SUSSEX – Blair and Rosalyn Hyslop now live by the mantra “communication, compassion and flexibility” as they make major changes to the operations of Mrs. Dunster’s and Kredl’s Corner Market within days.
“We consider ourselves to be very fortunate because we have a lot of friends who are entrepreneurs who have seen their businesses evaporate overnight…So we’re worried for them,” said Blair.
But at the same time, he says, they have to implement safety and social distancing measures at their own businesses – three large bakeries in Moncton (McBuns), Sussex and Borden, P.E.I. (Snairs), five storefronts, including one in Dartmouth, and Kredl’s Corner Market in Hampton. Altogether, they supply 600 stores in three provinces and one state, Blair said.
“It is a monumental task and one where you really get to see who your leaders in the business are and how they’ve stepped up, and how they’ve been able to rally their teams across the business to make it happen,” he said.
Mrs. Dunster’s is also running with 25 percent less staff in the last week, many of whom are immune-compromised or are living with somebody immune-compromised. Others are afraid to get exposed to Covid-19.
The company normally has about 250 employees, Blair said, adding that the company is “following government guidelines” when it comes to payment for workers who want or need to stay home.
Still, Blair says demand has increased to a record high. The company went from producing 2,500 loaves of bread a day to 25,000 loaves of bread daily.
Seeing this increased demand, the Hyslops saw a labour shortage brewing. But they’ve come up with one solution for that.
In partnership with Ginger Agency in Fredericton, the company launched Food Works Atlantic, a free platform that matches the many laid-off workers in the foodservice sector to employers. The platform is now open to food workers and employers in Atlantic Canada.
Ginger Agency also helped the Hyslops create an online store for Kredl’s that’s launched this week.
“Our staff has been loading products into that and figuring out the logistics of how we develop, overnight, a delivery service, without knowing if we’re going to have 100 or 1,000 customers,” Blair said, adding that the business risk is higher because most of what the Hyslops offer are perishable – breads, rolls, fresh produce.
The online store means Kredl’s local partners can continue supplying the country market.
“All our products are from here, so this is a way for us also to keep those folks in business and give them a fighting chance to do this,” Blair said.
It also means consumers within a 50-kilometre radius of Hampton can now rely on Kredl’s to get their food without leaving home.
The launch of the delivery service this week coincides with the pension check payments, something the Hyslops had in mind. This would be the first paycheck pensioners get since strict social-distancing measures were implemented.
Those ordering online can also donate a produce pack to someone in need or make a donation towards the order or delivery cost for someone in need.
The $9.99 delivery cost is also waived for Horizon Health and Ambulance NB workers, Mrs. Dunster’s staff, and first responders like firefighters and police within the designated area.
Kredl’s physical store is still open, so are the large bakeries in Moncton, Borden and Sussex. But they’ve each implemented protocols like restricting the number of people inside, installing handwash stations, marking the floors with duct tape to ensure social distancing, and adding plexiglass shields for cashiers.
On the production line behind the scenes, social distancing means less people are working in one shift, yet demand has increased. So, the Hyslops implemented new shifts.
“What we needed to do was spread out the shifts and operate 24 hours a day. So, instead of having 20 people in one area, it’s 10 for eight hours, another 10 for eight hours, and another 10 for eight hours,” Blair said. “We need more people to accommodate that.”
A Lot of Pressure
Trying to keep up with quickly changing rules, increased demand, and a shortage of staff while being worried about trying to keep themselves and customers safe is “a lot” for the Hyslops, who also have a daughter working in the business. They’re not getting much sleep these days.
“There’s some shortages coming from the national players and we’re trying to make up for that. And we’re trying to make sure that the hospitals and nursing homes and correctional facilities, the homeowners and families get the bread and rolls they need,” he added.
“So there’s a real sense of responsibility around keeping up with this demand. It’s not like you can just walk away from it and just do what’s in the best interest of your own business. You really have to do what’s in the best interest of the community. That’s a lot of pressure.”
So far though, the Hyslops and their staff are working through the challenges. Initially, staff members were hesitant, but Blair says they’ve adapted and got things done. “Things that we thought would take months took hours,” he said.
“Understanding that every day is going to be different and there’s going to be a new direction and trying to be calm and collected about that, but forcing that change, is really important,” he said.
“We’re going to over-communicate, do it in a compassionate way, and be flexible because every day is different.”