HAVRE BOUCHER: A local grocery store has been nominated in Advocate Media’s “Shine On” campaign.
Gary’s Groceries in Havre Boucher was nominated by Karen Welton for going above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Gary’s Groceries in Havre Boucher has been innovative during this unprecedented time to go above and beyond in serving his customers in the local area,” Welton wrote. “He increased his orders to include a variety of fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, and items that local residents would typically have to go outside of the community for. Then he started also offering delivery services, right to the doorstep!”
Welton, who said she submitted the nomination on behalf of her parents, noted the Antigonish County business has reached out to seniors.
“My parents, who are 75 and 80, are extremely grateful for this,” she wrote. “In these times when it is stressful to go out at their age, they can call Gary with their order and he makes that delivery happen, right to their doorstep, in a timely manner. My parents had previously been relying on my brother for their groceries each week, but they feel much better being independent while also supporting a local business in this way. It’s a win-win-win for all!”
Owner Gary Brow said they got right to work after the state of emergency was declared in Nova Scotia.
“We jumped right in, I think it was around March 16 when it all started,” Brow recalled. “I haven’t taken a day off since then.”
One of the first orders of business was changing their hours from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Brow said, then plexi-glass was erected around the counter, and a table was put in front of the counter to maintain distance between customers. Finally, hand sanitizer was made available to customers entering and leaving the store. This is in addition to regular cleaning of the store at the end of each day.
“Which worked out great,” Brow noted of the new hours. “Everybody pretty much stops moving around that time.
“We’re fortunate that we’re busy, and we like to keep busy.”
Brow said another new service was delivery and on-line orders which were appreciated by customers with disabilities and mobility issues, and others who don’t feel comfortable venturing to high traffic areas.
“We delivered as far as Antigonish and Glen Aire [Estates] for a few different people,” Brow noted. “People would call in orders, and we’d prepare it and get it ready for them, then we’d call them back, and they would pay with either VISA or MasterCard, and when they’d pull up to front of the store, they’d just open their truck or we’d open their back door.”
To help keep customers in the loop, Gary’s Groceries now maintains a Facebook page – with help from Gary’s daughter Angela – which provides regular updates of new products and services.
Knowing there were shortages of items like disinfecting wipes, hand sanitizer, produce, meat, yeast, flour, and seeds for planting vegetables, Brow made them available as well.
“We increased a lot of product,” he explained. “We had a few orders a week we wouldn’t normally get, but we increased our produce, took in different meats, like hamburg and chops… Also fish, like haddock.
“People mentioned even going in to Antigonish, going in to different places to buy seeds, it was a process, they didn’t know how to get it, they couldn’t even get in to look at them, so we got on the bandwagon on that and got a hold of Halifax Seed.”
Since the bakery is a major part of the store, Brow said this also changed, including making more of certain products like doughnuts, baking items they hadn’t offered before like tarts, and baking earlier in the day.
As a result of these innovations, Brow said they’ve attracted customers from Troy, Creignish, West Bay, Antigonish, and as far away as New Glasgow.
“You need to think outside the box,” Brow noted. “We try to think of what people are looking for. I’ll go talk to them and they might request something, and if it’s something I can get, I’ll check with the suppliers, and see if it’s an affordable option for them.”
The winner in the “Shine On” campaign will receive an advertising package valued at $3,000 and the chance to be highlighted in Advocate Media’s publications in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. To nominate a business, go to: http://porthawkesburyreporter.com/shine-on/.