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It’s been a year since Sammy Krenshaw’s ‘shut down’

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Keith Beres

Today’s COVID-19 ‘anniversary’ column was authored by Keith Beres, co-owner of Sammy Krenshaw’s in Tillsonburg.

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The day the music died.

My whole life I’ve loved Don McLean’s classic hit American Pie. I was taught the lyrics referred to Feb. 3, 1959, when three musicians (Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and ‘The Big Bopper’) were killed in a plane crash.

However, on March 16, 2020, those words took on a whole new meaning. When I was approached to give my side of the story in regards to the ‘one-year anniversary’ of Sammy Krenshaw’s closing, it occurred to me that we were a little late.

You see, although we were forcibly shut down on March 16th, the colossal stress began way before. We at Sammy’s heard the same rumours, ‘businesses will close,’ and ‘starting Monday there will be an announcement!’

I suppose it’s hard for many people to understand the psyche of business owners – so in this case, I’ll compare it to being the captain of a ship. And if you want to get even more technical, as of this time last year, that ship was the Titanic.

There was an iceberg ahead, and everyone looked to the captain for advice – employees wanting to know about paycheques and job security… suppliers calling non-stop to ensure they would be paid… fellow business owners calling each other for advice (admitting fear and instability)… and family asking if we can withhold the storm.

Everyone in your peripheral vision is looking to you for advice and comfort, and all the while your world is crumbling around you.

But today, as I am asked how the year has been, I sit back and reflect. I want to make sure I don’t send any negative vibes, including any politics, preach about masks or the conspiracies, and most importantly not point any fingers.

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It’s no secret that the hospitality industry has been hit the hardest, with nightclubs and movie theatres taking the biggest hit.

Imagine working so hard for something, imagine working your entire life to bring your dream to fruition. Imagine the day you succeed. You’ve made it! Years of hard work, blood, sweat and tears. A few years in you’ve just made a name for yourself… and just as business has hit an all-time high, just as you realize financial independence and it seems the world is your oyster, then… ‘BAM.’

A knockout punch you never saw coming.

Behind the scenes, you call your internet and cable supplier to close accounts only to find out the penalties outweigh leaving them on for three months. So you keep paying the big bills, believing you will be open in three months. And repeat.

You have high insurance premiums based on the previous year’s sales, prepaid for the year.

Thousands of dollars in ‘date coded’ inventory that you are unable to return.

And then spending thousands of dollars to reopen months later, calling in staff, purchasing protective equipment, creating new menus, and then… ‘BAM.’ You are closed again before you can reopen.

It takes a tough human being to pull through something like that. But here’s the thing, that’s what business owners are! Every single entrepreneur I know eats chaos for breakfast! We know what tomorrow holds, and we adapt and overcome easier than most people breathe.

Has the last year been hard for Sammy Krenshaw’s? Yes.

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The most common question we get is ‘Why were we targeted?’ Why can Costco or IKEA have 400 people inside but 100 of us can’t dance on a Saturday at midnight?

To them I say this, you are not influenced by alcohol at IKEA. You are not trying to sweet talk a potential date at Costco. And (aside from me on half-price days at Best Buy lol) you’re probably not dancing in the aisles.

So while it’s harsh to be focused on, the logic behind it truly does make sense. (And for anyone who disagrees, I invite you to help me reason with a crowd of 200 youngsters on a Saturday night at 1 a.m. when this thing opens back up.)

Here’s the thing…

We lost family.

We lost friends.

We lost income.

People literally call me at home to clarify a rumour that we’ve been sold. Or gone bankrupt. Or converted to another business, etc.

But truthfully the government has been more than fair. There have been many wonderful incentives! Low interest loans, full out grants, tax breaks, utility breaks, wage subsidies, etc.

Our local BIA has stepped up to focus on hospitality. Our building department has worked with businesses to adapt patios and decks. Our townspeople have begun ordering takeout food in record-breaking numbers.

And we, as business owners, got to celebrate some much-needed vacation time! (Because trust me when I tell you that prior to 2020, a ‘business owner’ was not a position that started with ‘three weeks paid vacation.’)

Was 2020 the best year for Sammy Krenshaw’s? Not by a long shot.

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But I hold true to the saying, ‘I cried because I had no shoes, only until I met a man with no feet.’

Do you know who really suffered this year?

The staff and residents of Maple Manor.

The students who were robbed of their graduation ceremonies and proms, both last year and this year.

The students who didn’t get to play sports, or the kids who relied on the food bank backpack program delivered through the schools for their own health.

It seems kind of selfish to say, ‘We didn’t sell as much beer.’ Doesn’t it?

Sammy Krenshaw’s was more than just a nightclub, restaurant, and bowling centre. We were always involved in fundraisers, community involvement, and lived by the motto ‘Who can we help next?!’

I would imagine that when this is all over, and the world is free to do as it pleases again, that the floodgates will open and entertainment venues, as well as nightlife, will be hit with storms of people.

In the meantime, for those asking how they can support small businesses… the answer is simple. Continue to buy local, get takeout once a week, stop writing on social media ‘Did this business close?’ Or ‘I heard this place is gone for good…’ Gossip hurts and can sometimes hurt more than just ‘feelings.’ (Think before you speak.)

The last thing burning on everyone’s mind, ‘When will Sammy Krenshaw’s open back up?’ And to that I say… call up Mr. Trudeau or Mr. Ford and ask them. When you find out, let me know!

Hopefully, we will see a return by autumn.

Hopefully, it won’t be another year.

Hopefully, we will survive that long. And hopefully when we do reopen, we will see each and every one of you in line (with a year of COVID savings to spend)!

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