Victoria businesses finding ways to adapt, expand as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Victoria businesses finding ways to adapt, expand as COVID-19 pandemic continues
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WatchVictoria businesses finding ways to adapt, expand as COVID-19 pandemic continues

In the middle of a pandemic, Michael Rodgers is getting ready, not to close his store, but to open a new one.

“It’s a bit of a risk, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed,” said the small business owner.

Rodgers is the owner of The Papery in Victoria. But after 24 years, he’s relocating in an effort to save the business.

“It’s horrible what’s happening with a lot of the local business. A lot of them just aren’t going to make it, and neither would I,” said Rodgers. “We decided we had to do something or we wouldn’t survive the next year.”

Once COVID-19 hit and restrictions were implemented, Rodgers says he could only have four people in his store at a time with two employees. He says having so few people in the store at one time isn’t enough to keep his business afloat.

“At Christmas time we have 40 or 50 customers a day. So when you translate that, instead of doing 400 or 500 transactions a day, we were doing 60 or 70 and we just felt it wasn’t viable to run the business,” said Rodgers.

So instead of closing down, Rodgers is making the risky move of expanding. The Papery will be moving a few doors down the street, going from an 800 square-foot store to one that is 2,700 square feet, where they can hold more customers.

Many businesses in Victoria and on Vancouver Island have been forced to make quick adjustments to meet customer needs during COVID-19.

Among them is Capital Iron, which, in anticipation of more people remaining around for the summer, ordered more inventory to accommodate the demand from customers.

Kelly Both, manager of the Victoria Capital Iron, says patio furniture, hot tubs, and barbeques flew off the shelves this summer.

“Capital Iron is known for barbecues, but especially this year we’re up over $130,000 compared to last, and that’s a direct result of people spending more time at home in their backyards with their families and friends in their bubble,” said Both.

Capital Iron has also ordered 30 more large outdoor heaters, which they would have never normally ordered in October, as COVID-19 restrictions keep more people in the country and closer to home.

Kelly says overall, sales are down compared to last year but in recent months it’s picked packed up, seeing sales rise. In the last week, the store has seen a boom in business in their outdoor rain gear.

“It is amazing the support we’ve received over the last seven-plus months, especially over through this really uncertain time,” said Kelly, thanking the community for supporting local.

Those sentiments are mirrored by Rodgers.

“Small businesses provide over half of the employment in Victoria, we need to step up and help out the local business and restaurants,” said Rodgers.

For now, he’s hoping his gamble will pay off. The new and improved larger store is set to open on November 24th on Fort Street, where the old Russel Books used to reside.

READ MORE: Victoria mayor wants to make patio expansions permanent after successful summer

Rebecca LawrenceRebecca Lawrence

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