assistant Manager, Mckye Hildebrand said they were hesitant at first to open during the lockdown.
“You created this space, you have all these ideas, you want to get people in, and then a switch flicks and you got to kind of adapt on the fly,” said Hildebrand. “We really wanted to bring it to the community, we wanted to open, so take out only was the way we were going to do it.”
Hildebrand said social media has played a big part in their success during the pandemic.
The Downtown Winnipeg Biz said the last year was challenging for downtown business, whose primary customer base is downtown workers.
CEO, Kate Fenske said although close to 40 businesses in the downtown area were forced to close last year, 21 new businesses started up.
“It doesn’t mean it’s easy. One of the businesses opened up March 1st of 2020 and went right into lockdown,” said Fenske. “So businesses are figuring out how to get online. How are they going to manage delivery? And it’s been really challenging to manage staff, having to lay off employees and bring them back.”
Fenske said starting Monday she’ll be working on the Downtown Recovery Strategy, and the first step is researching and analyzing data to determine the short and long-term impacts of the pandemic on the downtown economy.
Klein said he’s looking forward to the day when workers return to downtown.
“In the meantime, we’re just grinding away and doing what we can and hopefully things just pick up organically.”