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  • Ryan Joyce

Peter Mohr shares insight for Elora & Fergus businesses

Ryan Joyce chats with Peter Mohr, owner of multiple local Elora & Fergus businesses including Shoetopia and SaniMist. He is also the owner of Entrepreneur Counsel which provides business and development coaching for entrepreneurs and he’s a member of the Centre Wellington Economic Development Task Force. They discuss reopening and feedback from customers changes for local businesses, new cleaning procedures, and more!

Peter Mohr owns several Centre Wellington businesses. He shares advice for reopening, local impacts, store changes and more.

  • How is reopening in Centre Wellington and what major shopping changes has he's noticed?

  • Peter outlines how he's had to change his stores and the feedback from customers

  • He shares new sanitization procedures and reducing risk with SaniMist

  • Local economic impacts for Elora & Fergus business

  • Advice for local Centre Wellington businesses

  • and much more!

Listen to the full episode here:

Peter Mohr, Shoetopia, SaniMist & Centre Wellington Economic Counsel

Audio Transcript with Peter Mohr, Shoetopia

Peter Mohr: My name is Peter Mohr and you're listening to the Elora Fergus podcast.

Ryan Joyce: Nice to meet you. Peter you have many local businesses and you're involved in and many areas locally. Tell us a little bit about yourself, your businesses or your local footprint

Peter Mohr: Well, Ryan, I think the biggest one that most people will know in our community is, is Shoetopia and we've just experienced, or just gone through our 10th anniversary right in the middle of our closure. So I have not Shoetopia has been open longer than that, but our ownership and Shoetopia here in Fergus and Elora, um, to the Centre Wellington community, we took over April 1st, 2010. So we moved our family from Al and other small town in Eastern Ontario and came here and we live in Elora and, and, uh, work in, in Fergus. And we have another store in Mount forest as well, that we've opened five years ago. So it also, uh, had a five year anniversary in the midst of the closure. So we were trying to arrange some parties and barbecues and stuff like that. And of course, with everything we're going to just have to delay that a little bit, but that's the one that I think most of the people in the community would know Shoetopia and then we also have a couple of other things, uh, as well, I run an entrepreneurial, um, coaching business called entrepreneurial council where I'm helping people, uh, get through different challenges and, uh, being an advisory board member for them and things like that.

And then our newest one that we've just opened because of COVID, uh, 19 and everything. Um, before I moved here, I had a janitorial company in Ottawa for 10 years and we service 300 different businesses and restaurants and all sorts of different stuff. So, uh, we've opened a new one called Sandy missed in Sandy, miss we're going into businesses and providing products and stuff like that. But the core services we're actually going in and we're fogging their business. I've been doing it on Shoetopia now for a while, but, uh, we're taking that out and actually offering a service so that we can come into Abbosh mints and fog their whole unit and get rid of bacteria, germs, and, uh, viruses of course, um, the product is all health. It's completely a health Canada approved and safe, and there's no issues with it. It's quick. It's a quick turnaround time. It's been around for many years and been proven. So it's just one of those things that we're always trying to look for. Um, things that, where we can help people out

Preview of this Episode | Teaser

Ryan Joyce: And now more than ever, especially in that I'll definitely want to ask you about the first sparks. My intrigued is your move to Fergus yeah. From Elmont and what brought you here to Shoetopia.

Peter Mohr: So I used to be a business broker and, and a realtor and a, so I didn't sell houses. I help people buy and sell businesses. And, uh, I actually pitched, cause it was up for sale at that time to somebody in Ottawa. And, uh, and he said, there's no way I'm going to move my family to some little town in Southwestern, Ontario. So I, we looked at it and I'm like, this is a really good business and I've always liked shoes. And, um, so all of that sort of thing just kind of led into it. And I, I drove from Ottawa, which are, you know, from Elmont, which is a five and a half hour or so drive one day in the middle of January and kind of scooted around and, uh, looked at the business, walked in and, and, uh, drove around. Elora drove around Fergus and said, is this a place we could live?

And then, uh, the next, uh, the next weekend we came back with my wife and I came back and did the same thing. We took a little closer look and then we placed an offer and that was in January. And then April 1st we took over, uh, 10 years ago. Wow. And there's the other two? Congratulations on two anniversaries. That's incredible. It's been, it's been a fun ride. We enjoy the community, love living here. And then, uh, you know, um, got, got involved in the community right away and, and, you know, we're a small town people.

Ryan Joyce: Absolutely. And so you've been here long enough to get obviously good roots and everything. Was there something that surprised you initially when you moved here?

Peter Mohr: I also play, I'm an, uh, uh, well, I'm not currently we're on hiatus, but playing a bluegrass band and have played many festivals and all that sort of stuff. So I love the music scene around here. Kind of jumped into that a little bit right away too. Uh, so there, I mean, it's a great community. That's one of the reasons we felt very comfortable moving here. Um, because, you know, Elmont, if you've ever been there, small town River running through, it sort of has a great homey feeling. It's picturesque. It's, uh, it's one of the, one of the towns in East Eastern Ontario that I consider one of the top two or three towns, which I feel that very much about Centre Wellington, um, for, uh, Southwestern Ontario. So it was, it was just a natural fit for us and it made life easy moving to town.

Ryan Joyce: Yeah. And we're reopening again, as the government is sort of on phasing or phasing out the ocean we're phase two, I said, as whether they've classified. So how is that going?

Peter Mohr: Hmm, well, uh, I can, I can say, you know, um, with our reopening, with our store, Shoetopia, um, we've been blessed, I must say, uh, I've been a big, um, proponent of staying in contact with our customers. I mean, I, I just truly believe that through thick and thin, good and bad, you need to stay contact people. Your customers want to know what's happening and what's going on. And so I've really worked hard in our teams, worked hard to stay in touch with everybody, letting them know, you know, what's going on through our closure, how we're going to reopen, you know, what, what is the policy of coming into Shoetopia these days? And we have some pretty stringent policies coming into our store. You know, we, we make people hand sanitize. We all are all wearing and have been wearing. Ever since we reopened, we ask people to wear masks.

If they need us to get closer than six feet now, starting tomorrow, everybody's going to have to wear a mask because the new rules come in, which, but that's perfectly good with us because we were already kind of there anyway. I mean, we're at the point where we've been asking people to wear gloves when they actually try on shoes to help, uh, us in the re allocation of those shoes. So, you know, with different things, I believe in safety marketing, I believe people, you know, sort of a base thing with people is that they need to feel safe. And when they feel safe, they'll conduct business with you. And if they don't feel safe, they won't conduct business with you. And there's, you know, that's, that's sort of a primal thing. And so for us, we've been really putting out there what we're doing to keep our customers safe and our team safe so that they feel comfortable coming to Shoetopia.

And yet some of the rules, we're not real keen on it either, but it's just a need and a necessity right now to keep everybody safe and hopefully down the road, we'll be able to lighten that back up. And it's a little more friendly as far as, you know, we'll be able to talk to people and see their faces as opposed to through the mask. I mean, we can all of that, but at the time we need to do what we need to do for health reasons. How has the reception been? I've seen mixed things online, obviously supporters and haters, uh, across the board. What is it like on, on your side? I think their supporters and haters always, and, you know, I wrote an article for my entrepreneurial council business about the perceptions of this sort of thing. And I think you need to have the perception that you're, that you're always going to offend.

It's that it's that whole, um, low, 80% rule. You know, there's always going to be 10% that think you're not doing enough and 10% that think you're going way overboard. And if you can hit that 80% where most people are pretty comfortable. And then I think as a retailer or as anybody that's doing business, that's a happy zone. It's when you're getting 50% of the people that are really not happy about how you're operating, then, then some things need to be changed. And I think we're there. I mean, I've had just an overwhelming response for people saying, you know, you're the first place I came into except the grocery store, because I just don't feel safe going elsewhere and everything you've been telling us about. And you know, all this stuff you're doing to keep us safe, I feel comfortable coming to your store. And again, that's that, that's the kind of stuff that I think all the retailers really need to be doing is just to make sure that their customers understand when they walk through and they need to know the policies in advance, they need to know what they're doing.

They need to know how they're protected so that when they come in, they're willing to spend money with us. And, you know, um, most have come back. Uh, our, our it's interesting, our door counts, um, like as far as the actual customer traffic isn't as strong obviously, but the people that are coming in right now are buying and they're coming in with a need based buy, uh, as opposed to just sort of walking around and kind of tooting around and going out for a little check, people are coming in saying, I need Birkenstocks. I need my Blundstones. I need my new balance shoes. I'm going for more walks these days. I I've been waiting, you know, and now I feel comfortable and that's kind of where we're at with, uh, with that. So a lot of the fancier stuff and some of the other things aren't going as well as some of the, every day, it's like, this is what I wear all the time. And I need a new pair of walking shoes. Cause I've taken back up walking, I'm starting to ride my bike and all this kind of stuff.

Did you listen to episode 9?

Listen to Patti Boutin and The Elora Mercantile

Ryan Joyce: What about on the inside of the store? How have you had to change procedures inside? Yeah, yeah,

Peter Mohr: Yeah, a lot. We've tried to open up our stores, uh, taken away some furniture. We literally have two chairs in our stores right now, two sitting areas that are boxed off with a six by six, uh, you know, markings on the floors. So you can't just sit around and loiter, it's either you're in the fitting zone or you're walking through the aisles or you're not in the store. And these are the things that we've needed to do to create more space for our customers to feel comfortable. We've got all the markings on the aisles. We, uh, we've got, uh, a significant amount of signage as to what, uh, the policies and procedures are. So yeah, we've made a lot of changes of when we've got the, the screens up on the cash registers. And like I said, we're asking everybody to hand sanitize and, you know, just we with Sandy, miss we're using our, our actual product. And we're actually missing all of the shoes that have been tried on so that it kills any particular, uh, issues that we have there. And we're quarantining those, uh, for length of time before we put them back out. So there's lots of different policies. There's lots of different procedures and it takes a lot more work instead of just kind of, you know, for, for everybody. But, but it's what we need to do right now.

Ryan Joyce: I, I normally am on a cruise ship. I am an entertainer on ships, usually the last 10 years this way I do. And I have been aware of this misting process for many, many years. It's the same process. Uh, the cruise ships have been using it forever. Is this, that is basically a spray that

Peter Mohr: It's a big system. And I mean, it's a, it's a all natural product it's called H OCL. Um, and yes, they have generators on a lot of the cruise ships and they use them right on the cruise ships, same sort of stuff. And to knock down all of those bacteria and viruses and, and OCL is made of water and salt and it's electrically charged. So basically it's a, uh, that's it, uh, it's got a slight smell of chlorine. That's the cl side of the NaCl and salt. And, uh, essentially it dries quick. So you can miss it over everything. You can miss it. It's electronic safe, it's pet safe, it's food safe. It's people safe. I mean, it's safe. People will spray it in their mouth when they have a sore throat because it's essentially salt water. Right. I see. But it's the electoral it's, it's when intellectualized like that, that makes it into this disinfectant and that's sort of the, and the mr makes it atomize and really wrap around everything. We use it in a spray, in a spray bottle as well, but the Mister really just atomizes everything and adds to that full coding of everything. When you're trying to do a whole room or a store or a restaurant or a booth or a car, or, you know, a piece of equipment, a tractor or whatever the case is.

Ryan Joyce: Do you think all these procedures will stay in place once let's say a vaccine comes around, do you think we'll have glass in between shoppers and arrows on floors? And

Peter Mohr: Yeah, I think they'll, I think there'll be around for a long time. Uh, I think they'll come down slowly. They went up quickly. They'll come down slowly. That's, that's my philosophy there as, as comfort levels, uh, in different areas, uh, you know, dissipate, uh, the, the fear and the, um, the anxieties dissipate, uh, they will see them start to come down and Mohr, you know, certain, certain people are stronger about certain things than others and have, have their own beliefs. And, you know, it's really up to the shop owner, it's up to the business owner and what they want to do. Um, but my feeling is that you need to do what your client wants you to do, not necessarily what you want to do. And, and cause they're the ones that are, that are actually writing the check so that you get, uh, you get paid and your business continues on. So you need to live up to the expectations of your client, um, with all of that stuff. So until they are not demanding in anymore, I think that's when it will dissipate.

Ryan Joyce: And this will have huge economic impact. What do you foresee some of the big economic challenges here locally for local businesses?

Peter Mohr: I mean, I think because we're really, um, you know, in the summer anyway, very tourist driven. Um, there's so many things that drive business into our towns and Vermont's, you know, some of us like at Shoetopia, um, April, may, June are our biggest months of the year and we were closed for some of our very biggest months. Um, so, you know, that has lasting effect and it takes a while to get back through that sort of thing, whether it's, whether it's selling shoes or campground or, you know, um, events at the Gorge, uh, you know, all the different tourism things, people aren't traveling. And that affects a bunch of people now that just hopefully will be this summer until we, until travel opens up. And some of that stuff, you know, hotel rooms and restaurants and all this other stuff. I mean, we're all going to be effected.

The real question is, did you, did you, um, you know, have the capability of making the cuts that you needed to cut at the time and still at the time for some that are still closed in order to survive at all and our township and, and, um, you know, there's been some awesome programs out to help businesses and some grants out there and some different things. And, and I think our, our leaders, uh, at the, at the township level and at the, you know, communities levels are doing everything they can to get us back on up and rolling, um, in alleviating certain rules, you know, there's talk now about, you know, we, we close the, the road and Elora to open that up. We're doing an Fergus next weekend and, and allowing different patios that never would have been allowed. I mean, basically our township, uh, councilors and the mayor and everybody that's making these decisions are making decisions to, to the benefit of the businesses to help them survive and thrive. And I think that's a really important thing, um, so that everybody can do what they can do through this trying time.

Ryan Joyce: I wasn't aware this was coming to Fergus. I knew a lawyer had the procedure. I had heard rumors, actually, I tuned into the economic development, uh, YouTube channel, basically for those listening, if you didn't on aren't aware township Centre Wellington has a YouTube channel. So make sure that I can subscribe that and you can do it in these economic development forums. And I'm sure they've also the virtual hall and meetings are also available online in different resources. So, uh, so there is a ways that local businesses can stay connected and residents that want to learn. And that is, that is certainly going to be challenging times ahead. So it's good to see the township is really out there. I noticed also the mayor is doing amazing things, keeping everybody connected on a daily basis. So,

Peter Mohr: Yeah, well, he's our, he's our County warden as well, too. So he's connected in many different ways and, uh, it's, it's just, it's just good to have that sort of connection at different levels of government too, so that, you know, having the knowledge of the different, sometimes the levels don't talk as well together. And I think having the knowledge of all of that is a, is a real benefit for Centre Wellington. I mean, without that, um, we, we we'd be further behind than some of our local towns around us, I think.

Ryan Joyce: Yeah. And it's certainly, I mean, there's, COVID situation was unforeseen, there was a lot on the horizon that was exciting, including our new hospital next week, I'll be chatting with a couple of people with the hospital and already we're seeing some really great signs of, of what impact that's going to have, including those that development side, right on the same street and really encouraging.

Peter Mohr: It really is. I mean, houses are going up like crazy people want to live in the community. I mean, I do think that this is a, you know, if any, any business owners out there can have already got this far through it, there is hope. And there is a lot of stuff ahead of us that I think is in a really promising, um, get the bridge open again, if, I mean, from the Elora side of things, if you were going to be closed any year, this is probably a good year to be closed. The bridge was closed, right. So, uh, it was going to be probably a less than lovely year business wise anyway. So, I mean, it's just, we look at some of these kinds of things and it's like, who can push through and who can, who can, uh, go ahead because as things start to open boy, Oh boy, there's some great stuff happening in our community and I'm thrilled to be a business owner here, love living here.

And, um, I think it's, I think there's just a lot of stuff going on. That's very positive. Yeah. We are spoiled and we have an amazing community. You're also very active in the community and in the, the business entrepreneurship and coaching. Um, if you could have the ear to local businesses and provide one or two pieces of advice, maybe something that you see happening here locally that you wish you could help improve, what would it be communicate? I mean, there's a lot of businesses out there that aren't communicating right now. And for whatever reason, they've stalled, they're still kind of wondering like, why do I do? And, and, but ultimately if you're a business owner, you have clients and those clients need to know what's going on with your business and they want to know good or bad, and it's okay to share. Both people are very receptive right now.

People are very understanding right now. People want to, we live in a small town, everybody that lives in Centre Wellington we live here because we're small town people. We have that attitude. We want our fellow citizens to do well. We want them, I mean, I think the people that are going to suffer through all this Mohr are, this are the people that live in urban centers than people that live in small town. Like we do our, you know, I think this is going to bring people back to shopping locally naturally because they want their neighbors to do well. I think there's been a sort of a, well I'll just go to the city or whatever, uh, over the last few years, a little bit more than, than what it was. And I think this is gonna re integrate people back into their community. Local is gonna mean local again.

Um, and I think there's going to be less sort of train into the, into the, um, ah, shopping malls. And I'm hoping less, less sort of, of the, uh, outskirt online shopping too, is people want to reintegrate and they want to help their neighbor. And that's part of living in small town community is being neighborly. And I think that's really cool. I mean, we've never, uh, from my perspective, I don't, I don't sort of post out all, anything that says shop local and all that kind of stuff. Cause I believe people need to shop where they want to shop. And, and as local entrepreneurs, we need to, uh, we need to give them the experience to shop with us, whether we're local or not. And, um, so I don't like to say, to force anybody to shop local, but at the same time, I think this kind of thing, and this idea of a community and to they're nervous and all this other stuff is stronger now than it ever has been. And I think people want to, to shop local, they want to go to the local grocery store. They want to go to their local gift place. They, you know, we've had to shop online, let's say to a certain degree over the last of months, but

I think people are ready and want to shop local. So I love that. I think it's great.

Ryan Joyce: Couldn't be a better way to end Peter thank you so much for that great chat and conversation and giving everybody a peek into your business and thanks so much. Peter.

Peter Mohr: Thank you, Ryan.

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