By Charlie Senack
Businesses across the city have been impacted by financial constraints and a lack of business caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic. But for one in the Hintonburg company, they had to deal with another unexpected setback.
The owners of Les Moulins La Fayette, located at 1000 Wellington St. W., said it was around 5:30 in the morning on Oct. 14 when they got a call from Ottawa Police informing them that their bakery was the target of a break-in.
“They broke our accessible door glass which was broken [with] a big rock, and cash was stolen from the till,” said co-owner Veda Rajole. “Just before that, we were finally on a roll and decided to take some time off to spend time with our families.”
The store did not have to close after the break-in, but Rajole admits it was difficult to work with minimized space. To date, Ottawa Police have been unable to catch the thief, but told the Les Moulins La Fayette owners they believe the suspect has been involved in other robberies in both September and October.
Instead of going through their insurance to cover the costs, Rajole decided to take a different approach with crowdfunding to help avoid high premiums, which would have been unaffordable.
“We went that route because back in 2018, when multiple tornadoes hit Ottawa and there was a blackout which forced us to be closed for three days, we lost over $12,000 in food,” said Rajole. “When we put the insurance claim in for that our premiums went up right away, and we didn’t want that to happen again.”
Immediately after the local BIA suggested the idea, a crowdfunding campaign was launched with the goal of raising $6,000. That goal was met within three days.
Rajole said that money went towards not only fixing the accessible door and replacing the cash which was stolen, but also to improving their security system. Sensors have now been added to all doors and windows to make sure that if a similar situation ever happens again, they will be notified as soon as the incident starts to take place.
“My business partners and I are 110 per cent grateful that we are even in a position where we are able to ask the community for help,” he said. “I mean, we have been supportive of the community since we opened and we could have never in our wildest dreams thought we would be the ones in need, given all other circumstances around the pandemic.”
Les Moulins La Fayette Hintonburg is a staple French bakery café in the community serving up a variety of breads, authentic Parisian pastries, third-wave coffee and gourmet sandwiches. Having first opened their doors in 2017, they have noticed a decrease in business since COVID-19 first came to Ottawa in March.
Since then they have been closed for in-person dining and are operating strictly through takeout. Rajole says they made the decision to keep operating without indoor dining to keep both their staff and customers safe. Due to their small space, only four or five tables could be seated anyway.
“As soon as we got into the rhythm of the new normal, we decided not to bring back indoor service after Ontario entered phase three,” says Rajole. “Once fall hit and kids went back to school, we started to see an uptick in customers.”
Before the pandemic, 18 staff were on the payroll. When their business took a hit, they were forced to lay off 12 staff members who then applied for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). With business now increasing and the holiday season approaching, they have been able to double their staff.
Rajole is thankful for the public’s support with the crowdfunding campaign and the increase in sales. He is feeling confident that Les Moulins La Fayette will come back stronger than ever after the pandemic.
“We are looking forward to supporting the community which has supported us again soon,” he said.