A kind gesture for first responders and front-line workers has prompted a mission for a local business owner to help the community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ted Hewett started by offering free car washes at his Sunshine Super Wash to those working during the state of emergency.
“We can’t help them in their profession because that’s not our area of expertise, but we can help them by putting a smile on their faces at the end of the day,” he said.
At a time like this, a free car wash can be all it takes to generate those smiles.
“I can’t even imagine what they’re going through to keep us safe,” Hewett said.
He started that offer near the end of March. Since then, he has handed out nearly 1,000 wash tickets to people working in various capacities, including nursing, policing, firefighting and taxi driving.
He expanded it to include those who work other jobs, such as pharmacy and grocery store employees. He delivered about 500 wash tickets to local grocery stores.
“The response has been fantastic,” he said. “Our goal of putting a smile on their faces during an extremely challenging time has worked.”
That offer will remain open until the end of May.
“Health means a lot more to me today than a dollar, and I can’t thank people enough for doing what they’re doing to keep us all healthy,” Hewett said.
He didn’t stop at free car washes, though. He has sponsored Able Taxi’s grocery delivery service for those in need.
“There are a lot of people out there who are afraid to go out or can’t go out, and I can appreciate that,” he said.
Hewett also partnered with Little Caesars to provide more than 100 pizzas to front-line workers and is donating $2,000 to The Sharing Place Food Centre.
Like many businesses, Sunshine Super Wash has had to lay off some staff during the pandemic, and when Hewett was speaking with Sharing Place executive director Chris Peacock about making a donation, he told him, “It could be one of those employees at your door I’ve had to lay off.”
“I’d never had to lay off an employee in my career, and I’m glad we have the facilities and the means (like The Sharing Place) out there to help people in these times,” he said.
Knowing the toll the pandemic is taking on local businesses that have had to close, Hewett is putting out an offer to help them when they reopen. He has a large LED sign outside his Front Street business and he is inviting small businesses in the community to contact him so he can put their logos on the sign with the message, “We’re back,” once they’re open again. Those interested can email their logos to [email protected].
While he’s happy to help, this isn’t how Hewett expected his company’s 50th-anniversary year would play out. His parents, Geoff and Kathy, started the business in 1970. Hewett began working there at the age of 13.
The company has always made a point of keeping its facility clean, but it has taken that to a new level, with staff sanitizing the bays multiple times every day.
After decades on the job, Hewett has “never seen anything like this.”
“You go through ups and downs in business. Ours is dependent on the weather, but it’s never rained for the entire month of April,” he said. “It feels like the dark clouds came over in the middle of March and they’re still here. Those clouds are going to be hanging over a lot of small businesses for a while.”
A celebration was being planned to mark half a century in business, but not anymore.
“It was all about whistles and balloons. Now it’s about how we can do our part to help Orillia,” Hewett said. “It’s hard to focus on celebrating 50 years in business when what we need to focus on is reinvigorating our community.”