What do you love most about Leaside? The friendliness, the community feel, strolling tree-lined streets, shopping for a wide variety of goods and services close to home?
Hard to choose. Yet when we can finally return to strolling along Bayview and the surrounding streets, just how many of the current businesses will have survived? Will our favourite restaurant, service business, gift or clothing shop still be thriving?
We’ve all seen or been in the lineups at Valu-mart and LCBO, but how are other businesses faring? We spoke to several merchants to take the pulse:
Cheryle Challe, owner of Write Impressions, conceded, “This hasn’t been easy. Our reopening was delayed until June 2nd. We incurred extra expenses as we cleaned, sanitized and installed barriers. We lost irretrievable sales on Mother’s Day and Easter, usually our best events. We’re hoping graduation and Father’s Day gifts boost sales. Regardless of our troubles, we are so appreciative of Leasiders continuing to shop and we remain cautiously optimistic that the future will be brighter.”
Similarly Andreas Voulgaris, owner of The Olive Oil Emporium, said, “A dip in business has meant a scaling back on staff and personally logging many extra hours to ensure we meet client requests while ensuring we remain compliant with all safety requirements. We’ve had additional cleaning, shipping and promotion costs as this lockdown stretches into summer, yet we’re thankful to all Leasiders shopping local.”
For restaurants this has been an especially trying time. Kiran Kaur at Freshii said, “We’ve remained open for takeout, and after a significant initial drop in sales thankfully our regular customers are pre-ordering and picking up meals more frequently.”
Some businesses are relieved to be thriving. If you guessed food and health stores, building and garden supplies, you’d be right. Stanley Janecek, owner of White House Meats, commented, “We’re among the lucky businesses. Thankfully customers have been extremely supportive and responsible regarding safety. We typically have only two customers at a time and our six-foot glass counter is a great barrier keeping staff and customers apart. Our business has always been required to meet rigorous cleaning and sanitation regulations so we’ve only had to add masks and even more handwashing.”
Craig Sandy, owner of Rack Attack Toronto, said he and his team are busy. “Our main challenge is managing expectations and our time. We love and thank Leasiders. They’re active, and this summer most are biking and paddling locally and many require a rack. We’re providing curbside pickup, maximum two people in the store to choose products and installing by appointment, so patience is key.”
Sandy Beach at Dolce & Gourmando echoed the good fortune. “We’d like to thank Leasiders for being patient, kind and continuing to shop with us. We had an initial dip in sales yet once we kept the door open, despite cold March winds, customers realized we were open because our product mix includes a lot of specialty foods. Many of our customers live alone and appreciate and visit often for a leisurely chat.”
Gary Choe, general manager of Bayview Natural Food, commented, “As an essential service we’ve been open throughout COVID-19. Our sales dropped right away, then returned to almost previous levels within a few weeks. Customers have been patient and polite as we permit only a few in the store and one at the cash.”
Celeste Blackmore, national director at Access Storage, expressed her appreciation of Leasiders for “shopping local and shopping and storing Canadian.”
Businesses want to serve, workers want to work, and we all want a flourishing community. So, let’s continue to shop local. Pre-order or wait patiently in line, respecting social distance and styling a statement mask, then let Leaside Life know your favourite businesses and we’ll pass along your good wishes.