Area residents can help small businesses in East York as much as the government can, local shopkeepers say.
They point out about 3,000 small businesses in Toronto closed last year due to the coronavirus. More than 25 of them were in East York.
“We would like people to shop in their neighbourhoods and discover new places because this is the best way to support us,” says Jessie Silverstein, manager of Eriella Boutique on Danforth Avenue.
The scope of the coronavirus pandemic is constantly changing. At the moment, store capacity is only 50 per cent. For some small businesses, this means only one visitor can be inside the store. Also, restaurants were closed for dine-in, which means they had almost no customers for a long time.
Danforth Avenue is home to small bakeries, clothing stores, cozy coffee shops, pottery studios, jewellery shops, organic stores, and restaurants of various national cuisines.
Some of them do well because of the loyal customers who knew in advance about the existence of this place. However, they are finding they have to change their business model.
“Before the pandemic, we didn’t have a commercial website,” Jessie Silverstein says. “We thought that we don’t have time for it, but then realized that now we have nothing but time. We also focus a lot more on social media.”
They are lucky they have loyal customers, who often visit them, but they would appreciate it if people would share the store on social media, she said.
The easiest way to help small businesses is to share your recommendation of shops, cafes, bars, services of craftspeople on social media.
“Word of mouth has always been, and will always be the best advertising. If you like the shop, tell your friends”, Silverstein says.
If someone cannot help with money or purchases, they can support with a recommendation. The word of mouth method is considered one of the best ways to promote a business.
Small businesses owners also want people to support them by donating or volunteering for non-profit organizations that promote small businesses in the neighbourhood. The Danforth Broadview Business Improvement Area represents more than 350 shops, restaurants and services.
Some of the BIA’s ongoing initiatives include creating a safe shopping area by working with local police departments, as well as attracting more customers to grow business, entertainment, and visitor parking options.
“One thing that our BIA has been very active in is lobbying the government to provide support,” says Amr Elimam, owner of Papyrus Egyptian restaurant on Danforth. “It did a lot both politically and in public relations. It also helps us to create promotions, that encourage traffic during these rough times.”
Elimam said last fall and summer they invited street musicians to perform in the neighbourhood to encourage people to come out and visit the businesses.
“Businesses like ours stayed opened truthfully not for money but to provide services,” he said. “So I think it is very important for people to go out and support businesses by spending money.”