The Merrickville and District Chamber of Commerce has decided to cancel this year’s Merrickville Garage Sale due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The garage sale, which typically involves many Merrickville churches, residents and businesses, draws thousands of people to the community every year. It is typically held on the first weekend in May.
Although they are not recommending that people visit the village during the current lockdown and stay-at-home order, the Chamber is focused on making sure Merrickville-Wolford stays top of mind for tourists. They are still working on producing a map of all the member businesses in the village for the 2021 tourism season, which should be out during the first or second week of May. The municipality has also offered the use of the street side of the notice board near the post office for the Chamber to use for a map, information about businesses, and to direct visitors further south down St. Lawrence Street. “Anybody who’s looked at that thing realizes the Village isn’t utilizing it very well,” Councillor Bob Foster noted at the Chamber meeting last week. “So, we may as well have the Chamber of Commerce utilize the street side of the board to the best of their abilities.”
In terms of helping local business through the lockdown and pandemic overall, the Chamber is spearheading a social media blitz to let people know which businesses are open for curbside pick up. New Chamber member and owner of LaVerne’s Fantastic Finds, LaVerne Murphy, suggested that the Chamber help remind consumers that a lot of the non-essential items that aren’t available for sale at big box stores are available in small local businesses like the ones in Merrickville. “We have a lot of places in Merrickville that offer those non-essential items,” she said. “They’re going to get curbside anyway, so instead of somebody from Merrickville even going into Kemptville to go to Walmart to get those items, we should really be trying to encourage them to grab them from a local person.”
The Chamber is also very focused on finding any funding that they might be able to apply for that would help them support their members, while also advertising grants that individual businesses can apply for themselves to help them through the pandemic. This includes a grant from Regional Tourism Association (RTO) 9, called the COVID-19 Tourism Adaptation Fund, which is available for tourism-related businesses. “There are a number of member businesses within our Chamber that actually could be able to apply for some of these grants,” board member Nick Previsich said at the meeting.
In terms of events in the village, like the garage sale, the Chamber is hoping to be able to move forward with something later in the year. Board member Yves Grandmaitre suggested they partner with other events slated for later this summer, like the Merrickville Agricultural Fair. “I think that would be a good way to support Wolford businesses, and continue to enhance maybe working together that way,” he said. “But I would suggest we have this discussion when we have a better idea what COVID is going to look like.”