Finding ways to support locally-owned businesses during the pandemic has been top of mind for many of us in the community. We’ve ordered food and drinks using curbside pickup or on extended patios. We’ve purchased gift cards from our favourite small shops. Communitech has also partnered with the Digital Main Street program to help small businesses go digital with teams of experienced marketers and students.

Our friends at the LCBO recently launched a campaign called “Pair It Forward.” The campaign has Ontario wineries, breweries and distilleries sharing their favourite pairings from local businesses. Waterloo Region is represented with a suggested pairing from Four All Ice Cream.

Their campaign inspired us to reach out to a few of our tech community members to see what their favourite local pairings are when it comes to local businesses.

LCBO Director of Innovation and New Business Danny Ho suggested trying Pho Dau Bo across from the Kitchener Market. “It’s a 20-year-old family-run Vietnamese and Thai restaurant. Like everywhere else, they’re hit by a lack of local lunchtime traffic.” To help out, Ho volunteered to do some website work to help the restaurant generate more takeout orders during their reopening in July. “They are running lean and opting out of UberEats because the commission rates make it untenable for them.” 

Mark Connolly, partner at Zeitspace and one of the organizers of Fluxible, recommends Words Worth Books in uptown Waterloo. “They care about books and that shows in the way their knowledgeable and friendly staff can so easily make great book recommendations.” The store has been a King Street staple for over 35 years. Connolly cites their events and community engagement as keys to their longevity. The store recently reopened for in-store purchases, but Connolly has enjoyed their curbside pickup. “It’s been cool to pick up book orders at the back door in the alley behind the store, like a speakeasy for bibliophiles.”

Georgette Packing founder and CEO Sarah Landstreet has been creating packaging for small businesses across North America. When it comes to a favourite local spot to support, Landstreet recommends the Grand Surf Lounge on Queen Street in downtown Kitchener. “It’s my go-to spot. Dedicated and thoughtful staff, delicious and unusual food, atmospheric, super drinks. I’m always a sucker for a great themed place.”

With its headquarters in the heart of downtown Kitchener, Vidyard co-founder and CEO Michael Litt has a sizable list of favourites. For breakfast, he recommends the Darlise Cafe for having the “best jam and hot sauce in the world and the best breakfast in town.” When it comes to coffee, you can find him at Matter of Taste, which is located below Vidyard’s former office. After the workday is over, Litt recommends the Rich Uncle Tavern or Izna Donburi. “Izna is beyond just sushi. It’s amazing and beers by the litre.”

Working from home dealt a blow to many of our daily trips to local coffee shops. David Hussey, COO at Supply+Protect Inc. recommends Show & Tell on Ontario St. “It has a chill and inviting atmosphere that’s matched by their staff who are all honest and wonderful people. This all comes before what is the best aspect of their place, the coffee, which never disappoints. My favourite place to walk over from my house when I need to clear my brain or ponder a business solution.”

These unprecedented times have caused stress levels to rise. For a mind and body reset, Cromulent Marketing founder and principal Lee Brooks recommends Queen Street Yoga. “It’s community-oriented in the very real meaning – they truly care about everyone and a huge part of their yoga teacher training focuses on empathy, understanding of marginalized communities, and they do everything they can to make their services accessible to the entire community, regardless of financial means.”

Music can also be beneficial for relieving stress. Mohan Thomas, a product manager at Miovision, recommends Encore Records on King Street East in Kitchener. “It’s an institution! For those of us who still like the physical experience of browsing music. Pre-COVID, you’d always run into interesting customers there, or catch a store wide conversation about Frank Zappa, or esoteric British rock bands from the 70s.”

Going to school at the University of Waterloo introduced Encircle DevOps developer Joanne McClintock to a future downtown go-to – Breakfast Blues and BBQs on Victoria Street. “I’ve known Dulce (the owner) since she waitressed at Molly Bloom’s. It’s so great to know that her summer food truck turned into a small local restaurant with huge portions and great food.” You can still catch their food truck out at local events throughout Kitchener and Waterloo. 

Walk around downtown Kitchener often enough and you’ll eventually run into community and tech advocate Christian Snyder. If you want to even your odds, he recommends Tavis and his crew at Golden Hearth Bakery. “Their rye porridge sourdough, available only on Saturdays, is the best loaf of bread in the Region. They also have the best traditional croissant in town, don’t @ me.” Snyder also has a sweet spot for the Ambrosia Corner Bakery on Frederick Street. “Aura at Ambrosia – for both amazing baking and real talk. She kept home bakers in flour and yeast when the pandemic first broke out, using her supply chain to supply all the folks who started baking bread at home. Putting the community before profit is only one reason Aura is a regional treasure.”

Tag us on Instagram or Twitter using the hashtag #SupportLocalKW to let us know what locally-owned businesses you recommend.

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Communitech is a partner of Startup HERE Toronto.  This article originally appeared on their site.