Pandemic profiles: Passion at the heart of community businesses

Kaye Mateo says the Tim Hortons on Island Highway near Wale Road has been steady throughout the pandemic. They have been open the entire time and have both counter service that is limited and drive thru service. While many places have been closing, Mateo said they’ve remained open for the customers and for the staff. “We want to make sure our many staff have jobs,” Mateo said. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Rebekah Constantine has worked at Fairway Market for two years and was with Western Foods beforehand. She said working during the pandemic has been “interesting.” “Everyone seems to have calmed down a whole lot since the beginning of this,” Constantine said. She said she was never too worried about being on the front lines but tried to not let it bother her. “I think happiness, keeping everyone positive, is the first step.” (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Alison Schiarizza is one of the owners of Three Gringos Mexican Grill. The restaurant initially closed for three weeks just so the owners could wrap their heads around everything and how to move forward. Now, they only allow one customer in at a time but have been as busy as ever. “Our customers have been super understanding and great,” Schiarizza said. “I think Langford is amazing. Everybody is super big about supporting local businesses and that’s been very apparent since re-opening.” (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Alison Schiarizza is one of the owners of Three Gringos Mexican Grill. The restaurant initially closed for three weeks just so the owners could wrap their heads around everything and how to move forward. Now, they only allow one customer in at a time but have been as busy as ever. “Our customers have been super understanding and great,” Schiarizza said. “I think Langford is amazing. Everybody is super big about supporting local businesses and that’s been very apparent since re-opening.” (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Doug Stewart owns Poncho’s Cafe and Catering. He just had a surprise visit from the health inspector who gave the cafe a great report and a gold star. Since the pandemic started, Stewart said he has “blocked out the noise” and has only listened to the health inspector and City of Langford. He said they focused and worked hard to keep open and have loyal customers who have helped them do so. Stewart and his wife called the day they lost seating “D-Day” but have now been able to open the space up again to limited seating with physical distancing. When they found out they were losing seating, they went to the cafe that evening and re-arranged everything so they could stay open. “I’ll be honest, we worked hard for this,” Stewart said. “There’s lots of support here, people checking with me, buying gift cards. There’s been lot’s of positivity and I just feel blessed we were able to stay open.” (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Sheri Ellwood (left) has been able to re-open her store, Baja Rosi’s, as the province launches its re-start plan. Her staff is still laid off so she has enlisted the help of her daughter. She’s had to make some adjustments in her store, only letting six people in at a time and putting clothes in quarantine after they’ve been tried on. “We’re doing it as normal as we can but it’s not normal,” Ellwood said. “The interaction with customers is more hands off … normally we’d run around with them.” Ellwood said she is “tickled pink” to still be standing and open again. Ellwood said she’s had a range of customers coming in and that it is very nice to have the community support. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Sheri Ellwood (left) has been able to re-open her store, Baja Rosi’s, as the province launches its re-start plan. Her staff is still laid off so she has enlisted the help of her daughter, Katie (right). She’s had to make some adjustments in her store, only letting six people in at a time and putting clothes in quarantine after they’ve been tried on. “We’re doing it as normal as we can but it’s not normal,” Ellwood said. “The interaction with customers is more hands off … normally we’d run around with them.” Ellwood said she is “tickled pink” to still be standing and open again. Ellwood said she’s had a range of customers coming in and that it is very nice to have the community support. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Jordan Babbage has been working at Peninsula Co-op for about 12 years and said he never anticipated having to work through something like COVID-19. However, loyal customers and safety measures taken by the company have made it “not that bad” working during the pandemic. Peninsula Co-op shut its stores for about six weeks, only pumping gas during that time for staff and customer safety. “People have been for the most part very receptive to it,” Babbage said. “When your job is solely customer service not being able to get within six feet of people is a little different but we just have to adapt.” (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Jordan Babbage has been working at Peninsula Co-op for about 12 years and said he never anticipated having to work through something like COVID-19. Peninsula Co-op shut its stores for about six weeks, only pumping gas during that time for staff and customer safety. “People have been for the most part very receptive to it,” Babbage said. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Bella Bouchard and her family work at the 4 Mile Liquor Store in Colwood. She said they’ve been seeing numbers comparable to Christmas in sales and that they’ve been working hard to keep up with demand. Bouchard said she’s glad to see people supporting a local store and is happy to be working as part of a family-run business. “I want to be here and be close to my family,” Bouchard said. “And most of the people coming in have been keeping in good spirits.” (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Doug Harvey and Yoshi Ito at Peoples Pharmacy. Yoshi Ito is a pharmacy manager at Peoples Pharmacy. He said working through COVID-19 has been both rewarding and stressful. “It’s really encouraging to see people being so supportive,” Ito said. He said people are being understanding about drug shortages and have even been dropping off food. The pandemic has streamlined some operations at pharmacies, Ito said, and he thinks the changes may be something pharmacists can learn from in the future. “I think it’s changing for the better,” Ito said. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Yoshi Ito is a pharmacy manager at Peoples Pharmacy. He said working through COVID-19 has been both rewarding and stressful. “It’s really encouraging to see people being so supportive,” Ito said. He said people are being understanding about drug shortages and have even been dropping off food. The pandemic has streamlined some operations at pharmacies, Ito said, and he thinks the changes may be something pharmacists can learn from in the future. “I think it’s changing for the better,” Ito said. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Vaso Lyroni and her husband took over ownership of Dad’s Homemade Soup and Sangys on March 1, right before restaurants began to close and lose seating. “It was unfortunate for us as new owners to take over at that time,” Lyroni said. “But people have been here supporting us so it helps a lot.” Lyroni said business was down 75 per cent at one point but it has been picking up again as people begin to head back to work. “We have loyal customers,” Lyroni said. “They come by and say hi to us, it’s very nice.” Lyroni and her husband moved to Canada in 2012 from Greece and she said the community in the Victoria area has been great. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)
Vaso Lyroni and her husband took over ownership of Dad’s Homemade Soup and Sangys on March 1, right before restaurants began to close and lose seating. “It was unfortunate for us as new owners to take over at that time,” Lyroni said. “But people have been here supporting us so it helps a lot.” Lyroni said business was down 75 per cent at one point but it has been picking up again as people begin to head back to work. “We have loyal customers,” Lyroni said. “They come by and say hi to us, it’s very nice.” Lyroni and her husband moved to Canada in 2012 from Greece and she said the community in the Victoria area has been great. (Shalu Mehta/News Staff)

With B.C.’s restart plan being implemented, businesses and retailers we know and love are opening up again while some have stayed open throughout the pandemic.

At the heart of each business are the people who work there. They’re on the front lines, doing what they enjoy while ensuring community members have access to the goods and services they need.

Black Press Media took the to West Shore to feature some of the hardworking people in the community and asked them what working during the COVID-19 pandemic has been like.

shalu.mehta@blackpress.ca

Coronaviruslocal businessWest Shore

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