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P.E.I. business makes 'tough decision' to temporarily shut down

Lacy-Jane Kamphuis, left, and Gillian Webster, owners of That Fun Place, decided to temporarily close on Monday due to concerns over COVID-19. On Tuesday, they put their names in for funding under the province's newly established $25-million Emergency Contingency Fund for small businesses and self-employed persons.
Lacy-Jane Kamphuis, left, and Gillian Webster, owners of That Fun Place, decided to temporarily close on Monday due to concerns over COVID-19. On Tuesday, they put their names in for funding under the province's newly established $25-million Emergency Contingency Fund for small businesses and self-employed persons.


Like many businesses, Charlottetown's That Fun Place decided to temporarily close on Monday to do its part to help stop the spread of COVID-19.

But even though the owners say it was the right decision, it was still a tough one because of the financial implications for the business, says Lacy-Jane Kamphuis, who co-owns That Fun Place with Gillian Webster.

"An easy decision to make for the community because we knew we had to do our part to keep the community safe and help flatten the curve. However, that being said, as a business decision, it was incredibly tough," said Kamphuis on Tuesday.

Webster and Kamphuis opened That Fun Place in May 2012 to give children a place to play with toys and play equipment year-round. In 2017, the moved to their current location at 410 Mount Edward Rd. Besides the owners, the business has two employees.

Late Monday afternoon, the province announced a $25-million Emergency Contingency Fund for small businesses and self-employed persons. The government said more details on the program would be available in the next 24 hours, but it did provide Islanders with a phone number to call to start the application process.

"We tend to rely on sales from March to give our business a boost, and that helps us stay afloat through our quieter months when we are typically a wee bit slower. So, that's a big concern for us is we're losing our peak season."

On Tuesday morning, Webster took the province up on its offer. She spent the morning hitting redial trying to get through. Shortly before noon, she finally spoke with someone.

Webster provided the person with details of the business, such as the number of staff and whether they were open or closed. She was told an email would be sent in the next two to three days to let her know what might be available in funding.

"Really, no information other than they'll be in touch. Frustrating," Webster said.

She added that March break is the "peak season" for the business.

"We tend to rely on sales from March to give our business a boost, and that helps us stay afloat through our quieter months when we are typically a wee bit slower. So, that's a big concern for us is we're losing our peak season," she said.

As a result of the decision to close, the business had to cancel a large event this weekend as well as a few birthday parties scheduled in the next few weeks.

Webster said the business's financial obligations include rent, loan payments, paying staff and utilities. To help out while the business is temporarily closed, Webster said their landlord has allowed them to hold off on paying April's rent, and the Business Development Bank of Canada is allowing them to pause their loan principal payments for the next few months.

'LOVELY GESTURE' 

Before making the decision to close, the owners reached out to customers about restructuring options to stay open, but the majority said they would rather stay home and make sure they were safe. Some customers left the deposits in place in order to reschedule while others exchanged their deposit for a gift card that can be used at a later date.

"That was a lovely gesture by some of our customers," said Webster. "The responses that we've had from our customers have just been fantastic – really supportive and definitely bring a few tears to our eyes."

The Guardian contacted the province Tuesday looking for more details about the program, but a reply wasn't received by deadline.

Even though they have their names in for financial help, Kamphuis wasn't sure what the outcome would be.

"Well, honestly, I'm not even sure what they are able to do, right? We're hoping that somehow a miracle will come through (and) somehow they'll be able to offer us financial assistance. And, direction as to what our next steps (are), how long they maybe forsee this going on and just how to move on after this is over with as well."

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