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Calgary small businesses scramble to survive coronavirus pandemic

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WATCH ABOVE: Many small businesses in Calgary are in a fight for survival because of the COVID-19 crisis. While large companies and national chains provide strength in numbers, independent businesses are facing the new challenges alone. Gil Tucker reports on how they’re trying to cope – Apr 2, 2020

The COVID-19 crisis has brought a huge blow to a lot of small businesses in Calgary, many of which are now in a desperate fight to survive.

“March [was] a disaster, business down by 75 per cent,” Tiffin Curry and Roti House owner Minal Bhatt said Thursday.

After being closed for nine days, the restaurant has since reopened, responding to calls from customers wanting to purchase meals.

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In compliance with a provincially-ordered closure of dine-in restaurants, Tiffin is relying on deliveries and other ways to serve people.

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“I’ve got a couple of customers, they don’t want to come out of the car,” Bhatt said. “So we just make a box for them, just load [it] in the trunk and they give us a card and we tap for them.”

The pandemic has also brought big changes at the Bridgeland Market, a grocery store and deli.

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“Mostly it’s curbside pickup,” store owner Yousef Traya said. “You can call and you can pick up your order and you just honk and we bring it out to your car.”

The store, which has been around since 1981, has also introduced a new delivery service.

“It’s a necessity for people who are in quarantine or don’t want to leave [their homes],” Traya said. “It’s quite a challenge, but we all have to pitch in.”
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The coronavirus crisis is also bringing major challenges for the family-owned Pisces Pet Emporium, which has had to lay off several staff members.

“We did shut our doors to try and reduce foot traffic in the store,” store manager Kelsey Watkiss said. “That’s when we introduced curbside [pickup]… we also do shipping from our online web store and deliveries as well.”

She said the store is providing an important service to people in self-isolation who need to continue providing proper care for their pets.

“These animals still need to eat, these animals still need to chew on things,” Watkiss said. “A lot of animals have specialized diets — you can’t get that at the grocery store.”

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She said the pandemic has also brought some new business to her store.

“People are even setting up new [fish] tanks while they’re sitting at home with nothing better to do, so we’ve been helping them with that as well,” Watkiss said. “We’re kind of flying by the seat of our pants, and we evolve and change every day.”
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Constant change is now the only constant for many small businesses, as they take whatever steps they can to stay afloat.

“Every day is a new day — we don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow,” Bhatt said. “But it’s OK, we are all together, sailing in the same boat.”

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