(Update: Due to provincial government guidelines being released on Tuesday, orders for next week's box have temporarily been put on hold. Check back on Wednesday morning for more updates.)
When Josh Gray, 19, and Genevieve Sutherns, 17, returned home to Guelph from university and vacation trips respectively, they were distraught when they learned about the ways COVID-19 had impacted local businesses.
After brainstorming ways to help the community, the two settled on setting up a platform where they could help local businesses sell their products. And that’s how Guelph Box was born.
“We started working on it Wednesday night and launched on Friday morning and have had just an overwhelming amount of positive response over the weekend,” said Gray adding that the business sold 80 boxes before its kick-off on Monday.
“It’s really helped for the vendors. That’s why we’re doing it. We’re trying to give them another outlet to stay in business and make a little bit of a profit during this time.”
Available only in the Guelph community, the delivery business adds new vendors every day. Current vendors include TOMME Cheese Shop, With the Grain Bakery, Polestar Hearth, Red Brick Cafe, Thatcher Farms, Sunny Island Organic Farm and Sweet Temptations among others that have not been officially announced.
“We want people to know that while there are grocery like items in this box, its a local business delivery service.”
“Yes, it’s more food items, but it’s supporting local businesses.”
Gray said Guelph Box does not offer the option for customers to pick and choose products. The Guelph box creates unique boxes for each customer and sells them for $99 on its website.
“That’s part of the experience in that when you buy a box, every box is going to be different and were going to offer different things from different vendors,” said Gray.
A sample box, for example, would include a sausage, tote bag, bread, cheese, jelly, handmade soap, book by a local author, and fresh coffee beans.
“The retail value is over $100,” said Gray.
He said when they first started the business last week, they had no idea what the community response would be.
“We thought we would sell like 10,” laughed Gray.
He said the number of people who reached out to the business offering their services and their help has been absolutely amazing with Guelphites offering to volunteer their time, their free services and contacts of those who can help.
“It’s been so cool to see the community together and that’s why we love Guelph. People have stepped up in ways we didn’t even know people could,” said Gray.
“It’s been great to have vendors getting involved and people want to be a part of this. This is a way for the Guelph community to help each other out and we’ve really seen that. It’s been a really moving experience.”
Gray said while people are in their homes social distancing, the business is taking safety measures very seriously.
He says everyone involved in packaging and delivering the products will be wearing masks and gloves and will never be directly in contact with the products in the box.
“When we deliver, we will not be delivering and interacting with the customer,” said Gray.
“The only time we’re out is when we pick up from a vendor and when we drop it off at someone’s house.”
The contact-free service will consist of the box being delivered to one’s doorstep with payments processed beforehand on the Guelph Box website.
“Our drivers are instructed not to stay, not to interact,” said Gray adding that social distancing is taken very seriously.