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Food for thought

Sustaining local, independent businesses during the current outbreak calls for creativity. Enter Vancouver’s Breaking Bread (, a volunteer collective that consolidates information on how to support local eateries on its website. Breaking Bread lets users know what menus its 57 (and counting) participating restaurants are currently serving for takeout and delivery, and where to buy gift cards and merch. “They are bringing all involved restaurants together in an even playing field for Vancouver diners,” says Burdock & Co chef Andrea Carlson, whose kitchen is still offering everything from sourdough loaves to fried chicken dinners. – Adrienne Matei

Out of the box

Calgary’s XO Treatment Room.

Annie Graham, the founder of Calgary’s XO Treatment Room (, is taking her signature XOA facial online. XOA in a Box starts with a 20-minute video skin consultation over FaceTime or Skype, after which Annie will formulate a custom two-week regimen, including a peel made at her in-house lab. Once the box of products is delivered, Annie will remotely guide her client through the application and treatment over video conferencing. The box includes custom compounded products, application tools and gloves. I’ll be taking advantage of her glow-getting expertise all the way from my home in Toronto. – Caitlin Agnew

Buy the book

While they’re closed to the public for browsing, independent bookstores across the country are still getting readers their lit fix. Many, such as Toronto’s Type Books, Another Story Bookshop, Ben McNally Books, Bakka-Phoenix Books and the Beguiling, as well as McNally Robinson Booksellers in Winnipeg and Halifax’s beloved children’s shop Woozles, are taking a page from restaurant take-out by offering contact-free curbside pickup (think a 1950s car hop, minus the roller skates) and local delivery (Vancouver’s Pulpfiction Books has been doing the latter for years, by the way). By phone or e-mail, it’s human expertise, not algorithms, that will find you that next perfect read. Most of these shops also carry games and puzzles, colouring books and stationery. Add pretty cards to your order and dust off those snail mail correspondence skills. – Nathalie Atkinson

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Good vintage

After shutting the doors to her Toronto-based vintage clothing shop due to COVID-19, owner Andrea Lalonde along with artist, stylist and drag queen DJ Cam Lee (otherwise known as Marilyn Mansion) decided to create the Nouveau Riche Home Shopping Quarantine Network to continue selling the shop’s goods. The episodic campy fashion show will run on Instagram’s video platform, IGTV, via @nouveaurichevintage to provide a bit of distraction during these unprecedented times. New finds are being uploaded daily, and gift cards are available for purchase. If you post and tag a selfie wearing your favourite Nouveau Riche vintage find, they will send you two discount codes, one for you and one for a friend. – Nadia Pizzimenti

Get moving

The simple task of keeping active has proven to be quite a challenge under the confines of quarantine, which is why many studios, such as Toronto’s Misfitstudio, have begun offering daily classes via Instagram Live Stories, as well as online. The movement studio is offering one free session from its repertoire of spiritual dance-meets-Pilates classes as well as a full schedule of virtual classes via the Zoom app. You can also take advantage of two free weeks to trial the 35-plus pre-recorded classes available to stream on its website. “We intuitively knew we had to and wanted to keep in touch with our community – now more than ever is a time when we need connection,” says Misfits founder Amber Joliat. “Virtual connection is allowing our teachers to unite, and share tips with each other on how we are remaining sane and strong so that we can pass positivity on to our community.” – Randi Bergman

Window watch

Niagara’s Oast House Brewers ( was built with a tap room, retail, double-decker patio, tours, event space and the popular Brushfire Smoke Barbecue on site. Most of those spaces have closed. And, as the restaurants they supply have as well, Oast sought to recoup losses and support its staff, which number 22 year-round and over 60 in the high season. So, in a creative move, they installed a drive-through. A window original to the historic red barn was retrofitted into a service counter. Beer and barbecue orders are placed via phone and text, with online in the works. On the first day, brisket and ribs sold out within hours. Cian MacNeil, Oast’s marketing manager and owner, had long eyed the possibilities of the small window behind the bar. “I never actually thought we’d see this come to fruition,” he says. “But based on these unbelievable times, here we are.” – Tara O’Brady

Virtual reality

Mischa Couvrette developed Hollis+Morris (, a Toronto-based furniture and lighting brand, by flying around the world, pitching products to everyone who would take a meeting. His moxie worked: Hollis+Morris’ minimal-yet-whimsical pieces – a pendant composed to look like a willow branch, another mimicking a sleek lightning bolt – are now a hallmark of high-style spaces including Kimpton Hotels, Google and Facebook offices and a Nobu Residence. COVID-19 has stopped that globetrotting and temporarily closed Hollis+Morris’ Toronto showroom, but Couvrette and his growing team are still booking meetings. “So far we’ve done two virtual presentations via Google meeting,” he says. “The downside is that it’s harder to convey the touch-and-feel of the products. The potential upside is that we can connect with people in smaller cities, places we might not have been able to visit in person before." – Matthew Hague

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