A few summers ago, the quaint main street where Tara Natural Foods is located underwent a big change. City workers dug up a long stretch of the strip to replace sewer lines, halting all car traffic on the street for months in the busy summer season.
“Picture the biggest hole you can imagine. That was the giant crater in front of the store. All that was left was the sidewalk access,” remembers general manager Charlotte Thompson, who has been with Tara for nine years. “Getting to our store was like in the Harry Potter movies, the way the staircases kept moving around.”
Business owners worried about the impact it would have on sales. While many experienced lost revenues, Tara’s actually went up.
“Somehow, customers made it through to us. And we were able to receive all of our deliveries as well. The construction workers would help us unload the trucks and carry orders, box by box, across these tiny sidewalks into the store.”
That support is a testament to the special place Tara holds in the hearts of many people in Kingston, a mid-sized university town in Ontario.
When Tara Natural Foods opened in 1972, health food was hard to find in traditional grocery stores, and natural food stores were few and far between. Tara’s original owners saw the opportunity, opened the store, and began building its devoted clientele.
In 1987, Rudi Mogl, who had moved to Canada from Germany five years earlier, and his wife, bought the store from its original owners. Rudi has operated the store ever since.
“When I bought it in '87, a customer said to me, ‘You're buying an institution,’” remembers Mogl. “It was only 15 years old, but it was already a real anchor in the downtown area.”
When Tara Natural Foods was still a young store, it was one of a few small businesses that played a key role in revitalizing Kingston’s downtown core, bringing new energy and shopping options to an under-visited area that has since become a destination.
Since that time, Rudi has expanded the store’s footprint from 1,700 to 5,000 square feet, and its workforce from nine to 22 full- and part-time employees. Its customer base has kept growing in pace.
Located in a 150-year-old building, Tara Natural Foods is hard to miss as you’re strolling or driving by. Step inside, and you’ll immediately feel at ease. The store’s wide aisles, well-kept wooden floors, friendly and helpful staff, and high-quality products are what make it a destination. It’s not unusual to meet someone you know at Tara and spend a few minutes catching up in the bulk foods aisle before going on your way. It’s just that kind of place.
“We're not a high-end, fancy store,” says Mogl. “My mission is to be accessible to all income classes, because I think good food should be accessible to everybody.”
Tara Natural Foods has always offered a wholesale service that supplies to restaurants in the Kingston area, bringing good food to even more people. The wholesale side of the business currently accounts for 20% of Tara’s sales, and Mogl and Thompson say growing that part of the business has enabled them to buy better and to reduce costs.
A number of years ago, Mogl moved Tara’s payroll from a part-time bookkeeper to Ceridian’s Powerpay for small businesses to reduce expenses and increase efficiency and compliance.
Moving to Powerpay helped the store streamline payroll and provided easier access to T4s and records of employment (ROE). Powerpay also increased management’s reporting ability and made it easy to access historical data.
“The technology was just so much better than what we could do on our own,” says Thompson. “The information that we need to answer a lot of payroll questions is all right there in Powerpay. It is quite a timesaver for us.”
Photo by John MacGillis of the Kingston Whig Standard
Until recently, the store was still using an Excel-based employee schedule and a paper-based timesheet system. But the manual, disconnected processes were unreliable, and didn’t give Thompson the visibility she needed.
“We had a staff hours book that people would sign when they came in, and left,” says Thompson. “And that was pretty much it. So if somebody didn't sign in or out, there was a lot of following that piece of paper to find out, ‘Did you come in? Did you do the work you said you were going to do?’"
When HR challenges cropped up, things became even more difficult. Recently, a staff member’s chronic attendance issues posed challenges for Thompson. “If you have an employee that doesn't show up, that always has an excuse, that is away a lot of time, it's very uncomfortable having to sort through reams and reams of paper to try to defend your position,” she says.
That experience drove Tara to adopt Dayforce Time and Attendance for Powerpay. The system allows the store to track hours, scheduling, absenteeism, and vacation in a single platform that’s accessible from anywhere. Management can easily export that data from Dayforce Time and Attendance and import it directly into Powerpay without any adjustments needed, as both are Ceridian platforms. This ability to import data directly into Powerpay helps ensure payroll is accurate. Because the store was already a Powerpay customer, adopting Dayforce Time and Attendance for Powerpay was easy.
Staff now clock in and out online, which not only gives Thompson oversight into the entire workforce’s attendance, but also provides accurate, real-time records for statutory holiday calculations, and T4 and ROE purposes. Staff can view their schedules online and keep track of their hours, breaks, sick days, and accumulated vacation. It’s a relief for everyone at the busy store.
“Adopting Dayforce Time and Attendance for Powerpay really forced us to streamline our scheduling process. I can't even really believe that we handled it the way we used to,” says Thompson. “Now, if I want to know how many sick days an employee has used, it's easy for me to create a report and find the answer. If we're looking for any kind of historical data, that's where we really see the time savings because we can access the information quickly.”
Mogl especially values how Dayforce Time and Attendance for Powerpay helps the store stay on top of changes in employment legislation. The information and support provided by Powerpay saves them time, gives them peace of mind, and makes compliance easier to manage.
“A couple of years ago, there was a change in the employment standards for statutory holiday pay,” remembers Mogl. “There was a bit of a flip flop, and we weren’t sure if we were in compliance. It was very helpful for us that Dayforce Time and Attendance for Powerpay looked after those calculations of the statutory holiday pay, so we didn’t have to worry.”
The forced shutdowns caused by the pandemic have had serious effects on many small businesses, and Tara Natural Foods is no exception. When the crisis hit, Mogl and Thompson decided to keep the store open. They quickly had to figure out how to put in place strict health and hygiene protocols to ensure the safety of its staff and clientele. Since then, they’ve been trying to stay on top of changing public health advice while being mindful of customer comfort and preferences.
The impact on business has been significant. At the start of the pandemic, sales skyrocketed as customers stocked up on pantry staples. But as people sheltered in place and restaurants closed their doors, business dropped off, not only on the retail side, but significantly on the wholesale side.
It was important to Tara to show its loyal customers the same support they’ve shown the store over the year, so Tara’s began offering curbside pick-up. The store was not set up for web orders before the pandemic, so it established an email order service. It plans to continue to integrate curbside pick-up and delivery options into its core business offerings and is working to establish an online ordering system for the website to streamline that process. While doing customer shopping has taken up more staff time, Thompson and Mogl believe it’s worth going the extra mile for their devoted customers.
With so much going on, it’s been hugely helpful for Thompson to know she can rely on Ceridian for accurate payroll, scheduling, and time and attendance.
“There have been a few times when we’ve had to call Ceridian while we were in the middle of processing payroll to get a bit of help. I’ve been very impressed with how quickly we were able to get in touch with someone who was familiar with what we were doing, and how good they were at being able to walk us through what we wanted to do. We always come away from interactions with Ceridian feeling more empowered and knowing more about the system.”