COVID-19 SUPPLEMENT – OOE Business In The TIme of COVID-19

Carol Workrun

The global pandemic has turned all our lives upside down, and the Old Ottawa East business community is no exception. No one had a “how to handle a global pandemic” case study in their business plan! But in conversation with business owners up and down Main Street, some common themes and some positivism have emerged.

In general, the long-established businesses that remained open to the public in some capacity have reported sales for April that were between two percent and 10 percent compared to the same time last year. These established businesses were happy to have recourse to the new government grants.

For new businesses, however, there are no government grants, as eligibility is based on showing a decrease in income over last year.

More established businesses

Mika Weaver has owned Singing Pebble Books on Main Street since 1992. While she advised that her sales are only 10% of this time last year, she nonetheless had a cheery and optimistic outlook. She indicated that she is feeling the support of the community and was glad to have already had an online store up and running.

OOE businesses are having to rethink how they do business to ensure safe separation and distancing for customers and staff. Café Qui Pense has fashioned an artistic screen from vintage windows rather than standard plexi-glass. Photo by Carol Workun

OOE businesses are having to rethink how they do business to ensure safe separation and distancing for customers and staff. Café Qui Pense has fashioned an artistic screen from vintage windows rather than standard plexi-glass. Photo by Carol Workun

Weaver added that in times of COVID-19 she has seen a shift back to what it was like running a bookstore before the advent of amazon.com. She has noticed that people get a book recommendation and, rather than turning to the online retailer, they are calling their local bookstore. Singing Pebble is responding to that demand “If you hear a book recommendation on Canada Reads, you can be sure we have it,” said Weaver.

She has also seen a huge upturn in the number of puzzles she is selling. “People want something to do that they have control over, and that has an end” was her thought on the upsurge in puzzle sales.

In late May, Singing Pebble re-opened for in-store shopping Tuesday to Saturday from noon – 3:00pm. Curbside pick-up for online/phone orders remains available Monday to Friday from 10:00am- 5:00pm and from 11:00am – 3:00pm on Saturdays.

For Helen Weaver, owner of 3Trees, the situation is trickier as their doors were closed since mid-March and their business is stocked through regular visits to India. It is extremely uncertain what that might look like in the future. Also, 3Trees does not yet have an online store. She is working on that but in the meantime, she urges “Don’t wait for the online store, give me a call or send an email, we will help you”. But selling clothes over the phone is not straightforward, and income is only around two percent of what it was at this time last year. She is looking towards sanitation procedures for clothing and jewelry and investigating a tent for their June “basement” sale.

3Trees also re-opened its store with hours of operation from 11:00am – 4:00pm from Tuesdays to Saturdays. Personal appointments may be available outside of opening hours.

Newer businesses

New businesses in the community face daunting challenges that more established businesses do not. Greens & Beans is a prime example. The business opened just as the pandemic struck, and on their best days they are only serving 10-12 customers.

Photo by Greg Mackay

Photo by Greg Mackay

Jenny Ong at the Green Door was enthusiastic despite the restaurant’s business being only around five percent of sales compared to the same time last year. With the Green Door confined to offering curbside pick up only, she is looking at what the future might look like. “Generally, our business is about 70% eat in and 30% take out. With expected limits on capacity when we reopen we may need to reinvent ourselves and move to flipping those numbers to a more take out based business.”

 
 
For many years now we have been going to our businesses for sponsorships, raffle prizes and more, but now these businesses need us.

For additional stories relating to businesses in times of COVID-19 and updates on how we can support our businesses as the province reopens, sign up for the Old Ottawa East Grapevine Community Newsletter by email to ooegrapevine@gmail.com.

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