By: Michelle Poirier
On May 19, the first stage of the province’s planned reopening began, and retail stores with a street-front entrance were amongst the listed businesses permitted to reopen.
But not all retail stores in Georgina have opened their doors right away, some owners are holding off, concerned they may be putting their own personal safety and customers’ health at risk.
Angelo’s, in Keswick, and Sweet Pea Accessories, in Sutton, have both reopened with safety protocols in place.
Roseann Guglietti, the owner of Angelo’s, has installed plexiglass at the cash register and will provide masks and sanitizing wipes for her customers.
She is also reducing store hours, limiting the number of people allowed in the store, and placing arrows on the floor to direct shoppers.
“If somebody doesn’t want to follow the rules, they won’t be allowed in,” she said.
Debbie Macina-Balinas, the owner of Sweet Pea Accessories, is also limiting the number of customers in her store. They are open three days a week now, and she offers her customers disposable masks, hand sanitizer and gloves.
While the shop was closed, Ms. Macina-Balinas sold some of her merchandise through her Facebook page before opening an official online store. She said the website has been doing well, so she plans to keep it open along with her storefront.
Ms. Macina-Balinas is optimistic about retail’s new normal; her customers followed the safety protocols, and sales were good the first day back. “It was a good day. It wasn’t too crowded or anything,” she said.
And, despite the pandemic, after celebrating two years in business on May 5, she is hopeful for the future.
Ms. Guglietti said Angelo’s closed its doors completely after non-essential businesses were told to shut down.
They celebrated 54 years in business on May 12, during the lockdown, and, although they were closed, she said her father hasn’t been able to break the habit of going into the store.
“For myself, it’s been a lot easier than my father; he’s 86 years old and still comes into work every day,” she said.
While Ms. Guglietti doesn’t think there will be a lot of people shopping anytime soon, she did have customers come in for their reopening, and they followed all the guidelines.
“I didn’t expect it to be overly busy or anything like that anyway, so it’s easy for us to limit the number of people in the store, there’s no lineup or anything like that,” she said.
But not all retailers are rushing to reopen. Mona Steitieh, the owner of Auntie M’s Closet in Keswick, chose not to reopen right away.
“The health and safety of you, my clients and friends, is what matters most,” she said on her Facebook page.
After completely shutting their doors in March, Ms. Steitieh did start selling some merchandise through Facebook but found that it did not work well for her business and, by mid-April, she had regular clients calling her to request video shopping.
“I would go into the store by myself, and I would do a video chat with them, they would look at things and pick and choose,” she said.
While this approach has been successful for her, Ms. Steiteh realizes this way of shopping is not for everyone.
So, Ms. Steiteh plans to take the time to get her store cleaned and ready for reopening, but she will not fully reopen to the public yet; she plans to run with reduced hours and by appointment only with her regular clients first, and then monitor the situation to see when she should open further.
Ms. Steitieh said she did a test run of the appointment only shopping experience twice with close friends.
“It works, and I find that a lot of the clients on an appointment-only basis like it because they have the store to themselves, they don’t have to worry about somebody coming in or taking away the time they have with me as well,” she said.
She will make an announcement on May 25 to inform her customers when she will start taking appointments.
“Just because our doors open, it doesn’t necessarily mean people will be flocking to our store. A lot of people are hesitant,” she said.