The inside of the new music school, Keynote Academy, in North Saanich. The school is located in the same building as Hastings Karate, and both are owned and operated by Peninsula residents Heather and Cory Hastings. (Photo contributed/Heather Hastings)

Peninsula businesses launch amidst COVID-19

New music school, martial arts studio, pet food store, welcomed with warm community response

Opening a business amidst the pandemic sounds like a daunting task, but that hasn’t stopped two Peninsula businesses.

Heather and Corey Hastings purchased the old Legion building in North Saanich in October last year, with an intention of starting up a martial arts studio. The couple successfully opened in Hastings Martial Arts in December 2019, before having to temporarily close due to COVID-19.

“No one could have perceived what was going to happen. But shutting down for those couple of months actually allowed us to regroup, take a deep breath, and find out where we wanted to go with our facility,” said Cory Hastings.

In June, the karate studio reopened teaching smaller classes with increased safety protocols.

“We just wanted to get our feet under us and make sure we were safe, so Cory switched to teaching classes on Zoom,” said Heather Hastings.

Before COVID-19, the Peninsula Academy of Music Arts was operating out of the same building. The pandemic forced the music school to close its physical doors, and move the classes online. The school decided it would not return to in-person classes.

Community members, students and teachers were sad to see the school go, inspiring the Hastings to open a new music school out of the same space.

“We were thinking about what we could do as business owners, to make sure that we could occupy the space,” said Heather. “Corey and I are both long-term residents of the Peninsula, we grew up here, so we knew people who had been going to the school before, and heard from many that the music school leaving was a loss.”

Some teachers who worked there previously will teach out of the new Keynote Academy, which has been gradually opening with classes on piano, ukulele, and guitar. Most lessons are one-on-one with some small group ukulele sessions.

“It’s been a positive experience reopening the school because of what it provides to the community. That was our focus when buying the building – to have a hub for families and the community, and to offer programs that are fun and uplifting,” said Heather. “I like the balance in the arts that are offered out of the building, because families are diverse and some people may have more of an interest in the martial arts, while others may be more interested in music.”

Heather said the main challenge has been gaining exposure and letting people know they are there.

“It’s been a little slower through summer but we are hoping to get more people on board for the fall and add more instructors if possible to diversify the music program,” said Heather.

Classes are offered for both youth and adults in both martial arts and music, and Heather hopes the entire building to be a place where families connect and spend time with one another.

“Togetherness is very important, especially in times of stress,” said Heather. “It is nice to reconnect and see some of our returning students again, as well as new students. We have just been putting our name out there and trying to make sure people know we are offering these classes.”

Cory agreed, adding he believes the businesses have been successful considering the circumstances, and his goal is to keep rolling with the momentum and support of the community.

For more information visit keynoteacademy.ca and hastingsmartialarts.ca.

RELATED: Curtain falls on traditional model of teaching at North Saanich music studio

Another new local business, Pet Connection in Sidney, opened July 4 and specializes in pet food.

“Things have been good so far,” said owner Leslie Kennedy. “I had been planning to open the store for a while, then when COVID-19 hit everything was kind of put on hold for a little while. But it’s just one of those unexpected things that happen, and you just have to go with the flow.”

Pet Connection offers natural, raw pet food sourced only from Canada and New Zealand, alongside various pet supplies.

“People sometimes ask, ‘Why New Zealand?’ And the reason is that they have the highest standards of animal welfare in the world,” explained Kennedy. “We definitely focus on Canadian-made products here though, to support the Canadian economy and reduce our carbon footprint from bringing stuff over.”

Kennedy said the community response to the business has been warm and welcoming, and she has enjoyed meeting all of the local dogs and seeing people come in.

“We want to educate and empower pet owners. That is the main mission of pet connection, to save innocent companions from any type of harm, and that includes bad food,” said Kennedy.

ALSO READ: Happy Buddha Cannabis hopes to be before Sidney council ‘soon’

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Hastings Martial Arts in North Saanich first opened in December but was forced to close temporarily due to COVID-19. The studio reopened in June and is now offering classes with increased safety protocols in place. (Photo contributed/Cory Hastings)

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