Some area businesses thriving during COVID-19 pandemic

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

The Windsor Star/Dave Waddell


The COVID-19 pandemic forced RONA Sauve’s Home Centre to close its doors to the public 10 days ago, but business has never been better.

A steady stream of cars pulls up to the Belle River storefront for pickups and co-owners Shawn Sauve and his sister Brandy Sauve-Puccio often stay hours after closing to get the next day’s orders ready.

“We’ve never been busier in our nearly 30 years,” Shawn Sauve said.

“Brandy was here until 7 p.m. last night mixing paint. We have five people answering phones and we can’t keep up.”

While the pandemic has had an overwhelmingly negative impact on local businesses, some firms are holding their own or even thriving.

According to the Windsor-Essex Economic Development Corporation’s COVID-19 task force survey released Tuesday, 164 of the 575 respondents reported a minimal to significant increase in revenues and business. Eighty-seven of those businesses reported revenues were up significantly.

“There are some companies doing well out of this,” said Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce president Rakesh Naidu.



“Even some takeout restaurants, grocery stores, online delivery services and companies offering any products required by health care, like plastic face shields, some are doing well.”

Sauve said as the COVID-19 pandemic slows building construction, the store’s business is shifting more to the general public.

“We’ve got a loyal customer base in Belle River, but we’re seeing more people coming all the way from Windsor,” Sauve said. “We can get them their orders and have them on their way in five minutes when I’m told it’s much longer at the big box stores.

“Being smaller, we can be more nimble and react to unexpected changes.”

Sauve said people are bored and filling their time by doing home repairs or getting ready for spring gardening.

“Judging by the orders, there are a lot of planter boxes being built,” Sauve said.

The Windsor area’s tech sector is also holding its own.

The demand for technical/telecommunication services has risen with more employees working from home.

“We’re on track to do better than last year,” said IDream Interactive founder Jacob Duhaime.

“Clients understandably have pulled back a bit, but that’s allowed us to go back and upgrade some of our older games so they function better on the web and mobiles. We’ve found ways to generate some new revenues.”

Duhaime said he has 10 employees and has laid off four temporarily. However, he expects to recall those workers by month’s end if the company qualifies for the wage subsidy.

“This experience is going to change everything,” he said. “There are real opportunities in the tech sector because I don’t know how many business will go back to bricks and mortar offices after seeing they can operate with employees at home.”

Grocery stores and alcohol sales have also both boomed.

The scavenger hunt intensity of grocery shopping prompted one Windsor storeowner to post a plea on his Facebook page asking for civility.

“To those who have cursed, swore and even spit on and thrown boxes at my staff and myself because we don’t have milk, water, toilet paper and a wide variety of everything else, and of long lineups, you need to take a step back and evaluate what is going on here and be patient,” wrote Jay Williamson, who runs a No Frills store. “We have thousands of customers per day. Not only you!

“My staff and I are on the front lines doing our best to serve you.”

The increase in the LCBO’s sales prompted local health-care officials to caution people not to overindulge.

The food services industry has been hit particularly hard, but License to Sear founders Kyle Sala and Cory Tonita have created a whole new customer base through a takeout and delivery service.

Previously the Kingsville-based private caterers had serviced large functions along with bringing their food truck to festivals.

“We didn’t imagine it would take off so quickly,” Sala said. “We’ve never done takeout before. We were looking for a way to stay relevant to our customers.”

Sala said they post the week’s menu Saturday afternoons on social media and ready orders for pick-up/delivery on Friday. The delivery fee is $5 to $10 depending on your location within Essex County.

This week they sold out their orders (120) in two days. Now they’re looking at adding Tuesdays to the schedule and bumping the order limit to 200.

“This is something we’ll definitely continue even after the pandemic ends,” Sala said.