Meeting new expectations

November 2020

Since the Covid pandemic, many businesses in Thunder Bay have upped their on-line presence or created one. And while there may have been many new things to learn, all businesses agree that it’s been well worth it. Here are a few businesses that have responded to the new reality and the needs of their customers.

J.B. Evans Fashion and Footwear

Owner and manager, Andrew Moro, of J.B. Evans Fashion and Footwear at 122 West Frederica Street, admits that there’s been a few changes with their business since March. While the store has offered on-line shopping to their customers for a few years, their website has undergone some renovations to make it more shopper friendly, and they’ve increased their social media presence, advertising their products and hosting contests to encourage new customers to drop by the store.

Moro assures customers that everything has been done to meet their expectations and more. The usual safety measures are in place, including a hand sanitizer station at the entranceway, plexiglass around the checkout stand, arrows to direct traffic to encourage social distancing, and masks worn by all staff. Customers will still be able to enjoy the same wide selection of clothing and footwear. The shelves and racks are filled with everything from socks to suits, from top quality suppliers like Canada Goose, Blundstone, and Levi’s. Hours have also been extended during the Christmas season and the staff – as usual – are happy to help find those great gift ideas.

For those who want to shop from home, a visit to their website, will not be a disappointment. Everything is well laid out and easy to find and a 10% discount is offered for all first-time orders. Items can be picked up at the store or delivered for free within Canada on orders over $100.

Brent Park Store

Brent Park Store, now located at 106 High Street North, has been offering their customers high quality European foods since 1961 and continues to bring everything from gourmet chocolates, marzipan, specialty cheeses and deli meats from Canada and around the world to their shelves.

When the pandemic hit in March the store was forced to close and offer pick up orders only. Owner Paul Trevisanutto, and his wife, Laura, quickly created a list of products. With over 700 specialty items filling the store, it was no small task. They are currently working to create a website with an online order platform that he hopes will be up and running soon.

With the Christmas holidays taking on a different and much reduced magnitude, Trevisanutto suggests that this year people may want to consider adding more flare to their usual Christmas meal by introducing some new flavours to the dining table. Everything from appetizers to the main course to dessert can be checked out at the store.

And if you want to surprise that special someone with something they can really sink their teeth into, Brent Park offers gift baskets in varying price ranges, either premade or made to your specifications, including cheese and meat baskets, chocolate and candy delights, and any combination you can dream of to stir up those discerning and cultured taste buds.

For more info, feel free to stop by the store and browse or check them out on Facebook.

The Kitchen Nook and The Finnish Book Store

Customers at The Kitchen Nook and The Finnish Book Store at 168 Algoma Street can be assured that owners Richard and Marlene Koskiniemi have been very diligent in keeping their businesses sanitary and Covid-free. Business hours have been reduced and the stores are now open from 11:00 to 5:00, Tuesday to Saturday, to allow time for cleaning and disinfecting everything in the stores before and after business hours.

In keeping with the times, the Koskiniemis have upgraded their website to make each customer’s browsing and purchasing experience pleasant and hassle-free. “Although we love to see everyone in the store, we realize that everyone wants to remain cautious,” Marlene states. “So, we encourage people to browse our website to get some ideas before they head over to the store.”

A trip to will see you adding more and more items to your Christmas Wish List. Everything from kitchen wares (of course) to baby needs, bathroom, sauna, and wine accessories is there – made by reputable brands like Le Crueset, Zwilling, Bodum, and Oxo, guaranteeing many years of use.

The stores will also have beautiful, colourful, and luxurious Alpaca blankets and scarves just in time for Christmas shopping, along with Covid friendly “snak carafes”, uniquely designed glass jars that promote hygienic snack sharing. All purchases can be gift wrapped and they offer curbside pickup.

Ahnisnabae Art Gallery

Louise Thomas, wife of the late Indigenous artist, Roy Thomas, wants everyone who comes to her store to feel welcome and accepted the moment they arrive. Perhaps that’s why the first words that come to mind when you step into the Ahnisnabae Art Gallery is diversity and unity. Every wall and display is a feast for the eyes and together create an atmosphere of culture and acceptance. It’s no wonder that people who enter the store often leave feeling transformed and rejuvenated.

Louise is always eager to share the messages behind her husband’s “Time and Life Series” that takes a prominent position on a wall next to the entrance. “The paintings promote the idea of bringing everyone together,” Louise says. “It shows us how we should look at each other. Not as a race but as people. We need to ignore the colour and see what is underneath the skin.” It’s an important message for all times.

Besides paintings, prints, pottery, stained glass and soapstone sculptures by native artists, the gallery offers jewellery, books, teas, chaga, vamps (decorative moccasin tops), pine needle baskets and many other items that reflect the artistry of the native community.

The store is located at 18 South Court Street and is open Tuesday to Friday, 11:00 to 6:00 and 12:00 to 5:00 on Saturdays. Affordable framing is now offered and framed prints under the $100 price tag are available.

For more information go to


Penny Belluz, Director of Operations at Teleco, believes their business has been very fortunate in helping their customers during the pandemic make the transition from working at the office to home with very little or no drop in their sales.

“We realized that this was our time to lead,” Belluz says, “We had a responsibility to our customers, to educate our clients, and make this change as seamless as possible by showing them they can work just as effectively at home with the right technology.”

This paved the path for many businesses: laptops were set up with the necessary programs and collaboration tools, instant chat and instant messaging now became the norm, video conferencing kept people in touch, and cloud voice technology allowed users to seamlessly move between their office desk phone, mobile phone, home office or tablet.

And the chance to give back to the community grew.

“We knew that the school boards had provided laptops to families who didn’t have the means to keep their children online during this pandemic,” Belluz noted, “But we also knew that one laptop wouldn’t be enough for families with 2 or more children or sharing with parents who were now working at home.” Teleco reached out to the business community requesting donations of older unused laptops and computers that could be repurposed for children.  Their Computers for Kids initiative allowed them to cross-train employees to wipe (remove all personal data from the computer) and set up these computers to be given to families in Thunder Bay. “It benefited many kids and we felt great being able to help our community,” Belluz said.

They’ve also created a promotion offer in November. When customers sign up for the new Cloud phone service, Teleco will donate the first monthly service fee to the United Way.

Recognizing the need for people to work remotely at home without sacrificing technology, efficiency, and productivity, Teleco has created a new service solution. They call it H.O.M.E. – Home Office Made Easy, and have collaborated with Open Mind Interior, another local Thunder Bay business, to bring a combination of office equipment and technology into Thunder Bay homes with style. Teleco is leading the way and consulting with businesses on their work from home strategy to create a customized solution to help companies map out solutions to address the new workplace reality.

And so …It’s certainly been a change for all of us during this pandemic, but like all troubles that come our way, we do better when we stick together. Well, not literally. We have to keep social distancing in mind. So, when it comes to doing your shopping this Christmas – and any other time – remember that the businesses here in Thunder Bay have worked hard to keep their stores Covid free, they go out of their way to provide great products and service, and they give back to our community in many ways. When you support them, you make great things happen in our city, too.

Donna White is an accomplished author and Jubilee Medal winner for her volunteer work with World Vision. Visit her website at

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