Open a business in a pandemic? No problem for Lambton entrepreneurs

Amy and Cody Ewing took over Johnny G's in Petrolia in the middle of a pandemic.

Cathy Dobson/The Independent

It takes ingenuity to assume ownership of a business in the midst of a pandemic.
Just ask Amy and Cody Ewing who didn’t want to break their commitment to purchase Johnny G’s Pizza March 23 even though COVID-19 had shut down the popular pizzeria.
“We made the decision to buy it in early March when we didn’t know how severe the pandemic would be,” says Amy, 24.
She and brother Cody, 22 – with their father Donald Ewing – bought the business on Petrolia’s main street from long time owners Rob and Patty Geerts. Cody worked for the Geerts and knows how busy Johnny G’s can be.
But when his family took over, the province had ordered all restaurants shut.
“The prospect of taking over a business with closed doors felt terrible at first,” says Cody. “But sales are going up as the pandemic goes on.
“Honestly, business is getting busier and it’s because of the support of the community.”
It’s also because the Ewings are creative. 
One of their first business initiatives was to introduce DIY pizza kits that sell out every week giving families something to do while isolating at home, says Amy.
Five dollars from each sale is donated to charity and Johnny G’s has been able to give $500 to Bluewater Health and $500 to Makers Against COVID-19.
There are draw backs. They can’t open the 18-seat restaurant, they haven’t hired the staff they planned and they’re limiting their hours.  But take-out is booming, with about 80 pizzas go out the door every night.
 “That’s enough to keep us afloat,” says Amy.
“This isn’t exactly how we imagined it, but we’re in the kitchen making pizzas every night and that’s what we wanted,” she added.
In Dawn-Euphemia, Brad and Rachel Goodreau also made the leap into small business ownership just as the pandemic moved into full swing in early April.
COVID-19 has meant a delay in opening their new Southwest  Paddle Company kayak showroom but otherwise the enforcement of physical isolation is working to their benefit, says Brad. He markets kayaking as a great way to stay six feet apart.
It’s even possible the virus has indirectly improved sales, he says. Anglers are anxious to get out on the lake but restrictions related to the pandemic make it difficult to use motorized boats.
In Michigan, there’s a ban on motorized boating.
In Ontario, the provincial government has closed recreational facilities including boat ramps and boat docks.
So fishermen are turning to kayaks that “you can still drag over land and jump into,” says Goodreau.
He sold eight kayaks his first week of business. “I just sold four more this morning,” he says. “This is beyond anything my distributor thought possible.
“It sure is working out for us.”
For now, however, the showroom he built on his 50-acre farm sees little customer traffic. 
Like Johnny G’s, most sales and payment are online.