Ontario is beginning the process of re-opening on June 11, three days ahead of schedule. The province says that increased vaccination rates, and “continuing improvements in key public health indicators” allows for a cautious approach to opening.
Premier Ford credits the ongoing vaccination program, and the “extreme sacrifices” of Ontarians for the current optimism, even though the Delta Strain of Covid-19, previously referred to as the Indian Variant, is instilled in “pretty much every health unit.”
Non-essential businesses will be allowed to welcome customers at a 15% capacity rate. If the business can habitually accommodate twenty people, they will now be able to welcome three. Restaurants can host groups of four on outdoor patios, and up to ten people can now gather outside. Group exercise is now allowed.
I asked a few local businesses about their plans for opening, their thoughts about how the closures have been handled, and what is ahead. A cap at 15% capacity for non-essential businesses is very small. This might have helped a small business throughout the closures.
A shop owner could have allowed one or two people in at a time. By now many of the businesses that are opening for 15% capacity have already changed their business model drastically.
Kelly Windle, owner of the Planted Arrow Flowers & Gifts, explains that, by this stage in the pandemic, “most of us that have survived the pandemic this far have pivoted and made changes to our retail establishments to maintain sales and create new sales.” Kelly says that “inviting the public back will help with impulse buys and grow friendships again.”
Businesses miss their clients!
It could cost a business more to open for 15% capacity than it would to stay closed. Kelly notes that “the wedding industry has been rocked through the pandemic.” Smaller ceremonies mean less profit, but often takes the same number of staff to do the job. This is the situation for many small businesses.
Lisa Williams, owner of Main Street Clothing said: “My business has been closed for in-store shopping for months. There are days I wished I could have just one person in at a time, so 15% capacity is definitely better than nothing. Our customers prefer in-store shopping, so we are so happy to welcome them back.”
Kelly says “if the doors are able to remain open, and the number of people increase, then yes, businesses will bounce back, slowly but surely.” Lisa thinks “all businesses are very excited to see customers coming back. We’re very fortunate to live in such a supportive community, many people have been trying their best to make online orders and curbside purchases.”
It has been a very long 15 months of pandemic protocols, closures, rules, and losses. Everyone in the community has a role to play to keep our local businesses going. Kelly says “the township staff, MPs, and MPPs, as well as other public figures in the neighbourhood of small businesses, need to continue to talk about these businesses, sharing their social media, shopping at the locations, and keeping pressure on the government not to shut us down again.”
There has been a great deal of frustration by local municipal and county level government about the fact that our rural area has been under the same rules as big cities and hotspots. There was no data to show that small local rural businesses were hotspots.
Kelly says “It is very important for us to stay in the public’s eye for years to come after this so that people know we’re still here and support local. Small businesses care about their community and the people who support them!”
In North Dundas, businesses will be opening. Business owners take chances every day just by owning a business. In Winchester, Kelly says there is a very strong network of businesses ready to work together to bring events and ideas to life. The Planted Arrow is hosting a monthly Garden Party Market. The next one is Saturday June 19, 10 am to 3 pm. Come and find multiple local artisans gathered at both the Planted Arrow, and at St Paul’s Church.
Nanda Wubs, president of the North Dundas Chamber of Commerce, notes that, even though non-essential businesses can only have a few people inside at once, the customers finally have access to the products in person. She believes that there should have been more flexibility in the closure rules for low-income families and for rural areas.
Furthermore, what may be considered essential for one person is not necessarily for another.
The website MyShopLocal.ca is the only advertising some local businesses have.