West Kelowna company leading the way as we turn into a Plexiglass world - InfoNews

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West Kelowna company leading the way as we turn into a Plexiglass world

Staff are all behind the Plexiglass shields and bring orders out to customers.
Image Credit: Submitted/Jeff Leonard
April 24, 2020 - 6:30 AM

If B.C. is going to re-open its retail sector as the COVID-19 lockdown eases, Plexiglass will be a key ingredient to make that happen.

The clear acrylic barriers (Plexiglass is a brand name) are now commonplace in grocery stores, banks and other businesses and it could be here to stay.

“I haven’t heard where people are thinking they’re just going to scrap it after the fact,” Tracy Spooner told iNFOnews.ca. “I do think it’s going to be a new normal in a sense, but maybe not quite as large. It’s just going to become common sense that we won’t be as hands on or as close to each other physically.”

Spooner is a sales representative at Mouldings & More, a small, six-person operation in West Kelowna that specializes in acrylic picture frames.

As far as she knows, it’s the only company in the Okanagan that custom builds these types of barriers. While companies can buy ready made barriers on-line or from other suppliers, Mouldings & More can custom build. It’s already created safer work spaces ranging from Interior Health to grocery and liquor stores.

“Part of our picture framing skill set is that we work a lot with acrylic to display different art entities like collector’s plates, sports memorabilia, that type of thing,” Spooner said. “Because we use plexi and have the skill sets for it, that’s how this started. That’s why, as picture framers we’re still allowed to be open.”

Plexiglass has been the salvation for a number of businesses that had closed because of COVID-19, such as the Government Street Liquor Store and Wine Shoppe in Penticton.

“We just needed more safety in there for employees,” owner Jeff Leonard said. “Customers weren’t listening. There’s always the naysayers and the non-believers. Those folks were coming close to my staff and making them uncomfortable.”

Because of those concerns he closed the store and laid off most of his staff for three weeks while he redesigned the store.

He now has a traffic light at the entrance and allows only four customers in at a time. They go to a sales desk to place their order, pick it up at another counter then take it to the cashier.

The Government Street Liquor Store and Wine Shoppe in Penticton wouldn't have reopened without the Plexiglass shields manufactured by Mouldings & More from West Kelowna.
The Government Street Liquor Store and Wine Shoppe in Penticton wouldn't have reopened without the Plexiglass shields manufactured by Mouldings & More from West Kelowna.
Image Credit: Submitted/Jeff Leonard

“It limits people from touching the product,” Leonard said. “We felt that was an area of transference. It’s hampering the customers because they like to pick the bottles up. They like to feel them. They like to read the labels and see what’s in them.”

To counteract that, he set up a website so they can get that information there, order online and have it delivered or picked up.

He only reopened a week-and-a-half ago and says sales are down but customer response has been good.

“More than one said: ‘It feels like the safest store in town,’” he said.

It was expensive to install and meant he had to hire two more staff so he doesn’t know if he’ll keep the barriers up when the pandemic is over.

“One of the pluses of this is, we don’t have any theft,” Leonard said. “That’s intriguing to me to, perhaps, keep this going.”

Spooner, for her part, expects many businesses to soften their approach to barriers but they're not likely to disappear altogether.

“We’re all going to relearn the fact that we should be stepping further apart,” she said. “People who have done counters that are completely encasing their entire staff, I can see them removing parts of the dividers and maybe just leaving the face front. They’ll get used to it that way. It protects them from the common cold, in theory. I think we’re going to land in the middle. Things won’t go back to normal. There’s going to be a new normal.”

For now, Mouldings & More isn’t planning on hiring more staff to keep up with the demand. Instead, they are encouraging people to do their own measuring and order on line so staff can focus on manufacturing the products rather than installing.

Plexiglass won’t solve all business safety concerns. Places like beauty salons and tattoo parlours are more hands-on. While Spooner can help with design ideas, she cannot offer health advice.

The other positive effect of this booming side of the business is that the company is donating 20 per cent of its net profits from each sale in April and May to the food bank in the city or town where the business is located. They’ve already donated $2,500 to the Central Okanagan Food Bank and that was matched by their first big customer, Lakeview Market.

You can find more information about Mouldings & More here.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Rob Munro or call 250-808-0143 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © iNFOnews, 2020

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