Coronavirus: Car dealerships, local shops still open in Lethbridge

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Car dealerships, other businesses still operating amid COVID-19 crisis
WATCH ABOVE: Banks, grocery stores and car dealerships are some of the few businesses currently staying afloat during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eloise Therien explains how Lethbridge businesses are handling the situation. – Mar 23, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many southern Alberta businesses to close their doors in recent weeks, but there are still a handful of Lethbridge businesses fighting to continue operating.

Locally-owned Chef Stella Diner and Catering had to close its dining room last week, but is hoping to continue catering and offering delivery options.

“Small businesses — restaurants specifically – struggle as it is,” said owner Emanuela Stella on Monday.

Stella says they sold “family packs” when they saw demand increase for certain food items.

“We saw the need for flour, milk, eggs,” she said, adding they sold those items in bulk.

“I’ve laid everybody off,” Stella said. She’ll still offer occasional food delivery while she can.

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As for local grocery stores, such as London Road Market and Umami shop, they have been staying busy.

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“At the beginning, people were all in a panic. They were just buying lots,” said Patricia Luu, owner of Umami Shop in Lethbridge.

Luu adds they stocked up on items they wouldn’t normally sell, such as bulk packs of toilet paper, to meet certain customers’ demands.

Umami Shop also offers cooking classes, and Luu adds it will be bringing back its live cooking show through its Facebook in the near future.

“We’re all about food,” said Luu.

In the auto industry, it’s a different kind of battle.

“We only allow one customer at a time,” said Mustafa Abdul Ghafar, manager at Wahid Auto Sales, of the company’s commitment to physical distancing.

He says sales haven’t been great recently and he believes the dealership will make the executive decision to close sometime soon.

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“For us to shut our office… to stay home is the best choice for all of us, for now,” he said.

Lethbridge Toyata tells Global News it has laid off a good portion of its staff and have amped up measures to reduce physical contact with customers through technologies allowing for virtual test-drives, and surveying all customers who enter the premises.

Taxi service is also allowed to continue for the time being, with many still operational in Lethbridge.

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