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Now's the time to look out for small business in Halifax

Social isolation is leading to layoffs and losses for some, unique opportunities for others

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Moh Soliman, co-founder of Couryah delivery service, is seeing a big surge in business during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Moh Soliman, co-founder of Couryah delivery service, is seeing a big surge in business during the coronavirus pandemic.

A s coronavirus spreads across Canada, shutting down local businesses and national companies in its wake, Canadians are being forced into their homes and out of public places like restaurants and bars.

Hundreds if not thousands of small businesses and their employees are now struggling to make ends meet as their income is slashed.

"It's really stressful for the staff, stressful for us, stressful for the farmers, everybody's stressed," says Lil MacPherson, co-owner of The Wooden Monkey restaurants.

MacPherson says she opened the restaurant to encourage people to eat local, and sources from 12 to 16 local farmers and butchers at any given time. She says these local vendors are losing sales, and they're also the companies that most need support through times when income is precarious.

"We employ a lot of people, the small business sector," she says. "We are the worker bees of the hive, and without us, the hive starts to break down. So it is really important to the local economy."

Premier MacNeil announced all restaurants and bars must close to dine-in customers by March 19. The Wooden Monkey, like other restaurants, is still doing take-out—and offering 20 percent off to boost take-out sales.

"It's crazy times but we're all in this together, so hopefully we can get out of this together," she says.

But MacPherson also knows that businesses won't last long with dwindling sales. She's hoping the government announces measures to keep them on their feet. "We have these really amazing, talented people and farmers and bakers that are here, and we can't let them go out of business. We can't," she says.

In the meantime, other business owners have turned to delivery services to get food and drink orders to customers who don't feel comfortable leaving their homes.

As of Tuesday, Halifax-based delivery service Couryah is not only still delivering but has seen a massive uptick in sales.

"Orders have definitely increased in the past couple of days," says Couryah's head of marketing Basel Halaseh.

Due to the rush, even the company's co-founders, brothers Moh and Omar Soliman, are out making deliveries across Halifax and the surrounding areas.

"Most of our restaurants that we partner with are local, smaller restaurants rather than big chains," Halaseh says.

The company currently partners with 11 establishments and has been providing grocery delivery since last May.

Customers can pay online and get groceries delivered to their front door—a service now in the "spotlight" says Halaseh.

"We can just leave it at the door, give you a knock and minimize social contact as much as possible."

Although drivers are using increased caution and extra sanitizer, they still risk their health to deliver to those who need it. Halaseh says Couryah is trying to get the word out to immunocompromised people and seniors.

"That's an area that we kind of want to put out more awareness towards. On social media I want to get the word out there," he says. "We dropped off some flyers at some seniors homes, and we're looking at different options for how we're going to reach that demographic."

Halaseh says it's times like this that some local businesses can step up to be there for the rest of their community in ways that large corporations don't.

"In our community we see that our service can be a bit of a saviour for some people right now," he says. "So we definitely want to ramp up and try to serve as many people as possible."

Come back here or check with NS public health for the latest reliable updates. In the meantime, wash your hands, cover your cough, wipe commonly used surfaces and stay home if you feel sick.

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