After grim shutdown, squeezed small businesses try to survive the tricky reopening phase

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In a bright spot, she said even though business isn’t great, a set of loyal customers have kept sales steady enough that she hasn’t needed any wage or rent subsidies.

For the moment, she said she is trying not to look too far ahead, even as she plans on how to stock the store for the upcoming holiday season.

“I personally made a decision I’m going full out for Christmas,” said DeAngelis. “I’m not holding back, I’m not being conservative. I’ll either have customers back in my store or I’ll be selling online, or I’ll be shutting my doors and having a sale.”

Not far down the road, Aileen Selkirk, owner of Posh Boutique, a clothing retailer that’s been open in The Beach since 1989, also credited a tight connection to the local community with saving her business. But Selkirk said it’s been one of the most trying times of her life.

posh boutique - After grim shutdown, squeezed small businesses try to survive the tricky reopening phasePosh Boutique employee Sacha Ellis cleans the front door of the store. Peter J. Thompson/National Post

She said the government’s rent and wage subsidies have been essential, in part because she had almost no online presence prior to the pandemic, except an informational website that she updated twice a year.

A millennial employee, who is internet savvy, helped Selkirk establish her online presence, including a new e-commerce site through Shopify Inc., and an Instagram account. In a surprise to her, online sales took off.

<span style=”font-family:-apple-system, BlinkMacSystemFont, ‘Segoe UI’, Roboto, Oxygen-Sans, Ubuntu, Still, Selkirk decided to open her brick and mortar store in May, even though she has an autoimmune disorder and felt it was risky and stressful. The first few weeks proved to be both, she said, when “aggressive” customers entered the store and resisted wearing a mask.

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