The Schacht family, including, from left, Stephen, Jessica and Jeremy, are the brains and muscle behind the Cowichan Valley’s Ampersand Distillery. The business just opened a new online store. (File photo)

Business notes: Ampersand Distilling now has an online store

Business notes

The Cowichan Valley’s award-winning Ampersand Distillery now has an online store featuring the family-owned company’s signature Ampersand Gin and coveted Per Se Vodka, brand apparel and hand sanitizer.

Spokesman Jeremy Schacht said the idea for the online store came when the business began making and distributing hand sanitizer, when a shortage of sanitizer that started shortly after the COVID-19 pandemic began in earnest a couple of months ago.

He said the distillery initially started the online shop because they didn’t want people dropping by the facility on Lanchaster Road due to social-distancing policies, but it quickly led to orders for its spirits and apparel as well.

“We’ve found that the online store is a good tool to have, so we’ll likely keep it going after the COVID-19 crisis is over,” Schacht said.

“It’s definitely nice to have the ability to sell our products this way.”

Craft spirit connoisseurs can also find Ampersand spirits at select liquor stores across the province as well as online.

For more information, visit ampersanddistilling.com.

****

Restaurants, bars, craft breweries and winery tasting rooms in North Cowichan can expect quick replies to applications to the municipality to expand outdoor seating now that they are allowed to open during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

After receiving a letter from the BC Restaurant and Foodservice Association outlining the dire condition many of its members are in after two months of closures because of the health crisis, North Cowichan’s council agreed at its meeting on May 20 to support the local hospitality industry by directing staff to expedite requests for patios and other outdoor expansions at these businesses.

Mayor Al Siebring said, with the businesses now only allowed to be half full due to social-distancing policies, many of them in the municipality will have to rely on expanded outdoor seating to safely open their doors and welcome guests and tourists alike.

“A lot of the hospitality businesses are not the most profitable even when they are full, so we’re doing what we can to help them at this time,” he said.

“The province has also agreed to be flexible with their rules for these businesses as well.”

****

The Cowichan Valley Basket Society will receive $2,000 from the Island Corridor Foundation to assist with purchasing food for those in need during the COVID-19 crisis.

The society is one of seven food banks on the Island to receive $2,000 grants from the ICF.

Andrea Thomas, the ICF’s manager of corridor development, said the ICF is a part of many different communities on Vancouver Island and wanted to provide some assistance where it was able to.

“This is a small contribution but, hopefully, it will make an impact and help ease some of the stress on people and families in all our communities,” he said.

****

Community Futures Cowichan has launched a micro loan program for local businesses.

The “Go Digital Micro Loans Program” is intended to help businesses invest in online marketing and digital tools to keep them competitive.

The loans are up to $2,500 each at a prime rate of two per cent, and no payments are made for the first three months.

“This specialized loan is to be used for building a new website or enhancing an existing one, expertise to optimize your online marketing, paying for a new online marketing strategy and activities, adding e-commerce capability to your website, and costs associated with ongoing maintenance,” said a press release from Community Futures Cowichan

For applications, call 250-746-1004 or go to info@cfcowichan.ca.

*****

The Downtown Duncan Business Improvement Area is launching its 2020 Downtown Duncan Facade Improvement & Beautification Program.

A press release said downtown revitalization is one of the DDBIA’s top priorities and this program, produced in partnership with the City of Duncan, is a means to help attract more people and businesses to downtown Duncan.

The grant provides 50 per cent of the cost of eligible improvements up to a maximum of $1,000 per application.

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the DDBIA will also consider applications retroactive to March 15 to help business owners who took the opportunity of slowed business due to the health crisis to improve their facades.

The deadline for this year’s first intake is July 15.

“Case studies have shown that façade improvement programs can help increase business sales, increase the number of one-time customers, provide property owners with increased rental revenues, encourage neighbouring properties to take on their own improvement projects, and help increase community pride,” according to a report on facades prepared for the City of Duncan.

For more information, call the DDBIA at 250-715-1700 or go to office@downtownduncan.ca.

*****

Island Health has lifted an order closing all gyms, fitness centres, yoga studios or similar personal training facilities, as of May 19.

The order, that was issued April 2, is being rescinded in accordance with Phase 2 of B.C.’s Restart Plan.

These facilities are permitted to re-open provided they can meet provincial requirements to protect staff and clients against the spread of COVID-19.

“Any facility wishing to resume operations must develop a plan that follows safety measures laid out by the Provincial Health Office and WorkSafeBC,” said a statement from Island Health.

“Guidance for facility operators and for the public related to gyms and other fitness facilities is now available on the Island Health website.”

****

The First West Foundation is stepping up to meet the increased demands on charitable organizations during the COVID-19 crisis.

The First West Foundation, a philanthropic partner to Island Savings, a division of First West Credit Union that has three branches in the Cowichan Valley, has launched its Community Response Fund, which will bestow $600,000 in community grants to charities in regions served by First West, specifically $150,000 on Vancouver Island and the Southern Gulf Islands.

Registered charities focused on addressing food security and basic needs for youth, families and seniors impacted by COVID-19 are eligible to apply for the Community Response Fund on the First West Foundation website.

Charities can request any amount, but may not receive all the funding requested.

The program has two parts; the Fund will provide a total of $500,000 in grants to charitable organizations focused on food security and basic needs support for youth, families and seniors most impacted by COVID-19, and will also provide $100,000 in the form of $500 grants to charities that complete a profile of their organization to help kick start their fundraising efforts.

In the region Island Savings serves, the First West Foundation is distributing $125,000 in community response funding and $25,000 in Community Help Fund grants through the Island Savings Community Endowment.

“These organizations urgently need funds to deliver their programs and services to the community’s most vulnerable during the very difficult circumstances the pandemic has created,” said Richard Hill, chairman of the First West Foundation.

“Our mission is to help them do what they do best.”



robert.barron@cowichanvalleycitizen.com

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