Back in business, but not business as usual as pandemic restrictions slowly lift
Car dealerships, garden centres, some retailers reopen under strict new protocols
It was back to business for some retailers in the National Capital Region on Monday, but it was hardly business as usual.
Both Ontario and Quebec have given a limited number of businesses the right to reopen, but only if they follow strict protocols.
In Ontario, lawn care and landscaping businesses are allowed to get started, while garden centres can begin offering delivery and curbside pickup.
Golf courses and marinas can start preparing for the upcoming season, but can't welcome the public yet.
Typically at this time of year, Artistic Landscape Design in Ottawa's South Keys area is teeming with green thumbs picking out shrubs and perennials for spring planting — the garden centre does 80 per cent of its business in May and June — but on Monday there was only a handful of employees to be seen.
For now, sales are restricted to online orders and curbside delivery. That's frustrating general manager Mostafa Fallah, who said most customers prefer to see it before they buy it.
"People have to see it, like it, and then ask questions of experts," Fallah said.
Fallah said garden centres situated in the parking lots of major grocery stores have an unfair advantage this spring because they allow customers to get a closer look.
"We are hoping [Ontario Premier Doug] Ford will let us open up completely," he said.
Auto dealerships shifting gears
At Bel-Air Toyota on McArthur Avenue, they're hoping the customers will soon start trickling back now that restrictions are slowly being loosened.
"We're running at 30 to 35 per cent capacity at the moment. This will bring us to 45 to 50 per cent," said Josianne Parent, who works in the parts and service department.
The dealership has been allowed to extend its opening hours by two per day, but must limit customer appointments to four per hour. Parent said exacting cleaning procedures are in place to keep the vehicles and everything else in the showroom wiped down and disinfected.
For the time being, prospective customers will take test drives without a salesperson in the car.
Retailers reopen in Gatineau
At Sports Experts at Les Promenades Gatineau, store clerks in masks greeted customers for the first time in weeks Monday, offering hand sanitizer and explaining the new physical distancing rules.
"We are prepared to reopen without safety worries for the customer," said co-owner Pierre Champagne.
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Champagne said staff trained for two weeks to prepare for this day.
To minimize contact, they'll now use a pole to pass clothing to customers heading for the fitting rooms.
"If it fits, [the customer] goes to the cash. If it doesn't fit, we take it back and put the [clothing] in confinement 24 hours," Champagne said.
"The next day we will put it back on the floor."