Closed, open and now closed again: Brighton business owners discuss lockdown challenges

·4 min read

In a short video, Gina Boyd presents a woman’s dainty shoe with a hand-painted floral design and a light pink high heel.

​While her downtown Brighton store is currently closed to walk-in patrons, the sharply-dressed entrepreneur is inside doing promotional videos that she then uploads to her social media pages. G. Boyd Boutique carries a variety of leather and handmade shoes, wallets, handbags and jewellery.

​Promoting her store online and creating the videos are efforts she has ramped up lately as she and other retailers face another shutdown because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Non-essential businesses, like G. Boyd Boutique, are permitted to offer curbside pickup of orders placed online or on the phone. However, Ontario is also now under a stay-at-home order, which requires residents to stay put unless they’re headed out for essential items, medical appointments or work.

​While Boyd said she and other store owners are feeling the weight of another closure, she is embracing the additional ways to sell. Non-essential businesses were also closed in mid-March 2020 for several weeks as a measure aimed at curbing the spread of the coronavirus. They were then permitted to open with safety measures until the province announced another lockdown starting Dec. 26, 2020. The stay-at-home order then came into effect Jan. 14.

​“I’m doing my best,” Boyd said.

​“Curbside is the only weapon we have.”

​There’s frustration in the small business community because some big-box stores can stay open because they sell food and other essentials, but they also sell products like clothes and housewares.

​At press time, Boyd was attempting to access a recently-announced small business grant from the province.

​Just before the stay-at-home order was announced, Brighton Mayor Brian Ostrander encouraged residents to consider local businesses if they were making purchases.

​“If you need to purchase anything, please reach out to a local business to request curbside or porch delivery,” Ostrander said.

​There was also a big push before Christmas to promote shopping locally. From hosting Old St. Nick, to launching a shop local incentive to introducing a holiday decorating contest, the Municipality of Brighton, the Downtown Business Improvement Area and others kicked off the holiday season in high gear.

​Boyd said while the holiday season for her wasn’t as busy as previous ones, she definitely saw the community step up and shop locally, which she and other merchants she spoke with greatly appreciated.

​She said her heart goes out to business owners of hair and nail salons and restaurants, noting she bought gift certificates for people on her Christmas list and encourages others to consider doing the same for upcoming occasions.

​“We want the downtown to survive and thrive,” Boyd said.

​Andreas Becker, who owns Read and Green, a second-hand bookstore on Main Street, is also using social media and the phone to take orders while his doors are closed.

​“The closing and reopening of the store and re-closing have certainly disrupted the flow of things,” Becker told the Independent.

​“However, by early autumn I started considering that another closing would come so I started posting extra online through my Facebook page and figuring out how to turn the page into a business page where you can click the button and make a purchase… I’m still working on that part,” he noted.

​“Using social media is the way in which I’ve adapted. I’ve also begun to call-forward my store number to my cell phone and that allows me to take calls when I’m not there and I’ve made a number of sales just by phone and arranging for a pick-up time.

​“I think adaptability is the most important thing, I do recognize that one of the challenges for many businesses is a chain of supply, which puts a bit more stress on foreseeing and pre-ordering. I’m very fortunate with Read and Green that I have a very large inventory in the store, which will help me ride out any supply challenges. This is a difficult time, but it opens the door to some creative solutions.”

​Brighton is fortunate its downtown business owners support each other, work together as a team and have loyal customers, Boyd said.

​“The only way we can stay alive is with the blessings of our community and thank goodness they are knocking on our doors. We’ve got to keep the small town going.”

Natalie Hamilton, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Northumberland News