Remember “Bro Hymn”? That moshable eulogy from 90s California punk band Pennywise—a shout out to their fallen friends and a plea for survivors to remember that we’re in this thing together and to lean on each other when times are tough.
In our tribute to the fragility of that make/break line, let’s channel that punk energy and spill out a few drops for our friends—the County businesses that succumbed to the intensity of the COVID-19 storm, knowing it could have been and could still be any one of us.
Pivoting sounds romantic and it kind of is—the very prospect of meeting a challenge by turning it all around with a wildly creative solution is, straight up, the basis of launching a business in the County. But pivoting once the plan is in play isn’t an option for all businesses and sometimes the elements must align to make room for the opportunity to get creative.
So come on, let’s celebrate these great and exciting rethinks and pivots and let’s also remember to send out some real County love to our peeps who need it. At the end of the day people here are a type: we’re bold, creative dreamers, with hearts of steel. And we’re so grateful to be able to support local people, like the ones noted below, who’ve walked out of the room and back into it with fresh eyes, declaring out loud to the universe “This is what we’re going to do.” And then made it work.
The paint was barely dry from the massive makeover of the pretty and beloved Vic Cafe. Its delish new venue, decked out with candy-coated accents and signature Tiffany Pratt design vibes, was about to celebrate its one year anniversary when Coronavirus hit the streets. With a brief pause, endlessly creative entrepreneurs Sonya and Rick Szabo re-launched with a stunning rethink, a twist on their already ’50s-esque approach—a drive-in diner.
Conscientiously accommodating the restrictions of our current climate, the drive-in miraculously manages to avoid sucking the joy out of your experience. In fact, it’s completely adorable: you pull up, check out the menu online or on the sign, flash your headlights, order from the delightful server in a brightly coloured visor (guessing these don’t mesh with roller-skates), pay on the sanitized POS, gobble it down in your car, honk at your friends in the parking spots around you, then get back on the road. Awesome.
The Bloomfield Public House opened it’s doors nearly two years ago to the thrill of locals who then went and dedicated some real time trying to think up cool foodie nicknames for the picturesque town-turned-restaurant hub. Owners, sommelier Laura Borutski and Chef Elliot Reynolds are a talented pair who are always thinking about the next step, so a dramatic pivot seems right in their wheelhouse. With restaurants suddenly burdened to compete for takeaway and the rules in constant flux, The Public House suddenly announced that they’d be reopening as The Market. Bloomfielders were overjoyed, they’d been coveting a “corner store” for ages and delight echoed all over the social walls.
And it’s good. Expect a magnificent execution, one that’s COVID-friendly, upscale, sexy, and perfectly curated with everything from farm-fresh produce to prepared staples to local wine, beer and cider…with totally dece pricing.
And if you’ve got a hankering for Elliot’s fried chicken, it’s all still happening outside with their new foodstop—Judy’s Smokehouse.
We totally love The Regent. Everyone does. That architecturally delicious marquee is a fixture on Picton’s Main Street, the programming is top tier, and the building itself is a beautiful throwback to a simpler time. Or was it?
The Regent first opened its doors in 1918 in the midst of a global pandemic—the devastating Spanish Flu. While the mandate for theatres to shut down was reversed in under two months, over the next two years, 55,000 people (most between the ages of 20 and 40) would die from this previously unknown form of influenza.
Here again, almost to the date of their centennial, the theatre was faced with a mandate to close their doors because of a new and frightening pandemic. After a few months, it became evident that there was a real question mark about when reopening might happen and what the theatre experience would look like indefinitely when it did.
A pivot towards a hybrid programming model was inspired and realistically, the best path forward—filming performers and entertainers, speakers, festivals, theatre and events on the iconic Regent stage, while broadcasting elsewhere to supplement the current inability to host guests and future prospects of diminished seating.
It’s an epic story and an exciting one. The programming possibilities are limitless and we just can’t wait for it to unfold. Watch this space.
This quiet, borderline invisible, pivot is being implemented by one of our favourite restaurants in the world. And there’s something so elegant and organic about it that we almost didn’t recognize it as a pivot at all.
During the initial COVID ‘down time’, Flame + Smith’s owners Sarah and Hidde Zomer began consulting with their farmer friends and suppliers about growing a vegetable garden on their property, a stone’s throw down the road from the restaurant. From this advice, they developed a mosaic of the knowledge that felt right for them, added some of their own ideas, and set about getting their hands dirty.
From Japanese white eggplant to robust summer squash, gardens of fragrant herbs to a selection of beautiful edible flowers—the exquisite food they’re growing supplements what they order from their suppliers, which creates a savings on ingredients, lets them be responsive to orders with a supply that’s one minute away and reduces their restaurant’s environmental footprint.
This is a simple, but awesome pivot model for pros and amateurs alike—anyone, really, who wants the garden-to-plate experience and can see the benefits of being at least partially sustainable. The best part for F+S lovers? Chef Hidde’s monumental talents can be continually inspired in his kitchen by the beautiful bounty from his garden.
The Mustang’s story totally rocks because it’s actually kind of a reverse-pivot. The drive-in, recently under new ownership, was in fact positioned very well to operate in the new world under COVID restrictions. Owners, Dawn Laing and Drew Downs are arts entrepreneurs and had a vision for the space that was quite easily adaptable to fluctuating phases of COVID protocol, by simply stripping back the elements they’d planned to incorporate this year and keeping the aesthetic simple and functional for the time being.
It was perfect: people could cocoon together in their own little environments, quite comfortably and enjoy some semi-social entertainment in a recognizable format with no learning curve. But instead of sitting back and enjoying the awesomeness of an already Corona-friendly business model, Dawn and Drew pivoted anyway—because they recognized they were uniquely positioned to help other County businesses survive.
Expect to see programming from local musicians and event producers, from events that you can enjoy from your car to private events like corporate dos, weddings…carte blanche as long as it’s a fit. Best of all, they’re partnering with organizations like the Regent, potentially streaming programming from the big stage to the big screen and stoking the beautiful sparks of County love—even in the midst of a global pandemic.
Every day we see more examples of PEC businesses creatively pivoting to meet the demands and wavering policies of the new world. We’re so thankful for the businesses who saw their chances and took them, pivoting on a dwindling dime to give us a thread of normalcy that could pull us up through this surreal time, inspire us and top up our opportunities to feel good and happy.
I’m sure we’ve missed some great ones in here though, so add your fave County pivots in the comments and let’s all remember to support County wherever we can.