Flowers to ‘brunch in a box’: Manitoba businesses working hard to make Mother’s Day special during pandemic

By | May 9, 2020

Despite a pandemic, a depressed economy, and unseasonably cool weather on top of everything else, businesses in Manitoba are pulling out all the stops in their efforts to make sure this Mother’s Day is warm and bright.

While restaurants still can’t have customers in their dining rooms — they’re limited to takeout, delivery or patio service for now — Pineridge Hollow owner Jan Regehr says she’s found a different way to offer their popular Mother’s Day brunch this year.

“Normally, we would have our tent up by now and decorated for the first event of the year. We don’t have any of that this year,” she said.

Instead, the Oakbank restaurant and event centre will offer the brunch experience in a box for hundreds of customers, according to Regehr.

“They will get a beautiful assortment of all house-made baking,” along with crepes, waffles and a hash brown casserole, she said.

“They just have to heat it up with a few finishing touches and brunch is served.”

Pineridge will also offer mimosa kits and fresh flower bouquets to complement the experience.

Regehr estimates between Saturday deliveries and Sunday pickups, she will surpass the number of moms and families fed at last year’s brunch.

In fact, she’s not taking any more orders — the brunch offer was sold out days ago.

Regehr figures between adding on a pickup and delivery service for meals and groceries, and the new Mother’s Day “brunch in a box,” she has managed to recover about 50 per cent of the business she’s lost because of COVID-19.

‘Crazy busy’ for florist

Over at Winnipeg’s Broadway Florists, co-owner Costa Cholakis says Mother’s Day is usually the busiest of the year — and this year is no exception. He expected to be swamped with deliveries and pickups heading into the weekend.

“We have extra staff, extra flowers. It’s crazy busy, which is a good thing because we are taking a huge hit with losing grads and weddings this summer,” said Cholakis.

He says it’s uplifting to talk to people who are happy when they find out he is still open.

“People may not have been able to see their mom for a long time. Their family is happy to know they can send a bright, beautiful bouquet to change the colour of her day.”

Celebrate mothers, but stay safe, says province’s chief public health officer:

Dr. Brent Roussin says it’s important to celebrate Mother’s Day but remember to limit group sizes, close contact and continue to practice safe social distancing. 0:43

And it just isn’t Mother’s Day customers who are keeping him hopping. Even though sales are down compared to the same time last year, Cholakis says people are ordering flowers for themselves or their friends to cheer each other up — especially if they have been stuck at home for weeks, he said.

One of his customers told him the flowers were “a real morale booster.”

Flowers are either being picked up outside the shop or delivered, with the driver alerting the recipient the flowers are on their front step.

Greenhouses open

And if it’s that garden experience you want to capture for Mom on Sunday, greenhouses are open — but be prepared to wait in line because of limited capacity and physical distancing requirements.

“Many people realized it may be too difficult to get their mom out because of lineups and having to wait longer to get in … so some people shopped earlier in the week for their mom,” said Nuala O’Reilly, manager of Lacoste Garden Centre on St. Mary’s Road in Winnipeg.

She says for those who still want to come out for their annual Mother’s Day visit, the garden centre will be open Saturday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Sunday until 6 p.m.

The greenhouses will be subject to the same regulations as other businesses, including limiting occupancy to 50 per cent of normal business levels or one person per 10 square metres, whichever is lower.

Lacoste Garden Centre in Winnipeg will be open this weekend, but will, like other businesses, be required to keep customers properly spaced out. (John Einarson/CBC)

After only being open for curbside business since mid-March, Nemeth Diamonds in Southdale officially reopened its doors on Tuesday, just in time for Mother’s Day.

“We had a very busy day. We were actually pleasantly pleased with the turnout we had,” said Joe Nemeth Sr., adding the business followed the rules for sanitizing and keeping customers distanced.

The business is asking customers who want to come into the store on Vermillion Road to make an appointment, in order to limit the number of people inside and allow for physical distancing.

Loyal customers are coming back slowly but surely, Nemeth said. But even with more than 30 years in the industry, he says this Mother’s Day feels different. 

“We won’t know until we get into it in the next couple of days what it will be. Everything has changed. Taking Mom out on the big day was always important. Now, we can’t do that. I believe, though, we will do well.”

Hard time for sweets shop

Meanwhile, at her St. Boniface chocolate shop, Constance Menzies holds a phone to her ear with her shoulder as she picks up a bag and box of home deliveries. The owner of Chocolatier Constance Popp is adjusting to the new normal. 

She says more of her day is being taken up making deliveries. In addition to doing drop-offs herself, she’s enlisted the help of friends and family — something she would have turned down in the past, not wanting to bother them. 

“I never closed my doors [during the pandemic], because we are seen as an essential service because we have a commercial kitchen. So I am trying to cut costs by as much as I can by filling and delivering orders myself,” said Menzies.

While she says online and pickup sales have grown by 50 per cent over last Mother’s Day, her income overall is down 30 per cent for the month of April.

She had to lay off staff and reduce shop hours to stay afloat, even in the days leading up to Mother’s Day.

“This is a hard time for all small businesses. We are all in this together. We want to be here in the months to come,” Menzies said.

“But everything is uncertain, especially with summer festivals and events being cancelled.”

Back at Pineridge Hollow, Regehr echoed that, saying she is doing all she to support local farmers, suppliers and growers.

“We all need to help each other,” she said.

“I hope people really celebrate their mom this Sunday, even though it’s a different experience than normal.”

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