When COVID-19 struck and restrictions were introduced in Ontario, Jenelle Rosenblath and her husband, Joseph, knew that they needed to act in order to save their business, Rosie’s Café & General Store.

The Rosenblaths turned to the Ontario’s Highlands Tourism Organization’s (OHTO) Tourism Recovery and Innovation Program (TRIP) Capital Projects to access funding to make changes to their business operations and increase sustainability. The timing for the launch of the TRIP funding couldn’t have been better for the Rosenblaths: after almost a year of restrictions and lockdowns, they were feeling the impact on their business.

Enter the TRIP Capital Projects, funded by the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario, provided up to 80 per cent to cover capital costs for tourism-based businesses.

“The funding was phenomenal, it really came at the right time and helped our business,” Jenelle said.

Jenelle and Joseph are relatively new owners of Rosie’s Café & General Store, which they purchased in 2019. When COVID struck, Rosie’s sold gas and offered limited seating of approximately 11 people indoors.

With restrictions due to social distancing, the couple knew they had to make changes that would open up a new revenue stream and ensure they would be able to stay afloat.

“Our square footage is small, 1,100 square feet so it’s very tight quarters in here,” Jenelle explained. “We knew that going forward we might never be able to return to indoor dining…so we thought and thought and thought of different ways to offer food.”

The Rosenblaths applied and were approved for $20,000 in funding through the TRIP Capital Projects to help pivot their business model and introduce two food items that are arguably among the most popular – pizza and fried foods.

“We thought and thought and thought of different ways to offer food,” Jenelle said. “We did Friday night take-out specials for a while and that did really well but our meals took a hard hit….then we thought we’d try pizza.”

After revamping their kitchen space to accommodate the pizza oven and everything that comes with it, the couple also looked for a way they could offer fried foods. They found a Toronto business that sold outdoor event fryers and they constructed a building to protect the deep fryer from the elements.

“Since we added these two elements to our kitchen we have been so busy we are pretty much run off our feet,” Jenelle said. “Pizza has really been an added feature for this area, and it’s kept our business going through the pandemic.”

Moving forward, Jenelle said she and her husband are going to try and sustain what they already built. As a small business with only three employees, they are focusing on sustainability heading into a busy tourism season this summer.

Overall Jenelle found the application process easy and quick, and the OHTO team was approachable and willing to help problem-solve with the Rosenblaths to keep their project on track.

Jenelle explained that when her husband became ill, she worried they would lose the grant completely if they were unable to complete the project as initially described in their application. Fortunately, Jenelle reached out to OHTO to discuss the situation and we were pleased to hear that the project scope could be adjusted just as long as it still complied with the grant criteria.

“My advice to other businesses considering applying for funding through OHTO is don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Jenelle explained. “Don’t be afraid to call the OHTO team and talk to them,” Jenelle said.

About OHTO’s Tourism Recovery & Innovation Program – Capital Projects Stream

The TRIP-Capital Grants stream is geared specifically to small to medium-sized tourism businesses to offset up to 80% of eligible capital expenses incurred to modify operations to a maximum of $20,000 in non-repayable funding, including expenses incurred back to June 1, 2020.  

For more information about other available OHTO funding programs, please visit comewander.ca/programs.

About FedDev Ontario

For more than 12 years, FedDev Ontario has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation and growth in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving their productivity, growing their revenues, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the Agency’s impact in southern Ontario by exploring Southern Ontario Spotlightpivotal projectsTwitterFacebookInstagram and LinkedIn.