COVID-19’s community impact:  Campus closure kills burger business

Vikramjit Singh, a 24-year-old Durham College graduate, now works the kitchen at McCoy’s in Ajax. Photo credit: Michael S. Patrick

Editor’s note: This is one in a series of articles chronicling the effects of COVID-19 on businesses and organizations in Oshawa.

The McCoy Burger company at Campus Corners Plaza in Oshawa, closed its doors for good in September after finding out Durham College (DC) and Ontario Tech would not be holding in-person classes next semester.

McCoy Burger has been employing and serving students and other customers since it opened in 2014 and students accounted for 60 per cent of its Oshawa business, says Stefanie Fegyverneki, the general manager for McCoy’s Oshawa and Ajax locations.

The McCoy Burger company closed its location at Campus Corners Plaza, Oshawa last month. University and college students represented the majority of their business there.
The McCoy Burger company closed its location at Campus Corners Plaza in Oshawa last month. University and college students represented the majority of their business there. Photo credit: Michael S. Patrick

Owner Floyd McCoy was not available for comment, however, a store employee calls the closure sad.

“We never thought the students would not come back to the school, and we would lose our store,” says Vikramjit Singh, a Durham College graduate who has worked for McCoy for almost two years.

“It is very sad news for us. I am also shocked. So many employees have lost their jobs now,” says Singh. He started with some of them when he was just a trainee in Oshawa. He now works at McCoy’s Ajax eatery on Rossland Road West.

Singh says the Oshawa location was really busy when he started in 2018, but sales went down during COVID-19, to maybe to $150 a day. He says the Oshawa store wasn’t even covering labour costs in the end.

“Some of our employees were really emotional, it’s very hard for them,” says Singh.

He says about 10 employees lost their jobs.

“Our sales were totally dependent on the students,” says Singh, adding McCoy is just a small company, “That was our main store, even the Ajax store was less than the Oshawa store.”

Fegyverneki says the closure of the DC and Ontario Tech University campus had a major impact on the restaurant’s ability to remain open. Students accounted for 60 per cent of the store’s business, she says.

Fegyverneki says although they were able to work with the landlord at beginning, they weren’t able to come to any permanent solutions.

“He didn’t take us seriously until we started to move our stuff out,” says Fegyverneki.

She recalls business wasn’t always bad.

About two years ago they had a big event at the Oshawa store. She says Ted Reader, a celebrity chef and McCoy’s friend, came to the store to promote his new burger. There was a whole promotion day. They opened at 5 a.m. and they gave away a bunch of Teddy Reader burgers. There was even a band in the store, she says.

“It was great when all that went down,” adding “now, we’re in the process of disconnecting the phones.”

Even with the government assistance programs designed to help businesses remain viable, Fegyverneki says it still wasn’t enough.

But it’s not all bad news for McCoy.

Fegyverneki says sales in the Ajax location are almost back to pre-COVID numbers.

“The restaurant is right beside a grocery store, and it’s constantly busy,” she says.

Inside the Ajax store, 42-year-old general contractor Zabi Ghafoori, is waiting on his double cheeseburger. “I’m hungry,” he says with a laugh. Ghafoori says he doesn’t eat here often, “maybe once a week.”

Zabi Ghafoori 42-year-old general contractor says he stops by once a week.
Zabi Ghafoori, a 42-year-old general contractor, says he stops by once a week. Photo credit: Michael S. Patrick

33-year-old Justin Rash and Alayssa Taboy came by for the first time recently. Taboy says “we were driving by and we decided to come in.”

33-year-olds Justin Rash and Alayssa Taboy visit McCoy’s in Ajax on Monday for the first time. 

The pair remember the burgers from Burgermania at Dundas Square two years earlier
33-year-olds Justin Rash and Alayssa Taboy visit McCoy’s in Ajax recently for the first time. Photo credit: Michael S. Patrick

She says they remembered having the burgers a couple years ago when they tried them at Burgermania, at Dundas Square.

Outside the store, 13-year-old Denzel from Ajax sits with his friends having burgers. Denzel says, “in my opinion it’s a really high-quality burger and really nice tasting beef.”

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