Local businesses in the region were just starting to adjust to the red zone guidelines when the province declared a four-week-long stay-at-home order, leaving businesses scrambling to quickly get ready for curbside pickup.
Joey Hunter, McTaggarts manager in Fort Frances, said business was steady before the stay-at-home order, but now things have slowed down, adding that the four weeks will be a long one.
“We’re holding out hope that maybe they’ll look at it regionally again and hopefully ours won’t be the entire 28 days because that’s long,” Hunter said.
Thursday was McTaggarts' first day going curbside. Hunter said they have been getting calls and order messages on Facebook and Instagram. She hopes things will pick up this week once people get used to curbside shopping again.
In order to make curbside business easier, Hunter said they recently purchased an iPad.
“We were using our cell phones last time but now this is way better, we don’t have to text people with our personal cell phone numbers,” Hunter said. “We also have a Facebook page, and we post things everyday of what we have in stock and people just message us the size and the item they want.”
Hunter said they have also begun to accept e-transfer payments. With the iPad and e-transfer payment option, Hunter said she hopes that this will make it easier for them and for shoppers.
Despite harbouring the same optimism as Hunter, Justin Anderson, manager at Betty’s in Fort Frances, said they anticipate less sales, as many of the products in the store are “probably deemed non-essential.”
In order to offset the reduction in sales, Anderson said they have limited store hours, only operating from Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m.
“Because we aren’t getting a huge number of orders it’s more work,” Anderson said. “Trying to send photos of things people are interested in usually through Facebook messenger or email.”
Anderson said due to the limited hours it is only him and two employees. He added that they are fortunate to not have fully laid anyone off, something Hunter said they are also trying to avoid.
“We’re trying to keep everyone rotating so at least they’re in the work environment getting hours,” Hunter said.
Many members of the public were confused about what items are deemed essential and Anderson said so were they, adding that they have not sold any clothing items.
Hunter said having the big box stores only allowed to sell essential items gives local businesses a chance to fill the gap and provide items that they might usually get elsewhere.
Hunter said she has been receiving a lot of order requests for shoes.
While they are happy to fill in the gap, both Anderson and Hunter said inventory shipment has been slow. Anderson said they just received an order that they made in September.
“During this time, I think a lot of the businesses are finding it’s hard to get certain products, so we’re taking this opportunity to fill the store again with product that we are able to get in,” Anderson said. “For a long time, we couldn’t get puzzles. Beads are also pretty hard to come by. We like to maintain a pretty full and varied selection and it’s really hard to get all those different colours we normally stock.”
Like other businesses, Anderson and Hunter are getting ready for the day they can welcome people back into their stores. But until then, they are grateful to have the community’s support.
Natali Trivuncic, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Fort Frances Times