When Babulal Mundel decided to buy the Thunder Bay Menchies in the middle of the pandemic, he heard resounding remarks of doubt and scepticism from people who questioned if he was doing the right thing.
But Mundel, who previously worked two management jobs in food service and spent six years in school studying business, saw the pandemic as a chance to evolve and explore the local business world.
“I will go to where the customers are if they cannot come to me,” he says. “I’m just reading the market and constantly trying to look for new opportunities.”
Now that restrictions have eased, Mundel says he plans to open up a patio outside the Edward Street shop so that patrons can enjoy a cold treat outdoors. He’s also been looking at how he could sell Menchies products at a number of Thunder Bay golf courses, tennis courts, the marina and Kakabeka Falls.
Throughout periods of lockdown, Menchies was set-up for curbside pickup and delivery through SkipTheDishes and DoorDash. It’s something that Mundel says has been central to keeping the business alive. Other ways that he’s tried to step outside the box and seek out other marketing opportunities include partnering with the Cheesecake Factory Bakery by offering pre-cut slices or whole cheesecakes for order.
Menchies, historically known for it’s wide range of frozen yogurts, has more than 350 flavours that include a number of gluten free, dairy free, fat free, vegan and greek yogurt based options. Some recently released concoctions have consisted of the Jolly Rancher Watermelon Sorbet, Caramel Siracha and Salted Caramel Fudge Brownie.
But Menchies isn’t just available in a cup and a cone, Mundel says. They also offer yogurt based cakes, shakes and bubble tea.
“There’s something for everyone,” he says. “People looking for comfort, for a good taste, we can provide that right now.”
Since the pandemic emerged, employees at Menchies have been taking necessary precautions. Staff are required to wear a mask, get regular temperature checks and disinfect all surfaces of the store after each customer visits.
The past few months have no doubt been difficult for many business owners, Mundel says, but he’s optimistic that as the weather stays warm, more people will be in the mood for Menchies.
“This won’t be forever…It might be longer than we thought, but it’s going to end eventually,” he says. “In the meantime, all we can do is adapt. I’ll continue to look for ways to stay innovative.“