By Kevin Lajoie
Cornwall Ontario – When COVID-19 prompted Chris Munro to close her Downtown Cornwall shop in mid-March, she was filled with uncertainty and fear – both for herself and her neighbours.
The pandemic brought on challenges no one could foresee. For small business owners like Munro, the affable owner and operator of Life’s Little Pleasures, it posed a direct threat to the business that she poured her heart and soul into for years.
Gradually, the uncertainty and panic was replaced by innovation and resiliency. Like many other merchants, Munro pivoted and began selling items online with electronic payment and contact-free delivery.
“I’ve seen great community support and even some new faces. The message over and over is that they want to buy local,” Munro said. “It suddenly feels like a step back in time, where you truly understood that when you bought from your local shop or business, you knew you were helping support an actual family.”
Curbside pickup now possible
The Ontario government recently eased restrictions on retail businesses as part of its gradual approach to reopening the economy following the COVID-19 outbreak. As of Monday, retail stores with a street entrance have been given the green light to offer curbside pickup services.
The curbside pickup option requires extra diligence and effort on the part of shop owners, but many are forging ahead and adapting to the current norms.
“The good news is those that we have served have been so happy and appreciative. The downside is we’ve had to adjust our sales techniques to accommodate the less personal shopping experience to a more virtual one. We have become virtual personal shoppers,” said Barb Leduc of Mrs. B’s Gifts & Home Decor.
Leduc said the new norm – sending photos and answering customers’ questions online at virtually all hours – has proven to be much more labour intensive.
“Another positive though is hearing that many want to support local shops if they can,” she added.
Play It Again Sports is another shop that has made the jump to curbside service. While it hasn’t generated normal sales, it has proved rewarding.
“It’s allowed us to help our customers get the products they needed like inline skates and backyard games for the kids,” said store owner Dominique Laroche. “The best part is seeing our customers’ smiles when they pick up the items, which is something we had truly missed.”
Ways to support local
The drive to support local has taken on even greater importance in light of COVID-19, and for good reason. The Cornwall area is full of unique, beloved small businesses, be it retail shops, restaurants, tourism businesses or other services. It’s part of what makes our community so great, and that community support is crucial to helping these businesses weather the storm.
Beyond making a purchase or buying a gift card for future use, there are many other ways to support local. Some of them include:
- Consider increasing your tip at your favourite restaurant.
- Think about a local business you can call for those everyday items rather than ordering online.
- Book an appointment now at your favourite salon or spa.
- Write a positive online review for your favourite business on Facebook, TripAdvisor or Google.
- Show some virtual love to your favourite businesses by liking, sharing and commenting on their Facebook and Instagram posts.
Shop Cornwall and Area
It’s also a perfect time to discover some new businesses – and the Shop Cornwall and Area website is a perfect place to start exploring! Spearheaded by the Cornwall and Area Chamber of Commerce, Shop Cornwall and Area, the website lists businesses that are open along with what they are offering and ways to buy from them. For more information, click below:
Emergency loan program
In its own show of support for local businesses, City Council recently approved the establishment of the Cornwall Small Business Emergency Support Loan Program. The program will provide eligible small business owners with a loan in two parts – $2,500 in immediate emergency support and a further $2,500 to help a business transition to a more versatile business model.
Intake for the program closes on Friday May 15. Full details can be found here:
We summarize the latest news about the impacts of COVID-19 on Cornwall businesses on a daily basis. Click on the following link to view: