Heidi Bell used to sell wool at her Nelson store like any other business owner — at the front counter, with a ring of the till and a thanks for coming in.
But in the age of COVID-19 the owner of Berkana Wool has a different tactic.
“I drop it on their porch and I run.”
Bell is one of many Nelson entrepreneurs turning to home delivery as a way of keeping their business alive when store fronts are closed. Now everything from beer, books, shoes and skateboards can be purchased in the city without ever having to leave home.
That includes a demand for extra wool from knitters who are reassessing their supplies while stuck at home.
“I’ve had people run out of what they were working on or just kind of going, ‘Oh my goodness I’m going to have all this time on my hands’ and they don’t have enough wool to make something,” said Bell, who is now building an online store to make the process more streamlined.
Deliveries are also a new twist on business for Angel Stuyt.
The owner of Pixie Candy Shoppe, which has been a Baker Street mainstay for nearly 15 years, started putting together packages of sweets last week on the suggestion of her daughter. Stuyt’s family is now dropping off paper bags of items such as pop rocks, Jelly Bellys, licorice and chocolates in Nelson, Salmo and Castlegar.
“The experience has been amazing. People are super happy and nice,” said Stuyt. “The people who are interested in ordering are very keen and everyone pays me right away and that’s awesome.”
Stuyt said she didn’t have any expectations for the deliveries. Now she’s planning for Easter candy demand and considering continuing the delivery service even after her store re-opens. The reaction from grateful customers is making the extra effort worth it.
“This afternoon I’m sending some birthday stuff to somebody’s house and I’m just so happy to be able to brighten their day with that. Their son is turning 14 and it’s tough for the kids right now.”
Dominion Cafe owner Daylen Hotte meanwhile is finding an unexpected joy in the shutdown.
At first she kept baking after the closure as a creative outlet, and to use up her perishable ingredients. Now she’s delivering up to three dozen muffins and other baked goodies a day around Nelson and Blewett.
The gratitude she’s received from customers, Hotte said, is humbling.
“There’s something about decadent baking and the love that I put into my baking that makes people happy,” she said.
“Everyone is feeling this struggle together and I think they see I’m taking time out of my day to drive 20 minutes out of town to deliver a half batch of muffins because they and their kids just want something sweet.”
For Cheryl Cote, the act of local deliveries has taken on a different type of importance.
Cote opened Esprit de la Femme Lingerie in 2002. Since then, she’s developed relationships with customers who trust her with the intimate business of custom bras and underwear. Many of her transactions, she said, end with a hug.
“Part of the reason it was such a clear decision for us to close is because we’re in the fitting room with our people. We just couldn’t have that close contact with them and do our jobs properly,” said Cote.
“Once people find a bra fitter or lingerie stylist or somebody that they can trust, they tend to stick around. When I say I miss our customers, I truly do. They are my social life.”
Esprit de la Femme Lingerie was already providing cross-country deliveries when it closed its storefront on March 17. Local deliveries made sense, Cote said, in order to stay in touch with the people who have supported her for nearly two decades and still treasure comfortable clothing.
Especially when it arrives on their doorstep.
“People now are not putting on their work suits and their work clothes to stay home. So lounge wear is also really important so people can be comfortable, still be with their families and still show up for themselves without looking like they gave up on life.”
Cote expressed hope local consumers remember the city’s businesses when they make purchases online. That money, she said, is vital not just to Nelson’s economy but also as a morale boost to a community of people facing an uncertain future.
“That shop owner needs to know that they are still valued and they are still important,” said Cote. “[Just] because you can’t go into their shop front to shop face to face, that it doesn’t mean they don’t matter. The confidence and the support is just as important as the money.”
Meanwhile, Cote’s own deliveries are going so well she’s beginning to get requests for what she describes as “intimate items.”
“That might be interesting to deliver,” she said, “but you know what, it’s all in a day’s work.”