How a barber’s little gesture is making a big local difference during the COVID-19 recession


Andy Dinner looks out the window of his barber shop and contemplates what the pandemic COVID-19 has done to the neighborhood he loves.

“I saw some companies closing here, and it is tragic. It is absolutely tragic,” said Dinner.

Dinner, 33, is the most local a person can be. He lives six blocks from his barbershop and was born on the same street.

Forget Paris and London – for dinner, the strip of shops along Toronto’s Lake Shore Boulevard West is the most beautiful place in the world.

“I was fortunate to make some trips abroad, but I don’t want to live anywhere else,” said Dinner. “This neighborhood literally means everything to me.”

During the summer, as the pandemic spread throughout the world, Dinner took a chance – a big chance. Even as companies went bankrupt and closed due to economic turmoil, he opened one.

“I knew that this particular location had been empty for about two years before I contacted the owner and managed to negotiate a cheaper rental,” said Dinner.

Dinner started a promotion in his Toronto neighborhood to try to help local businesses. If you bring him a receipt that proves that you shopped locally, he will give you $ 5 off your haircut. (Nick Purdon / CBC)

At that time, in July, when Dinner took over the contract for the first time, Toronto’s barbershops were still closed because of the pandemic.

Dinner says it cost $ 22,000 and took 45 days to renovate to get the store up and running.

“My father and I became best friends by making this store, and this is one of the most beautiful things that ever happened in my life,” said Dinner.

  • Watch the article on Andy Dinner’s local buying initiative on Sunday, November 1st The National at 9 pm Eastern Time on the CBC News Network and at 10 pm local time on your CBC television station. You can also get The National online at CBC Gem.

“Every day I have people walking by and entering the store and saying thank you for putting something beautiful here. Thank you for putting something beautiful in our neighborhood. And that brings a tear to my eyes, ”he said.

“This is what I wanted to do. I always wanted to have a store on this street.”

‘Staying there will save us’

AN Canadian Independent Business Federation new study shows that half of small businesses in Canada are losing money during the second wave of COVID-19.

In places like Toronto and the Peel Region, both areas under tighter provincial restrictions, that figure is 70%. Restaurants and bars were hit particularly hard.

Barber shop owner Andy Dinner describes how the pandemic affected business in his Toronto neighborhood. 1:08

Dinner says he saw the devastation firsthand. One day after work, he was at his favorite neighborhood bar when he witnessed employees being told the place should close due to restrictions related to COVID-19.

“I saw your posture, your body language, your behavior. It was sad,” said Dinner.

“I said to myself, ‘I need to do something about it.’ It was then that I had the idea. If you go to a local business, local restaurant, local bar, take the receipt to my barbershop and I will give you five dollars in a haircut. “

Dinner announced its promotion on Instagram – and the idea took off.

“The number of bar owners and restaurant owners who came to me and expressed their gratitude was really exciting, it was really impressive for me,” said Dinner.

Dinner chats with local restaurant owner Mike Yaworski outside his Double D pizzeria. ‘My concern now is to make a living for my family … if this continues, I will probably have to close the restaurant,’ said Yaworski. (Nick Purdon / CBC)

At lunch, he takes a walk up the street, the barber towel hanging from his back pocket like a flag. A block away, dinner meets Mike Yaworski outside his restaurant – Double D’s, specializing in Chicago-style deep dish pizza.

Yaworski greets Dinner with a feigned bow. “I mean, it’s cliché to say ‘support local’, but you really are local, you are like the king of Lake Shore.”

Yaworski said that COVID-19 almost destroyed his business.

“My the concern now is to make a living for my family, “he said.” I am married, I have a seven year old son and I have to pay the bills. And if that continues, I will probably have to close the restaurant. “

He says that all businesses in the neighborhood are familiar with the idea of ​​Dinner and love it.

“If you can drive traffic a little bit here, and in return my clients can save $ 5 by cutting their hair and driving traffic that way, oh man, that really helps.”

Mike Yaworski describes how Andy Dinner’s initiative to promote shopping at local businesses in the Toronto neighborhood helped keep his restaurant open during the pandemic. 1:06

Yaworski explains that it’s not just about money, and tears fill your eyes.

“Sometimes I sit down and don’t get a lot of requests, and it’s like I have to give up. It’s kind of hard, man. It’s kind of hard. So it gives you hope, it makes you want to come to work, because sometimes you feel alone and no one cares. I can’t believe I’m crying, but that’s the kind of guy he is. “

Hungry for good news

Dinner finishes trimming Dave Vanderstoep’s hair, checks the young man’s receipt and gives him the discount.

Vanderstoep, 26, is a local tattoo artist.

“I think that [Dinner’s promotion] it kind of reminds people that it’s not just individual stores here, it’s a neighborhood, “he said.

While Andy Dinner cuts a customer’s hair at his Toronto barber shop, they discuss the store’s efforts to help support other local businesses during the pandemic’s economic downturn. 0:54

Dinner sweeps and prepares to close the store for the day.

He says he now understands why his little idea had such a big impact on his neighborhood.

“People need good news. The world is so hungry for positivity now, everything is so dark now. Let’s get over it and come out stronger with little things like this. Doing our best.”


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