BPJ Local Merchants

Local Merchants Work Hard to Keep Customers Supplied

Rod, from Rod and Joe’s No Frills dispensing good humour and essentials on Thursday March 19th

By Jim Sanderson
In the fast changing environment caused by the appearance of Covid-19 19, we are all concerned about our ability to purchase necessities like food, medicines and household supplies. The Managers of 3 local establishments on the front lines of this challenge spoke to the Bluffs Monitor last week, each one busy at work, but taking time to answer a few questions.

At Cliffside Hearth, on Kingston Road east of McCowan, Camilia Proulx and her team hand bake a variety of small batch goods: cookies, rolls, quiches and fruit pies, as well as breads that range from classic sourdough to Pana Rustika, Cheese loaf and Baguettes. Breads are by far the biggest sellers these days according to Camilia, who is both proprietor and head baker. While she and her team continue to make and sell important parts of our daily diet they have decided to make changes to the way they deal with customers. They have removed all self serve items from the displays in front of the sales counter and allow only 2 people into the store at a time. Signs encourage social distancing and minimal hand contact in accordance with guidelines from Toronto Health. While business has increased significantly in the last three weeks, Camilia says she does not yet limit the number of loaves purchased, she and staff have just ramped up production. They will consider reducing hours if the province or city request, and will remain vigilant to follow new health recommendations in these challenging times.

A couple of kilometres west, on the opposite side of Kingston road near Midland Avenue is the landmark Cliffside Meats and Deli. This classic neighbourhood butcher shop is run by Gord Doucet who is well known in the community, with more than 50 years experience behind the chopping block. Like the Cliffside Hearth baker, Gord does not limit customers, but has watched sales go through the roof in the past month. “Business has tripled since this thing started” he told the Monitor during an interview on a busy Saturday morning. “People are buying all cuts of meats, including deli.” Gord does not anticipate shortages if shopping patterns remain about the same as they have been in the last week. “But,” he adds, “who can tell about that in times like these?

Right across the street from Cliffside Meats is one of Scarborough’s longest running grocery stores, Rod and Joe’s No Frills. In business since the 1940s this is a go-to place for household items and food, including perishables and general groceries. I caught up with manager Rod Muller in the back of his establishment near the storeroom doorway, personally doling out giant bundles of toilet paper, 60 rolls to a pack, one pack per family. People are civil, often supportive, as they get their allotment, many thanking Joe and his team for their service in a time when a crowded store is not the best place to have to spend your day. With over 90 employees on call, many of them ex-staffers stepping up in this time of need, Rod and his team have been able to meet the demands of their customers, though he too has not ruled out shorter hours if the situation demands.

Though a few shelves are empty, Rod, like Camilia and Gord, is cautiously reassuring about the weeks to come, advising that his flow of goods should continue if demand stays about the same and people do not overreact. As in the Cliffside bakery, signs in his supermarket advise social distancing, but also limit products like dairy, eggs, and juice to 2 Per Customer Please, a rule that shoppers seem willing to obey.

In general, Rod tells me that customers have been supportive, some even giving him letters of appreciation. “Let’s hope this thing doesn’t last too long”, he commented, passing out more packs of bathroom tissue in his storeroom door, “we’re all just working together to see it though.”

With the help of our health care and essential workers, our first responders, and the good people in
our supply chains like Camilia, Gord , Rod, and their workers, we surely will.

~ Jim Sanderson is a local resident, and the author of Toronto Island Summers, and Life in Balmy Beach.