In the summer of 2019, Richard Coombs and Katie Smith noticed there were very few delivery options for hungry residents in Agassiz.
They set out to solve it, and almost by accident created a business that would help local companies and residents get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We’re not rich people, so if we can help by … driving their products around, that’s what we can do,” Coombs said.
Agassiz Delivered began in Kilby when Coombs, a taxi driver and film production assistant, noticed that takeout delivery was few and far between.
SkipTheDishes and DoorDash, two companies offering third-party delivery from restaurants, don’t operate in Agassiz. Some individual restaurants in Agassiz and Harrison offer delivery — mainly pizza places — but largely the area is a pick-up only zone.
“It was just kind of an idea in my head, and I thought it would be nice if the restaurants didn’t have to hire someone,” Coombs said.
The pair started small, doing takeout delivery on their off time. It was “more for fun than anything,” Coombs said.
“We both love driving so it just kind of goes without saying,” Smith agreed.
Then, COVID-19 came to Canada. Communities hunkered down during the first wave.
“When COVID really kicked in, … we didn’t want to lose out on our bills and our business,” Coombs said. His taxi was sitting unused, and the delivery business was small, focusing mainly on takeout orders.
“We thought of how we could make it help for the community,” he continued. “We knew for a fact, a lot of people in Agassiz don’t go into Chilliwack often … so we wanted to be able to help them.”
Making that happen, however, was “really nerve-wracking.”
“I didn’t know if we would be allowed or considered a usable service,” Coombs said about the business. “I made sure to talk to Fraser Health and make sure to get the limitations on what I could and couldn’t do with food.”
Once they got the go-ahead, the community responded.
People who were quarantined, or had at-risk family members at home called on Smith and Coombs to bring them groceries, medication, parcels from the post office and even auto parts. They’ve delivered from Chilliwack to Mount Woodside, and Harrison to Sts’ailes.
One concern the pair had before starting Agassiz Delivered was being stuck with “a big storage room full of groceries waiting to be delivered,” Coombs said.
The deliveries work with either Coombs or Smith purchasing the groceries or takeout at the till, then sending a receipt to their customers. The customer then etransfers the cost of the purchase, plus the fee for delivery.
So far, no one has tried to leave them on the hook for a pile of groceries.
“I guess being in a small town is good for that, because you usually know these people personally or you’ll see them around again,” Smith said.
And that’s been true even though many of the customers Agassiz Delivered deals with have never even meet Coombs and Smith in person.
“We have customers we picked up during COVID that we’ve never actually seen face to face,” Smith said. “Because we can do etransfer and drop stuff off at their door and let them know it’s there, then we walk away. And we’ve never seen them face to face.”
“COVID has been interesting in that sense,” Coombs agreed. “A lot of people seem to know us, but we don’t really know them.”
Currently, Agassiz Delivered does about 15 deliveries a week.
The couple fits the business in around their other jobs — Smith working at the SuperValu and restaurants around town can fit grocery and meal deliveries around her shifts. So far, they’ve been able to make it work with patient customers and busy schedules.
“It’s funny how one business can really pick up and one can really draw back,” Coombs said. “Before the taxi was our main income, and now it really shut down, to the point where I don’t even have the car anymore.”
COVID-19 has created a huge boost in business for Agassiz Delivered, and Coombs expects that some of that business will continue even after the pandemic is over.
But what will happen next for the young delivery company is still up in the air.
“If we had the time to focus on it a lot more, we could make it work a lot more,” Coombs said.
“It’s taking that next step to really make it our full-time income. It’s a really scary thing. It’s not something we’ve ever done, and we’re just taking it one day at a time.”
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