September 26, 2023

As Waterloo Region once again entered a shutdown on April 3, many local businesses were faced with a difficult reality. Is it worth it to remain open? At the time, non-essential businesses are required to be at 25 per cent capacity indoors, which for some means they can only have two or three customers inside at a time.

Currently with the new stay-at-home order announced on April 8, non-essential retailers are only permitted to be open for curbside pickup and deliveries. But for some, these restrictions can limit a store so much that it is better to simply close for the time being.

Mandy Morrison, owner of reFIND Salvage in Elora, Ont., is one of the many people affected by current restrictions. Prior to the beginning of the pandemic, her business had two locations open: the retail shop and a studio space.

“We hosted arts & crafts workshops, private and corporate events and fundraisers for hundreds of people each year,” Morrison explained. But with ongoing shutdowns and restrictions, when it came to reopening after last March the studio remained closed. “Our studio generated roughly 60 per cent of our revenue, so this hit us hard financially.”

When announcing the new stay-at-home order, the Ontario government detailed the new restrictions for non-essential retailers. “Most non-essential retailers may open: for curbside pickup and delivery only, by appointment. Between 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. for sales, with delivery allowed between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.” Meeting and event spaces are also to remain permanently closed, with limited exceptions.

Other retailers who may open for in-store shopping also face restrictions, similar to what was seen during the shutdown issued on April 3. “Retailers may open for in-store shopping: at a maximum capacity of 25 per cent, between 7:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m. for sales, with delivery allowed between 6:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m.”

However, even when these shutdown regulations were in place for non-essential retail, Morrison still had to make the decision to close her doors for the time being. “Reducing to only 25 per cent capacity means we could only allow two people in the store at a time. Because we are in a tourist town, our capacity was usually filled with ‘browsers’,” she stated. “I chose at that point to simply close our doors, as paying a staff member’s wage wasn’t worth the potentially low sales days.”

As the stay-at-home order regulations come into effect, more small retailers are moving to online shops to continue to stay active through the next month. However with businesses like reFIND Salvage, whose focus is vintage goods and furniture, developing a detailed and updated online store is another job many cannot handle. “Maintaining an online inventory of so many different items, taking photos, etc. is a full-time job that I can’t afford to pay someone to do,” Morrison said.

Overall, Morrison and other small business owners are continuing to keep their businesses active as best as possible, but the fatigue of constantly opening and closing while facing changing restrictions is overwhelming. Morrison explained: “I am just so exhausted by the government’s poor ability to manage and support small businesses during these difficult times that I simply don’t have the energy to focus on online sales.”

Morrison and reFIND Salvage can be found on Instagram @refindsalvage. The current stay-at-home order measures are set to be evaluated 28 days after the initial start date of April 8, 2021.

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