How Bluffs Businesses are Weathering the COVID Storm: Part 1
Nadia Sa F45 Gym and Danny Plamondon Chopped and Faded
By Tom Curtis
If you’re anything like me, you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve tried to stop paying attention to COVID-19 in the news for your own sanity. Unfortunately, the reality of the impact of the various strains of this virus and the associated government restrictions and orders has had unavoidable and devastating effects on many of our local businesses.
For those that need a (very brief) reminder, the first reported case in Ontario was on January 23, 2020, and we have been in and temporarily out of states of emergency and lockdowns since that March. Dine-in restaurants, gyms and all non-essential businesses were ordered closed for large parts of that period. We entered Step 3 of the “Roadmap To Reopen” plan in July, and this finally allowed for a return to indoor dining, the opening of indoor sports and recreational fitness facilities, and all retail, subject to capacity limits. So for now, most of our local small businesses are back open–even if the context remains a long way from what most might consider “normal”–with many former regular patrons understandably still very cautious about the idea of returning and others having made permanent lifestyle alterations.
The rest of this article focuses on how the pandemic has impacted two local businesses and how they plan to hit the ground running again as we hopefully now return to a greater degree of normality.
The Barbershop: Chopped & Faded, Cliffcrest
Danny Plamondon took over the existing salon business at 2823 Kingston Road in 2018 and transformed it into “Class6ix”, a combined barbershop and academy. The business was thriving, building up a loyal client base and enabling him to focus on his obvious passion for “teaching, supporting and encouraging positive growth” by using his business and its staff to create ties and relationships with the kids and families that surround the shop.
Unfortunately, not being defined as essential services, barber shops were forced closed from November to June. That killed much of this momentum and put real financial pressure on the business and its employees, as well as Danny’s family, with his teacher wife working from home and four kids learning virtually. He explains, “Our youngest was only four months old when the pandemic hit, and we were living on a mat-leave salary and worried about the future of the shop. The first year of the pandemic was difficult, but the tail end of this was brutal.”
While Danny is proud of the fact that he has stayed on top of rent payments throughout the pandemic, the shop reluctantly accepted assistance through the Canada Emergency Business Account (CEBA) program, which provides interest-free loans to small businesses and not-for-profits. This has resulted in taking on significant debt for the first time.
Despite these challenges, Danny tried to focus on taking the positive steps that he could and rebranded the shop to “Chopped & Faded”, with a new sign and web presence (getchopped.ca) as well as a refreshed and comfortable classic barbershop interior. He has also partnered up with his close friend, Cam, to diversify by opening a recording studio in the basement of the unit. Danny is hopeful that we are through the worst of this and that he can now get back to focusing on what he loves to do – delivering mean fades and sweet beard trims.
The Gym: F45, Guildwood
Nadia Sa signed the lease for her unit at 3775 Kingston Road in January 2020, with the intention of taking possession in February, building out her unit and then opening the Guildwood location of the “F45” gym franchise shortly after. That’s not exactly how things worked out, as the pandemic hit and gyms were forced to close for what has effectively been 16 months.
Thankfully for Nadia, her landlord agreed to defer possession of the unit to June 2020, and she took advantage of that summer to build out the unit with the gym ready to open by November 2020 (the place looks awesome and has been configured to create a surprisingly bright and spacious workout area, with newly-installed showers and washrooms at the back). Although she was able to begin training outside with some bootcamps at the nearby Guildwood Village Park under Stage 2 at the end of June this year, she wasn’t able to welcome her first client to her unit until July 17, a full year after initially taking possession of it.
Nadia is thankful that her landlord has been so understanding and cooperative, and they have negotiated a payment plan for outstanding rent. However, with very limited revenue throughout the forced closure, she was caught in a particularly tough spot as the gym wasn’t eligible for additional support via some government programs. Without access to the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB), due to F45 being a new business with no existing payroll, Nadia’s trainers have been on standby. Her hydro and internet bills have not though, and Nadia had to find the funds to keep those paid throughout.
F45 Guildwood is officially open and classes have begun. Like Danny Plamondon, Nadia remains incredibly enthusiastic, and she is excited to finally get going in starting her business venture, albeit with reduced capacity for now.
Tom Curtis lives in Cliffrest and is a real estate sales representative with Royal LePage Commercial. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss this article or real estate in the Bluffs. His local Bulletin Board website can be accessed at bluffscommercial.ca