This article is part of a series in partnership with Coast Capital to support local, small businesses as they reopen following COVID-19. The credit union’s Community Relief Fund helped small businesses and non-profits address emergency funding needs throughout the first phase of the pandemic.
In 2005, Bett Prosperi-Porta was tired of being continually disappointed by the quality of meat he found in conventional grocery stores. This led him to purchase Windsor Meats, an iconic West Vancouver butcher shop.
Since then, Windsor Meats has expanded to open five additional locations across the Lower Mainland. But nothing could have prepared Prosperi-Porta for the impact the COVID-19 outbreak would have on his business.
Customer traffic became more spread out as people stayed at home complying with social distancing. Prosperi-Porta says, “We ended up closing on Mondays, and that was really a result of staffing challenges as well as wanting to make sure we could sanitize and keep everybody safe.”
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With the supply chain strained and the wholesale part of their business under threat, Prosperi-Porta and his team had to make a change.
First, by leveraging their close relationships with partner suppliers, Windsor Meats began adding nutritious meal solutions to the product lineup. This included specialty dry goods and a line of heat-and-serve meals to make it easy for customers to eat quality dinners between busy schedules.
This was followed by the launch of an online platform where customers could order groceries, with everything from beef, to pasta, to mixed freezer packs — all for curbside pickup.
The business also began working with community partners to help with home delivery for those in need.
Beyond stepping in himself to assist in the day-to-day, Prosperi-Porta had to radically change many aspects of Windsor Meats’ operations to keep staff and customers safe. Adjusting shop hours, creating in-store customer limits, temporarily eliminating cash, and increasing sanitation procedures are just some of the actions the team has taken.
“Not all [actions] have been received with patience and kindness, but at the end of the day, the health and safety of those we care about is more important than temporary convenience for others,” Prosperi-Porta says.
In the throes of changing up business operations, Prosperi-Porta says Windsor Meats did get some new clients whom he hopes will stay with them and continue to support local.
“We created a very low-stress environment. In our small stores, we only allowed one or two people to come in. In the bigger stores, there was up to eight, but it was very controlled, a very relaxed environment. I think everybody felt safe,” he says.
There are multiple dimensions to the business at Windsor Meats; one aspect is wholesale, and one is retail. Since their wholesale offering revolves around restaurants, that aspect of the business went away virtually overnight. But the team was able to rework its resources.
Windsor Meats has spent capital to develop its heat-and-serve meal side of the business, and Prosperi-Porta hopes that as they move forward, they will be investing in equipment and technology that better serves customer needs.
The priority for him now is to ensure that Windsor Meat stores remain a safe and comfortable place to visit. He also hopes to hire career-minded people who are interested in long-term positions.
Windsor Meats is proud to support ethical local, family-owned farms that produce free-range and non-medicated quality beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and lamb. The butcher shop also has an exclusive partnership with Shaw Family Farms in Aldergrove, from whom they source a lot of product.
Coast Capital Savings is helping its personal and small business members and the credit union’s wider communities through this time of uncertainty in a myriad of ways. To learn more, visit the Coast Capital Savings small business COVID-19 support hub here.