Tony Kubek, the owner of Truckin’ BBQ in Cloverdale, opened the restaurant last summer during 
the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant is located at 18690 Fraser Highway. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

Tony Kubek, the owner of Truckin’ BBQ in Cloverdale, opened the restaurant last summer during the COVID-19 pandemic. The restaurant is located at 18690 Fraser Highway. (Photo: Lauren Collins)

‘Always ready to adapt’: Surrey small businesses stay resilient in a year of COVID-19

New businesses starting up during the pandemic has been a surprising trend

This is the third in a four-part series looking at how people in the community are rebuilding a year after the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020.

Part one: ‘Long COVID’: How a Surrey man is dealing with the effects of the virus one year later, March 11, 2021

Part two: ‘We really had to change everything’: Surrey schools continue to adapt to COVID-19 changes, March 18, 2021

When Tony Kubek opened Truckin’ BBQ, a restaurant in Cloverdale, it was several months into the COVID-19 pandemic, but he didn’t expect a year later to be working in similar conditions.

“If you were to tell me back then that a year later we’re going to be standing in – not the same situation – but a very similar situation, I would’ve been like, ‘What are you talking about?’ It seemed short-term in my view,” said Kubek, who also owns a location in Abbotsford.

Truckin’ BBQ started as a food truck business in the summer of 2018.

“I would just do all the big food-truck events, like the fireworks at English Bay, Canada Days, all the ones that travel through the cities,” Kubek noted. “Then this, you know, stuff happened, and we had to completely change our business for the most part because there were no events for a year.”

Kubek said he participated in a bunch of drive-thru food-truck events early on in the pandemic, but then an opportunity “fell into our laps” and he took over the Cloverdale location July 1, 2020.

The location had already been a restaurant, so Kubek said he closed for 30 days for some renovations but parked the food truck outside for business during that time.

Elizabeth Model, CEO of the Downtown Surrey Business Improvement Association, said she’s noticed several new businesses open in the downtown core during the pandemic.

“It did surprise me to see so many new businesses opening, and even in our specific area, when I drive around, if something has closed, something is reopening in the area,” she said. “I think people, they’re creative and innovative and they’re looking at new ways of doing things.”

Philip Aguirre, the executive director of the Newton Business Improvement Association, said small businesses are “resilient.”

“We will always find ways to be successful. We’re always ready to adapt to the environment.”

Aguirre said businesses such as Sub Garden, Veneto’s Cakes and Pastries and Greco’s Specialty Foods “have all weathered the storm because the owners worked there themselves.”

Then there’s Espresso Café, he said, which was closed for seven months during the pandemic and has since reopened with fresh renovations and new owners.

“That has been a trend of new ownership, with businesses changing hands over the pandemic.”

But what was it like opening up during a global pandemic?

Kubek said the biggest concern was safety.

“Just because dealing with food, dealing with staff, dealing with customers, there’s a lot of moving parts in the restaurant — in any industry, though, to be honest.”

When Truckin’ BBQ first opened, Kubek said the rules at restaurants were as “black and white as they are now,” adding there are now mask mandates.

The business model also changed in the last year.

“For the most part, everything was on your dine-in and people coming into your restaurant and serving drinks, coming for an experience and the atmosphere. But now most of your business is online, take-out, delivery and all that type of stuff.”

In the downtown area, Model said lunch business has gone down during the pandemic.

“With regard to the restaurants, obviously, they used to have a very busy lunch, but with city hall staffing being at 40 per cent or less, SFU closed, many of the workers in the office towers have been working remotely or not just remotely but part-time through their offices,” she explained.

“However, some are having more business at dinnertime through take-out and pick-up than they used to.”

Meantime, Kubek said he’s “ready to get back to normal, that’s for sure.”

“We’re struggling. Everyone’s struggling through this all together, right? To be completely honest with you, the only reason my doors are still open right now is because of this local community around me who have supported me through this,” he said.

“We have a decent amount of regulars and those who are still doing their best to support us. We really appreciate everyone who is picking up takeout orders, rather than using the delivery apps because those apps are really tough because they charge us a large fee.”

READ MORE: Local restaurants feel squeezed by delivery apps’ commission fees, April 28, 2020

READ MORE: SkipTheDishes adds ‘tone-deaf’ $0.99 fee to B.C. delivery orders, Feb. 4, 2021

READ MORE: Province to seek legal action, review SkipTheDishes’ new ‘B.C. Fee’, Feb. 5, 2021

With a small business, Aguirre said it’s about being resilient, but also a loyal customer base.

“Recovery is still slow,” he noted. “However, the business community is definitely optimistic that consumer confidence is increasing.

“I believe – the Newton BIA believes – that recovery can start improving in the summer.”

Model said there’s a “wave of people wanting to get back to going shopping with friends, going out for meals with friends, so that pent-up demand is all there.”

From what she’s been hearing and seeing, there could be a “huge shift to the other side” of people wanting to be in public spaces.

“I think it brings a great deal of hope and joy that the vaccine’s on the horizon and businesses, although different, will come to a level that is obviously advised by our provincial health officer in tandem with the government.”

“It’s looking like the Roaring Twenties is going to come back.”

READ MORE: B.C. extends deadline for tourism, small business COVID-19 grants, March 4, 2021

In the final part of our series, we talk to an ER physician who worked through the pandemic, and examine where the health-care system is now.



lauren.collins@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram and follow Lauren on Twitter

CoronavirusRestaurantsSmall Business

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson outlines the province’s three-year budget in Victoria, April 20, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C. deficit to grow by $19 billion for COVID-19 recovery spending

Pandemic-year deficit $5 billion lower than forecast

Chief Constable Norm Lipinski, Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service to begin public consultation late June, early July

Community input, chief constable says, ‘will occur’

Surrey RCMP reunited three stolen puppies with their mom. (RCMP handout)
Puppies stolen from South Surrey home located, reunited with mom

Surrey RCMP said they found the stolen puppies on April 16

Welcome to your park sign marks the spot where 84th Avenue will continue east from King George Boulevard 
to 140th Street as part of a $13 million road project. (Photo: Tom Zytaruk)
Road Rage: Opposition mounts anew to Surrey’s plan for 84 Ave. at south end of Bear Creek Park

Same place, same project, same fight as Surrey prepares once again to connect 84th Avenue between King George and 140th Street in Newton

Mak Parhar speaks at an anti-mask rally outside the Vancouver Art Gallery on Sunday, Nov. 1, 2020. Parhar was arrested on Nov. 2 and charged with allegedly violating the Quarantine Act after returning from a Flat Earth conference held in Geenville, South Carolina on Oct. 24. (Flat Earth Focker/YouTube.com screenshot)
Judge tosses lawsuit of B.C. COVID-denier who broke quarantine after Flat Earth conference

Mak Parhar accused gov, police of trespass, malfeasance, extortion, terrorism, kidnapping and fraud

FILE – NDP Leader John Horgan, right, and local candidate Mike Farnworth greet one another with an elbow bump during a campaign stop in Coquitlam, B.C., on Friday, September 25, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. won’t be using random individual road stops to enforce travel rules: Safety Minister

Minister Mike Farnworth says travel checks only being considered at major highway junctions, ferry ports

A man pauses at a coffin after carrying it during a memorial march to remember victims of overdose deaths in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. announces historic half-billion-dollar funding for overdose crisis, mental health

Of it, $152 million will be used to address the opioid crisis and see the creation of 195 new substance use treatment beds

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Children’s backpacks and shoes are seen at a CEFA (Core Education and Fine Arts) Early Learning daycare franchise, in Langley, B.C., on Tuesday May 29, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. budget to expand $10-a-day child care, but misses the mark on ‘truly universal’ system

$111 million will be used to fund 3,750 new $10-a-day spaces though 75 additional ChildCareBC universal prototype sites over the next three years.

John Wekking, Merritt Road Report - Facebook
 Coquihalla Road Report
Wildfire sparks off Coquihalla in Merritt

The wildfire is located near the Dollarama off of Highway 5

Ambulance paramedic in full protective gear works outside Lion’s Gate Hospital, March 23, 2020. Hospitals are seeing record numbers of COVID-19 patients more than a year into the pandemic. (The Canadian Press)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate declines, 849 cases Tuesday

Up to 456 people now in hospital, 148 in intensive care

Christy Clark, who was premier from 2011 to 2017, is the first of several present and past politicians to appear this month before the Cullen Commission, which is investigating the causes and impact of B.C.’s money-laundering problem over the past decade. (Darryl Dyck/Canadian Press)
Christy Clark says she first learned of money-laundering spike in 2015

The former B.C. premier testified Tuesday she was concerned the problem was ‘apparently at an all-time high’

Most Read