Back in business, but not business as usual as pandemic restrictions slowly lift

Both Ontario and Quebec have given a limited number of businesses the right to reopen, but only if they follow strict protocols.

Car dealerships, garden centres, some retailers reopen under strict new protocols

Staff take phone orders at Artistic Landscape Design in Ottawa on Monday. Normally at this time the sprawling garden centre would be teeming with customers, but not this year. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

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.

Garden centre struggling to give information, advice over the phone, manager says


7 months agoVideo
Mostafa Fallah, general manager of Artistic Landscape Design, says the business has struggled to shift to an online model because customers often like to see plants in person before they purchase them. 0:46

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.

Some independent garden centres say it's not fair that the province limits them to curbside pick-up and delivery for their customers while the garden centres at grocery stores can operate without these restrictions. 5:25

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.

How businesses are trying to prevent COVID-19 even after reopening


7 months agoVideo
Josianne Parent, with Belair Toyota, says staff have been assigned a dedicated team to avoid employee overlap and that stringent cleaning measures are taken between each shift. 1:06

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.

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.

A staff member tidies merchandise at Sports Experts at Les Promenades Gatineau. On Monday, the store began welcoming back customers for the first time in weeks. (Christian Milette/CBC)

"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."


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