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Pivoting to adapt to the new normal (3 photos)

Pinetree Catering talks about focusing on their strengths to expand during the pandemic.

While many businesses, particularly in the food industry, have had to scale back their operations or close down since the pandemic started, one, Pinetree Catering, stands out - the local company opened a new location on Dec. 8, 2020.

Nomad on Bay Street took over the location where Scandinavian Deli used to be. There is already a Nomad at the airport, but that location has been quiet since the pandemic curtailed travel.

“We wanted to open before the Christmas rush,” co-owner Shawna Deagle explains. “It’s a busy time of year, with people looking for Christmas gifts and sending meals to families.”

Nomad is not just a bakery-cafe with coffee, baked goods and made-to-order sandwiches. They sell frozen “take and bake” meals such as steak and potato pie, chicken pot pie and shepherd’s pie. Crepes are made on the spot with a variety of sweet and savoury fillings. Their shelves are full of locally produced goodies, such as hot sauces by Heartbeat Hot Sauce and Hooligan Fuel, fudge from Sprucedale Farms, Rose N Crantz Coffee beans, and beef jerky from Bay Meats nearby.

Pinetree Catering, established in 2013, built up their business around catering, but that took a hit when pandemic restrictions started. “We made a point of really quickly changing the direction of our business,” Deagle says.

Since the decision to open a new retail location came after the pandemic started, she and co-owner Nikos Mantis were able to “build Nomad so that it would be pandemic-proof.” Currently Nomad is for takeout only, but there is the possibility of opening up a small eat-in space for when restrictions ease.

They hope to acquire a liquor license and are also working on a patio with seating capacity for 32 for the warmer months. “Maybe even pull the [Local Motion] food truck up to the patio,” Deagle suggests. “It’s a space that can be used for different things.”

In addition to “pandemic-proofing” their second Nomad location, the owners took a good look at their company’s strengths to decide what the food should look like.

“We looked at our staff that we had currently working for us. We took a look at what they all enjoy doing - we had chefs that do fermentation, [cure] their own meat, bakers that wanted to keep doing their breads. We built Nomad the way it is to help keep our staff employed,” she explains.

Adding crepes to the menu was Mantis’ idea. With “the Scand” (the Scandinavian Home Society Restaurant) and the Hoito closed, he thought the Bay and Algoma neighbourhood could use pancakes of some kind on the menu.

Nomad on Bay Street has added six jobs, as well as two more jobs at Pinetree Catering. When they posted job openings, the response was “just wild,” Deagles recalls. “When a lot of businesses were unfortunately forced to lay staff off, we were in a position to hire some, and that was a really fulfilling feeling.”

Expanding their food service business during a pandemic was nerve wracking, Deagle admits. “There was worry and fear. But it was a ‘go big or go home’ moment.”

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