Opening a business amidst the pandemic sounds like a daunting task, but that hasn’t stopped two Peninsula businesses.
Heather and Corey Hastings purchased the old Legion building in North Saanich in October last year, with an intention of starting up a martial arts studio. The couple successfully opened in Hastings Martial Arts in December 2019, before having to temporarily close due to COVID-19.
“No one could have perceived what was going to happen. But shutting down for those couple of months actually allowed us to regroup, take a deep breath, and find out where we wanted to go with our facility,” said Cory Hastings.
In June, the karate studio reopened teaching smaller classes with increased safety protocols.
“We just wanted to get our feet under us and make sure we were safe, so Cory switched to teaching classes on Zoom,” said Heather Hastings.
Before COVID-19, the Peninsula Academy of Music Arts was operating out of the same building. The pandemic forced the music school to close its physical doors, and move the classes online. The school decided it would not return to in-person classes.
Community members, students and teachers were sad to see the school go, inspiring the Hastings to open a new music school out of the same space.
“We were thinking about what we could do as business owners, to make sure that we could occupy the space,” said Heather. “Corey and I are both long-term residents of the Peninsula, we grew up here, so we knew people who had been going to the school before, and heard from many that the music school leaving was a loss.”
Some teachers who worked there previously will teach out of the new Keynote Academy, which has been gradually opening with classes on piano, ukulele, and guitar. Most lessons are one-on-one with some small group ukulele sessions.
“It’s been a positive experience reopening the school because of what it provides to the community. That was our focus when buying the building – to have a hub for families and the community, and to offer programs that are fun and uplifting,” said Heather. “I like the balance in the arts that are offered out of the building, because families are diverse and some people may have more of an interest in the martial arts, while others may be more interested in music.”
Another new local business, Pet Connection in Sidney, opened July 4 and specializes in pet food.
“Things have been good so far,” said owner Leslie Kennedy. “I had been planning to open the store for a while, then when COVID-19 hit everything was kind of put on hold for a little while. But it’s just one of those unexpected things that happen, and you just have to go with the flow.”
Pet Connection offers natural, raw pet food sourced only from Canada and New Zealand, alongside various pet supplies.
“People sometimes ask, ‘Why New Zealand?’ And the reason is that they have the highest standards of animal welfare in the world,” explained Kennedy. “We definitely focus on Canadian-made products here though, to support the Canadian economy and reduce our carbon footprint from bringing stuff over.”
Kennedy said the community response to the business has been warm and welcoming, and she has enjoyed meeting all of the local dogs and seeing people come in.
“We want to educate and empower pet owners. That is the main mission of pet connection, to save innocent companions from any type of harm, and that includes bad food,” said Kennedy.