The business community in Merrickville-Wolford is preparing to welcome their usual influx of visitors this summer, while taking into consideration COVID-19 regulations. President of the Merrickville and District Chamber of Commerce, Yves Grandmaitre, says overall the businesses in the Village have been coping pretty well with the restrictions placed on them due to COVID-19. Before the mandatory shut down, many of the businesses had signed up for the Chamber’s Digital Main Street program, which helped them bring their business online. They were able to use their new online platforms to generate some revenue, while they were unable to welcome patrons into their stores over the past few months.
Yves believes COVID-19 has created a bit of renewal in the Village. Many of the business owners who were already thinking about closing or moving their stores before COVID-19 hit have now either closed their doors, or opened their locations in a different municipality.
“COVID-19 has been a line in the sand for some of our older business owners to retire,” Yves says. “It is unfortunate, but inevitable.”
This has left room for a few new businesses to open in the empty storefronts, including a new restaurant, bridal store, accessory store, and venue. “Merrickville has always been a popular spot for retail,” Yves says. “We will see six new stores in town.”
The biggest challenge facing the business community right now is how to welcome visitors to the Village while keeping residents, tourists, and business owners safe. Yves says all the stores have taken the necessary steps to allow for physical distancing, with some expanding outside to provide more space. Business owners have also put in place proper sanitization practices, barriers at the cash, and PPE.
Another issue that has been a hot topic in the Village for a while is access to washrooms for visitors. Unfortunately, all the municipal washrooms are remaining closed, as the Village doesn’t have the resources to keep up with the cleaning protocol needed to fulfill COVID-19 regulations. That being said, there is a washroom operated by Parks Canada at the lockmaster’s house near the canal. Restaurants like Stella Luna and The Village Bean, which are offering takeout, are also able to offer washrooms, as long as they are cleaned appropriately. The Chamber of Commerce will be keeping an eye on the situation and will consider renting a portable washroom for visitors if needed.
Yves is very pleased with the way the community has come together to promote, manage and address challenges, and come up with solutions that will allow the Village to move forward towards a new normal. Many business owners and residents have used their free time during the COVID-19 shut down to spruce up their buildings and properties. “The Village is looking really nice,” he says.
The Chamber is committed to working with business owners and other community stakeholders to ensure Merrickville-Wolford can welcome new and returning visitors to the Village this summer safely. “It is business as usual, within the provincial guidelines,” he says. “It is inevitable that people will come, we just have to be ready.”