Man with mask on cutting canvas material on big table

#3: Ontario-based businesses and the innovation born as a result of COVID-19

Grant Gannon and his team at Quinte Marine Canvas & Upholstery have their work down to a science.

Gannon, the owner and operator, has been in business for more than 15 years in Hastings County, fabricating and customizing boat covers, enclosures and marine  upholstery. Before last March, the team were busy finishing their winter projects for boating customers, and they were getting ready for the big spring launch. Their booth at the local boat show was set up and ready to go on March 13. 
“We ended up closing during the show — we closed for three weeks,” Gannon says. “After being closed for about a week, we realized this may be a longer shut down that just a week’s holiday, and we started brainstorming ways we could still pay our shop lease and bills.” That’s when Gannon and his son would head to the shop (they were closed to the public) and try their hands at making face masks and other kinds of PPE. “We soon realized that just the two of us would not be able to make a big enough impact or enough money on our own. We then started looking into face shields as there was just starting to be a need for them, and we realized we had the equipment, supplies and know-how to produce them,” he says. “We quickly did a test run and were able to produce 200 a day. We knew we were on the right track.”
Women getting boxes out of her trunk
Lady employee sitting at sewing machine surrounded piles of material on large table
Gannon says it took about a week to remodel their shop into an assembly line. When production started, it moved quickly. 
Since we have an automated cutting table, we were able to utilize its speed to cut out the clear vinyl for the face shields at an astonishing rate of 60 shields every nine minutes. Once into production, my wife was able to come and work occasionally, and between the three family members, we produced nearly 8,000 face shields.”
Their success came with lessons — they learned that when times change, their company focus can change. “We ceased all regular business to assist in the COVID fight by producing as many face shields as we could while keeping our own family safe,” says Gannon, adding they sold many of their face shields at the break-even point, and received cash donations that they put toward purchasing shields and donating them, mostly to nursing homes.
By the time Ontario had enough face shields and there was a surplus of unsold shields, Gannon learned he’d be able to reopen the shop, but it wouldn’t be business as usual. “It’s since been very different,” he says. “It will take time to recoup the losses of being shut down. The government loan helped, but it still needs to be repaid. We can only hope that more people will buy local and help keep businesses alive during the struggle of getting to a new normal.” The team at Quinte Marine has gone back to their regular operations — canvas work and custom projects — though they’re not going to clients’ boats at this time. “It’s a big change for us. We’re definitely seeing a lot more people though, as we’re still selling face shields to the public and businesses that require them,” he adds. “It has been quite the experience and a lot of feel-good moments have come out of helping others stay safe.”

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