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by Eric Thompson
March 17, 2021
The North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit exited the grey-lockdown zone of Ontario’s COVID framework on March 8, meaning some dormant businesses in West Nipissing could finally allow customers in for the first time this year.
“It’s been non-stop. We’re booked for three weeks at least,” says Chantal Kennedy of Coiffure Parisienne Hair Design. “We’re trying to get back to normal and catch up with clients because we had to re-call everybody that was previously booked.”
In the red-control zone, hair salons can’t offer beard trimming, facial waxing or any service that requires mask removal and there’s limits on how many people can wait inside. But with so many people going months without a trim, Kennedy says they’re a little overwhelmed with what the response has been since the lockdown was lifted a week ago.
“We try to accommodate all of our clients and we don’t want to upset anyone because we couldn’t take you right away. But I think clients are pretty good, they understand,” she says.
The shift out of lockdown to the red-control zone hasn’t had as big of an impact in other areas though. Restaurants could return to in-person dining, but with only 10 people allowed inside at time (regardless of size), several places opted to stay take-out only until the region moves to the orange-restrict zone, at least.
“Right now, it’s not worth opening because maybe in two weeks, they’re going to shut everything down again,” says Carmen Binette, owner of Chez-Nous Cafeteria. “Who’s going to pay for that $3,000 to $4,000 worth of food? Order all that food: tomatoes, lettuce, whatever, and then you’re shut down again. Nah, I don’t trust them anymore.”
For Audio and Video Plus, they had steady business during lockdown with just curbside pickup, but the local health measures meant delivery services were hampered.
“Now we can at least drop off the furniture inside the house and set it up in the living room or kitchen or wherever it needs to go,” says owner Joanne Valliere. “Before it was either (dropped off) on the porch or in special conditions, just inside the door. But some people are not able to move a big piece on their own, they live alone or they’re an elderly couple that need help moving it. A lot of delays were done because of that, so now we’re finally going to people’s homes and delivering product and installing it for them again.”
Then there’s some businesses that will never be the same coming out of lockdown. Stich N’ Love on William Street will be closing their storefront entirely and moving the operation to owner Sarah Pitre’s home.
Though they were still able to do curbside service during the lockdown, COVID-19’s impact on team sports, weddings and other large gatherings has cut into their business too much.
“The weekend that they were announcing us to be opened, we’d already made a decision because it’s going to be like that for the next year or two,” she says. “Mentally, it’s just too stressful so our landlord let us out of our lease.”
Over the past few weeks, both Pitre and Valliere raised concerns about the Health Unit’s extended lockdown and say they’ve received backlash for it. Valliere organized a Zoom session where West Nipissing Chamber of Commerce members could question local government officials about the pandemic response and the lack of support available for small businesses.
“I think our voice was heard with the Health Unit,” says Valliere. “Now they’re going to be reaching out to other municipalities and other groups that are being affected, so I’m glad for that.”
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