‘Buy-local’ movement a boon for city delivery company

Paul and Molly Hartman, owners of On the Dot pickup and delivery service. Cathy Dobson

Cathy Dobson  

Paul Hartman doesn’t like to give the pandemic credit for anything.

But there’s little doubt it brought the Sarnia business community together like nothing else could, he says.

An unprecedented willingness to refer business to and promote one another has helped catapult Hartman’s On the Dot pickup and delivery service to the next level.

The heavy focus on home delivery that began with the first lockdown in March 2020 has doubled his business. It’s meant more drivers, dispatchers and installation of a new phone and computer system to handle the call volume.

In short, the last year has been transformational for On the Dot.

“When businesses began to struggle we realized we had to work together,” says Hartman. “If I’ve learned one thing it’s that if you give a little, you get a ton back.

“This city became kinder when the pandemic hit.”

On The Dot’s story begins years ago when Hartman and his wife Molly met while working for Swiss Chalet.  Molly was a server at the Sarnia restaurant and Paul an area manager for the company.

“We saw so many delivery services try to make it in the restaurant business,” Paul Hartman said.  “I saw it’s tough for restaurants to provide their own delivery service because it’s too expensive. I could see that hiring a service and having it on call would work better.”

“We also saw that a lot of drivers couldn’t stay on schedule.  They were constantly late,” Molly Hartman added. “We saw an opportunity to provide better service to Sarnia.”

On the Dot was established 12 years ago, primarily as a beer and alcohol delivery service. Initially Paul was the sole driver. A second driver was hired about a year later.

“We grew slowly every year but, honestly, we were still pretty unknown until the pandemic,” he said.

After the virus forced the first lockdown, Molly began working full-time at On the Dot.  She started an aggressive campaign to promote it as a way to keep business rolling when customers couldn’t dine-in at restaurants or enter their favourite shops.

“It took a lot of footwork but we built trust with restaurant after restaurant. Then word-of-mouth and social media began mentioning us all the time.

“Suddenly people knew about us,” she said.

On the Dot now has about 35 drivers and three dispatchers.

“We’re always looking for drivers,” said Paul. “We tell them that if they are kind and on time, we’ll get along just great.”

About 40% of On the Dot deliveries are for restaurants, 50% for alcohol (Sarniabeerdelivery.com) and the rest is document delivery and curbside pickup.

On the Dot is used regularly by 40 to 45 local restaurants and many post it on their websites.  In turn, YourDeliverySarnia.com is On the Dot’s website and features the restaurants and services it works with.

Delivery is available in Sarnia, Bright’s Grove, Point Edward and Corunna and costs $7.50.

The Hartman’s say online groups like Supporting Sarnia and Surrounding Business, and #local-Sarnia Lambton, have played a big part in the business’ growth.

“It was all so sudden,” said Molly Hartman.  “No one really knew what to do when the pandemic began. We just said, ‘If we can help, let us know.’ One restaurant reached out to us, then another.”

On the Dot is currently looking to expand into the Chatham-Kent market.

Got a great idea for a business story?  Send it to cathy.dobson@thesarniajournal.ca