(Stittsville at sunset. Photo: Front Page Media Group)
Now that the province announced that Ottawa is in the Stage 3 re-opening phase effective July 17th, local Stittsville businesses have had to make quick and difficult decisions as to whether to open or take a wait and see attitude. During the pandemic, local business owners have lost the financial stability they are accustomed to, leaving them vulnerable not just to the current situation, but to the harbinger of the economic downturn.
For this reason, it is important that local residents rally and provide the stability and prosperity to our local businesses so they can remain as the hubs for our town – most are economically fragile. We must experience with them, these days of transformation. Travelling to a big box store to obtain your daily essentials or purchasing on-line will not assist our local small businessperson – especially when over 400 Stittsville businesses can provide many of the services and products you require right here in your backyard.
We have been in touch with businesses and had stories related to us about the re-opening and what the past few months have taken away from the livelihood of each. This past weekend we heard of a couple out for dinner on a patio of a local restaurant, to go unnamed, whereby only one other couple were also dining. This Stittsville restaurant is known for its ‘full-house’ occupancy. A sad surprise to hear this.
Robert and Donna Kinsman at The Grounds are continuing their weekend take-out schedule rather than opening fully on Friday. Robert is working on the challenges faced re-configuring the interior of the restaurant to ensure that the safety of his customers, staff and self are in place. He realizes that people “will be apprehensive about dining in-house, but will extend his hours and return to the new normal as his customers become more comfortable entering his restaurant knowing that all health protocols are in place”.
From being fully closed, to offering take-out only, being able to set-up patios and now fully open it has been a long road for our restaurants.
Business owners have had the additional costs of ensuring the health requirements are in place allowing their customers to enter. Plexiglass shields, full plexiglass walls, hand sanitizers, masks, gloves, medical gowns to name a few – these are costs that were not budgeted for and play an integral role in the monetary survival of a business. Some business owners have been able to adapt easily, but there are those, because of the nature of the business, who have not been able to do so.
Speaking with Allan Ryan, President of the Stittsville Business Association (SBA), he strongly emphasized that given this opportunity, if there is one message he wants to stress, it is, “the importance of residents supporting our local businesses and the onus is also on local businesses to support each other — it’s a two-way street”. Ryan acknowledges that, “Stittsville businesses are anxious to enhance their business opportunities, but there is public apprehension”. He would like to see the City and Councillor work more closely with businesses by providing additional support from Public Health with perhaps one-on-one guidance from both so businesses can open safely. Not every business is the same and each has individual concerns that need to be addressed. “Everyday there is something new to deal with, and with the city’s support, a preventative step could be taken to ensure that Stittsville re-opens with no concerns from customers and business owners.” Ryan also noted that he was pleased to see more and more people wearing masks.
Over time there will be changes, but the bottom line is we must support our local businesses as they have supported the community throughout the years.
Tanya Hein, President of the Stittsville Village Association (SVA), told us, “Ottawa’s numbers are fairly low, and I’m sure a lot of people are looking forward to Stage 3, while others are more hesitant. With all of the economic disruption this virus has caused, I really hope residents do their best to support our local businesses as they re-open and re-build. We at the SVA are in frequent contact with Ottawa Public Health and the city event coordination team to determine whether our usual events can go forward. Canada Day in Stittsville and Arts in the Park had to be cancelled, and we are waiting for more direction before deciding whether the Pumpkin Parade and Parade of Lights can go forward in November. As you can imagine, the Parade of Lights, in particular, does not lend itself well to physical distancing. Those decisions will be made in August, depending on how Stage 3 progresses, but in the meantime, we have reached out to a variety of community stakeholders to come up with alternatives to kick off the winter holiday season, showcase our local businesses, and make up some of the food bank donations normally collected during the parade”.
We will all be watching to see what events the SVA will decide to hold again this year as these truly bring out the spirit of Stittsville.
Councillor Gower expressed that, “I’m very glad that the Provincial Government is allowing more businesses to open this week. I want to encourage residents to do everything they can to support our Stittsville businesses. Our restaurants and shops have been struggling and I hope residents will make a strong effort to spend their dollars locally.
Also, let’s remember that staff and business owners are still adapting to the new physical distancing and health measures in place. It’s a very different way of doing business. We need to continue to show patience and understanding as they make this transition”.
We have all experienced the grip of this pandemic in one way or another and we can’t turn back time, but we can as a true community start by building again the economic optimism in our small businesses and their owners as they meet their daily challenges.