Photo by Jake Boudrot -- Need’s Convenience and Fast Fuel in Port Hawkesbury was nominated in the “Shine On” campaign, by Advocate Media Inc. The nomination was from a customer for going above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.

PORT HAWKESBURY: A local convenience store and gas bar is one of the latest nominees in Advocate Media’s “Shine On” campaign.

Kathleen Leblanc nominated Need’s Convenience and Fast Fuel of Port Hawkesbury in the contest highlighting businesses which have gone above and beyond during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They run 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Leblanc wrote in her submission. “The staff provide excellent customer service; friendly fast service with a smile. They always ask how you are. And they keep the store cleaned and well stocked.”

Operator and franchisee Brenda Burke said Sobeys gave them the choice to remain open, or close for certain hours, but they felt a responsibility to the community. They instead decided to lock their front door at 11 p.m., requiring customers to press a buzzer to be let in during those hours.

“We were given the choice, but staff wanted to work, so if they want to work, so be it, give them the hours,” Burke recalled.

The store and gas bar opened in Port Hawkesbury back in 2012, and Burke has been with Sobeys for the past 15 years. She moved to the town in 2015 after working for the company in St. Peter’s.

“Sobeys is awesome, they’re great to work for,” Burke said. “It’s been 15 years and they’ve been good to me.”

Since no other store in Port Hawkesbury remained open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, Burke said it was an easy decision.

“Everything else was closed so we were steady,” Burke recalled. “We lock our doors at 11 o’clock, we sanitize every hour and just kept everything clean.

“You’d be surprised, a lot of people came out at night because they didn’t want to be around crowds.”

Burke said they did impose a five-person limit in the store at one time, they erected a barrier at the front cash register, they put arrows on the floor, the front door was locked after 11 p.m., and although they never refused cash, they requested debit or credit cards.

Helped by a staff of seven, Burke said things went well during the pandemic.

“I just tried to make it as comfortable as I could for the staff and anything and everything we need is all provided by my head office, which is great,” she said. “Between my staff and I, we tried to make it as comfortable and pleasurable as we could for our customers.”

Since there were very few public washrooms available in Port Hawkesbury, Burke said they had to constantly clean their washroom. Although it wasn’t easy, she hopes the public noticed how they stressed cleanliness and customer satisfaction.

“We have a customer washroom, but where everything was closed, everybody was stopping at my store to use the washroom,” Burke noted. “We were steady in the bathroom. We were trying to get in there as often as possible. We do it every hour, but it was more like every 15 minutes.”

Although the volume of gas sold did go down over the past few months when people weren’t traveling, Burke said that number is starting to rebound, and even though things are starting to change and public health restrictions are being lifted, Burked asked the public to continue being patient.

“I’m still treating it the same as when it first started,” Burke said. “We do our sanitizing, we have our five person limit and my customers, all the customers are awesome.”

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/.