Russ and Winifred McKinnon are the owners of Phantom Screens Vancouver Island. Photo supplied

Russ and Winifred McKinnon are the owners of Phantom Screens Vancouver Island. Photo supplied

Comox Valley company sees surge in sales

Despite the challenges of dealing with a pandemic, a family-owned business based in the Comox Valley has experienced a surge in sales since the coronavirus started shutting things down in March.

“We stopped from March 15 to Victoria Day, due to social responsibility,” said Russ McKinnon, president of Phantom Screens Vancouver Island. “Before COVID-19, we always had a steady business, year-round. We are feeding over seven families, so we started to worry, as all businesses have been touched, and in some cases decimated by COVID-19.”

However, he was “blind-sided” by surging sales in recent months, considering the containment restrictions that have “turned the world upside down.”

Along with his wife Winifred, McKinnon became the local dealer of Phantom Screens in 1999 while still serving with the RCMP. A year later, he retired from the police force. As senior constable In Cumberland, he said kids around the village liked to refer to him as the ‘Sheriff of Cumberland.’

In 2002, the couple took over the Vancouver Island distributorship of the international company, which is based in Abbotsford. It provides retractable screens for doors, windows, multi-panel systems and outdoor spaces. Mesh options provide air flow, and protection from sun and insects. There’s also black-out mesh for baby nurseries and media rooms.

The McKinnons wholesale to dealers in Victoria and Port Alberni, and oversee sales throughout the rest of the Island.

“Luckily, we’ve been able to continue operating our business while keeping all our employees working using socially responsible practices, and following all of Dr. Bonnie Henry’s guidelines,” said Winifred, who also goes by Fred.

Russ said adapting to changes in restaurant seating, post-COVID-19, has made the biggest impact on the business.

“Restaurant owners are positive, and are looking for opportunities to maximize their outdoor space as best they can,” he said.

The company has helped various establishments by providing free, no-obligation consults and quotes. Recent customers include Browns Socialhouse and the MATCH Eatery & Public House, both in Courtenay. Phantom Screens has also completed several residential projects.

The company is community minded. The McKinnons contribute to Habitat For Humanity Vancouver Island North by way of donations, especially reusable products. Over the years, the business has also supported the Comox Valley Home Based Business Association, Comox Valley Search & Rescue, and the local branch of the SPCA.

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