Jennifer Barratt Parker picks up her curbside order from Aunt Donkey’s in Lion’s Head. Like many other local businesses, owner Marydale Ashcroft has adapted her business model to accommodate physical distancing measures.
By Joanne Rodgers,
Bruce Peninsula Press

Businesses in North Bruce are adapting quickly to the changing retail landscape created by COVID-19 by offering online ordering to meet the needs of the community.

Aunt Donkey’s Goes Online; 100 Registered Customers in One Week

Marydale Ashcroft launched her virtual store for Aunt Donkey’s on May 13, 2020 and plans to launch The Dandy Lion online store on May 27, 2020.

The initial advertising was through a Facebook campaign. The Aunt Donkey’s site had over 400 visits. Marydale states “We have acquired 100 registered customers in a week. And have received 17 orders”. She is extremely pleased with the sales so far.

She says “Ideally an alert is sent to my phone when an order comes in and I can make arrangements with the customers to meet them curbside at the store.” 

As with every new technology there are growing pains; the alert does not always come through in a timely fashion. Marydale’s cell number is listed on the website for customers to send a text if they do not hear back and want to arrange a pickup. Feedback from customers indicate that the ordering process has been slick and seamless.

Marydale wants to ensure that customers do not arrive at the store on Main Street thinking it is open. She says “Someone can place an order at any time of the day and we can have it ready for them.” Aunt Donkey’s also offer a local delivery service. 

Currently Marydale, with the help of a friend, is managing the Aunt Donkey’s virtual store, and she has applied for a COVID-19 loan to hire staff to manage The Dandy Lion virtual store.

For The Dandy Lion, Marydale aims to stock as many Canadian-made products as possible; but it is more difficult to find Canadian-made items for Aunt Donkey’s.

Marydale sees benefits to the businesses, especially in the winter months. Just as you can order online anytime at Amazon, you can now do the same thing through the local stores. Marydale plans to reopen her stores to the public at some stage, but will continue to offer online shopping. For online shopping visit www.auntdonkeys.ca and www.thedandylion.ca.

Blue Heron Company Launches Virtual Clothing Store

The Blue Heron Company had anticipated launching their virtual store in Fall 2020, however COVID-19 sped up this activity and the site was officially launched on May 19, 2020. The online store has seen lots of traffic in the first couple of days with local orders arriving almost daily.

The store currently carries clothing and accessories from companies such as Columbia, Aventura, Dish Denim, Ecoths and many others. Company spokesperson Ashley Salen is aware that the products currently being offered can be purchased elsewhere, but plans to add more products that are one of a kind or unique to Tobermory and the Bruce Peninsula. Ashley says “the usual staff was involved and I’m super proud of the team for pulling it all together so quickly.”

The first week was busy, as soon as inventory arrives in store it is listed on the site within minutes. Customers are asked to check back often or reach out if they are looking for something specific.

The Blue Heron Company owns and operates three retail stores in downtown Tobermory. The retail stores are set to open on May 29 but curbside pickup can still be arranged. Visit the online store at www.blueheronshops.com

Garden in Thyme Online Order Form Accounts for 50% of Sales

Garden in Thyme launched an online ordering form on May 1, 2020. Currently 50% of their sales come from online orders. The online order form was created by a family member and has been well received by customers. Sales however, are way down; normally seasonal cottagers and visitors contribute to a large part of the sales. 

Molly Bridge says one of the main challenges is keeping up with the daily provincial updates and the rapidly changing rules for running the business.

The farm store opened on May 1, and they are following social distancing protocols for customers coming into the store. To place an online order, go to https://www.facebook.com/GardenInThyme/

Garden in Thyme Country Markey in Lion’s Head offers an online order form. To place an online go to https://www.facebook.com/GardenInThyme/

TACOMORY launches online ordering; Contactless Pick Up Available

TACOMORY launched online ordering on May 19, 2020. Customers have the option to call ahead, order online or walk-in to place their orders.

Implementing the ordering system was fairly easy and straightforward, however it took time to figure out how to balance telephone orders, online orders and walk-ins. Customers order and pay online; as soon as the order is received, a notification is sent to Tacomory’s phones, staff write down the details, customer name and pickup time; and which is then listed on their takeout board.

The orders are prepared a few minutes before the pickup time, to ensure the food is as fresh as possible, and placed in a paper bag with the customer’s name on it. The take-out bag is handed to the customer through the window but if the customer requests contactless pickup, arrangements are made for curbside pickup.

Tacomory owners Marty and Katie sum up the first week “We went live with our online ordering system last Tuesday for the first time with great success. Of all of our orders, we received about 20% of those online.”

Tacomory is able to retain the same number of staff as they would in any other off-season and plan to do the same as the peak season approaches. 

Tacomory will be open for weekends from May 29th until Canada Day. For online ordering go to https://tacomory.com

Tacomory in Tobemrory will be open for weekends from May 29th until Canada Day. For online ordering go to https://tacomory.com

Farm Truck Café Ready for Online Orders by End of May

Jenelle Hellyer says they are planning to participate in the Lion’s Head Farmer’s Market online, and are currently working on their online store. They plan to be ready for online orders by the end of May. The website will be live at farmtruckcafe.com

Local Foodlands Continue to Offer Ordering via Email or Phone 

The Foodland grocery stores in Lion’s Head and Tobermory continue to offer free ordering via email or phone for curbside pickup.

Peacock’s Foodland prefers orders via email (fld7185tobermory@sobeys.com); orders must be in by 9 a.m. each morning. When the orders are ready, the customer will receive an email or text about pickup times. Peacocks says this process has been working smoothly. They also offer local delivery to customers on Tuesdays and Fridays.

Hellyer’s Foodland had a high demand for pickup services in March and April, however email orders account for about 5-10% of overall business now as more customers venture into the store. Customers wishing to avoid going into the store can place their orders via email (fld7193lionshead@sobeys.com) or phone (519) 793-3415. Hellyer’s offers town deliveries on Wednesdays.

Reader’s Haven Launches Online Store

Reader’s Haven in Tobermory launched its online store on May 18. Shoppers can browse the website www.readershaven.ca and order online or by phone (519-596-2359) for curbside pickup. 

Owner Susan Griffith explains that all 2,359 books in her store are featured on the website, along with a host of games, puzzles and “crafty things”. 

Response thus far has been slow but she is excited about the experiment and hopes to continue. She is considering in-store shopping by appointment as an alternative to the online/curbside business model. Like every other business owner on the peninsula, she is looking for ways to offer what her customers want.