Balderson, Ont. store has pandemic success by going online and providing local items


BALDERSON, ONT. – With some businesses struggling to survive during the COVID-19 pandemic, there are success stories, such as the Balderson Country Cheese Store north of Perth, Ontario.

Despite being a staple in the community for over 100 years, when the pandemic began in early 2020, owner Greg Black knew he would have to act quickly to stay afloat.

“When the pandemic started, like everyone else, we thought we were doomed,” Black told CTV News Ottawa Thursday. “(We) took all the products that we have in this store, which has over 5,000 and a half SKUs, we put them all online with a Shopify platform.”

Black says now their reach has grown exponentially, shipping products like their famous cheese, now made in Winchester and celebrating 140 years of production to every corner of the country.

“We ship daily from the West Coast, Victoria Island, Iqaluit, Nunavut, the East Coast,” Black said. “It happened a little faster than we thought.”

It was a success, the store doubled its workforce, hired two part-time and one full-time, and also sought to offer more local products.

“We sell a lot of honey and syrups and things like that and they’re made right here in Balderson,” Black added. “If we can’t get it locally in the Perth area, a lot of our suppliers are within 20 miles of here; we’re trying to see what’s available in Ontario.

“A lot of our jams come from the Niagara-on-the-Lake area, a lot of our mustards and the like are made in Stittsville,” he added.

“We’re trying to find, to support the locals, because the people have been so great to support us through this, that we are supporting them as well,” said Black.

People like Samantha Brown from Toronto, who just moved to the area three weeks ago.

“We’ve been eating Balderson cheese for almost 20 years,” she said, happy to support a business that offers local produce.

“If you want a vibrant community, you have to buy local. You have to support your local suppliers because if you don’t, the community just fades away,” Brown said.

Black says the next step in the store is to start carrying more local home decor products, an area of ​​the store that has benefited from online exposure, moving away from overseas-made items.

“I went to a few craft shows over Christmas and here and there, and I was amazed at the talent that exists locally,” said Black. “Retired police officers, retired military, serving military, all doing that in their spare time now.”

“So we trade a lot of our product for something more local. I mean the raw materials are made here, the talent is there and people love it,” he added.

Her staff, like General Manager Mandy McLean, were set to see another successful year when people start coming to their chalet in the spring.

“We’re currently discussing what we can do to improve the business, so when the locals start to come out, it’s kind of like a one-stop-shop,” McLean said.

“We have introduced new local products over the past two and a half years,” she added. “We have a good staff here, we have a good source, it’s like a small family.”

While the store is currently experiencing supply chain issues, it isn’t as bad as it could be according to Black.

“The good news for us is that because we’re all made in Ontario, I would say 80 percent of the items in our store are made in Ontario. We can get the products here a little quicker than if it all came from south of the border or some other country, that sort of thing, ”he said.

Balderson County Cheese Factory

Black’s advice to other businesses is to start selling online if you can.

“You are leaving money on the table if you are not online,” he said. “There is a market for everything that people sell, you just have to figure out your niche, know where it is, build a website, just through one thing with Shopify, it’s very easy to do, you don’t have to be a tech guru to go online and start doing this stuff. “

“It will increase your income, you are no longer limited by geographic boundaries, so go online,” he added.

Another possibility is to strike up a conversation with your suppliers to help keep costs down.

“One thing I’ve found over the past couple of years is how well your suppliers will work with you,” Black said. “To reduce shipping costs, your packaging costs, whatever you need, they’ll work with you to support them. They want your business too.”

While Black has said it hasn’t been easy keeping up with changing health guidelines and capacity limits, he’s trying to stay positive.

“For me it’s not about overcoming the obstacle, it’s about pivoting and just learning to navigate something different and that’s what we did through all the blockages and everything. “said Black. “We just got great finding a way to navigate through it.”

“People are happy and the business is growing,” he added.

The Balderson Village cheese dairy is online.


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