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Disability can be disastrous for small business Whistler Peak Pastries feels pinch Gerald Billings has been making fine pastries since he was 14. When he decided to open his own business he analyzed the whole province before deciding on Whistler, opening Whistler Peak Pastries in Function Junction last November. The first year of any new business is a struggle, but Whistler Peak Pastries has been very well received. Function Junction Days, on the July long weekend, was an opportunity for Billings and partner Shelley Hobson to show off their business to people who rarely get to Function — but it turned out disastrously. At the conclusion of Function Junction Days Billings and an employee were attempting to load a dough sheeter, a piece of equipment that weighs several hundred pounds, into a truck to take to Vancouver for servicing. Billings' grip slipped and the machine fell on his left hand, crushing bones in his baby and ring fingers and severing tendons. Three hours of treatment at the Whistler Health Care Centre was required. The next day Billings had plastic surgery in Vancouver. Doctors say he should get most of the mobility in his fingers back — provided he doesn't do anything with the hand for the next two months. Several weeks of physiotherapy will be required after that. Forced time off work for a small business owner is tough enough, but when your insurance plan doesn't provide the disability coverage you thought it did, it can be extremely difficult. "We thought we were fully covered," says Hobson. "This should be a warning for others — make sure you are covered. Get (your insurance) looked at by a lawyer, even if you think you're covered." They weren't paying into a Workers' Compensation plan because they thought their insurance covered them for disabilities. The Workers' Cup, a fund organized by Whistler businesses to help workers in the event of a disability, may be able to provide some assistance. But essentially they are on their own. Closed since the accident July 3, Hobson will re-open Whistler Peak Pastries next week with a revised selection of pastries and special ice cream parfaits. Wholesale items — which account for about half the business — will be available again, but the European pastries and fancy cakes will have to wait until Billings is back to work in the fall. "We set up in Whistler because no one else was doing Gerry's type of pastries," says Hobson. That explains why it's virtually impossible to find anyone to fill in for Billings. That's also part of the reason the accident happened in the first place. The company that sold Billings $60,000 worth of equipment won't come to Whistler to service it; he was trying to move the dough sheeter into a truck to take it to the company in Vancouver. "They go out to service equipment in Vancouver, but they don't service Whistler," says Hobson. "Even when we bought it, they showed up in Whistler with the big ovens and no way to get it off the truck. We had to borrow a forklift from GBS." Despite the set back, Hobson and Billings are optimistic. "We'll take special orders for the fall," says Hobson. "We're looking forward to a busy fall and winter."

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