by Shelley Mitchell
The roller coaster ride of the pandemic hit me hard, and my emotional wellbeing hit an all-time low last week. I came to the realization that my children have been off school longer than a summer vacation, and my shop hit the milestone of being closed for eight weeks. My feelings of insecurity, deep rooted fears, and having minimal control in my life, began to overwhelm me. I would never have guessed eight weeks ago, when we shut our doors, that we would be in a very similar position eight weeks from then, and if I would have known, I am most certain I would have given up and thrown in the towel right then and there.
The first few weeks of closure had me extremely busy, filling Easter orders, creating new systems, getting an online store up and running, finding other online ways to connect with customers, and learning a new and safer way to provide services to the community in an ever-changing and challenging environment. The support from the community was, and continues to be, amazing. Most small businesses are worried about not just being here “when the dust settles”, but also after the long-term consequences of the pandemic have played out. My experiences these past eight weeks have encouraged me to believe that the community wants To Be Continued to be here in the long term and I am so very grateful for that. But, last week, I started to feel the real effects of a shift. A shift I felt happening as the pandemic continued and small business closures continued on, and I understood this shift better after my own personal experience with a local business.
At the beginning of quarantine my family decided to adopt a new dog after losing one of our dogs in the fall last year. This dog has been a great diversion and an important responsibility for my daughters, as most of their “normal” activities have been discontinued. The dog is a puppy (a year and a half) and has a great tendency to chew and destroy, so I wanted to purchase some new, hopefully less destructible, toys. I stood outside of a “curbside” pick up at a local pet shop after I had been told that I was unable to touch any of the toys (to determine their strength), and I contemplated the reality that I could walk into any multitude of larger box stores and touch and determine the destructibility of dog toys.
I realized that this was a great disadvantage, and that the real consequences for most local, smaller stores would be profound. I immediately understood why people’s determination and loyalty to local closed shops may falter, and how inconvenient it was becoming to stay committed to shopping local. After walking away and reflecting, I began to understand on a new level why it is so hard and yet so important to keep up the commitment. I should mention that I am not questioning the safety reasons for not touching dog toys (or anything for that matter), but the fact that there is the option to do so at some stores and not others. I’m also seeing this example as part of a larger picture of allowances given to the larger box stores that didn’t apply to smaller businesses, and the disadvantages that ensued for some businesses over others. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so I understand that this type of inequality is part of a bigger picture of keeping the public safe and I’m not at this time disputing that. What I am saying is that our commitment to the businesses we love needs to be stronger than ever and can’t waiver as we enter into another stage of the pandemic.
Then, as with any roller coaster ride, at the end of every low we begin the climb to a new high. The Ford government announced on Thursday that retail businesses with a street entrance could open this Tuesday, with safety measures in place. This new development means we can now invite our customers into our shops, as well as offer online purchasing, curbside pick up, and deliveries. This is where we as customers can continue to show our commitment to our local shops, and I don’t just mean our retail stores.
It is so important to use our dollars wisely, and purchase take-out from the local restaurant we love, and to purchase gift certificates from the gyms, salons, hair dressers, and professional services still shuttered. This will be a long and winding road to economic recovery, and I know there are so many amazing businesses in North Grenville that I want to come along for the ride. I, for one, value choice and need small business to be here at the end.
To Be Continued will be open from this week, Tuesday-Sunday, on re- duced hours from 10-4, ready to see all our devoted and missed customers. We have installed plexiglass, have hand sanitizer, wipes for frequent cleaning of high traffic areas, directional arrows, and other social distancing measures in place. To Be Continued will also continue to offer curbside pickups, online orders, and home delivery as we understand the importance of continuing to flatten the curve and protect our most vulnerable citizens.
Let’s hope this is the beginning of a more “normal” existence, where we can have human connection – I sure have been missing my family, friends and my customers who have become friends and family. Take care, be safe and see you soon!