By ALANA RAYMAN
With this week’s provincial order that all restaurants are not allowed to seat customers and that social distancing must increase in order to help stop the spread of the COVID-19 virus, businesses in the Kingston Road Village area are making adjustments.
Businesses such as Somun Superstar sandwiches, The Great Escape Book Store, Sessions Cannabis store and Fearless Meat are used to operating in a vibrant neighbourhood with plenty of foot traffic. Since the social distancing and other measures needed to combat the virus have taken place, the area has been less busy.
Like all other restaurants that have remained open, the Bosnian-inspired sandwich shop Somun Superstar is now offering only take-out.
¨We are serving takeout. We are fortunate that a large portion of our business is takeout, so we are prepared,” said owner Alen Zukanovic.
“I can imagine that a lot of restaurants are having a hard time adapting to only having take-out and delivery. Of course, our sales are suffering but we are still serving our wonderful customers,¨ he said.
Retail shops are also facing difficult times as many are shutting their doors for safety.
Katya Nosko, owner of The Great Escape Book Store, said she will wait at least until the end of March to open the doors again to the public.
“Yes, it hurts. To go without income is frightening. And for an indefinite amount of time, too,” she said in a statement.
“I don’t have an online inventory but I am accessible by phone or by internet if people want to purchase a book. They can purchase remotely and pick up at a special time. But I’m not going to fixate on that. I’m going to use this time to regroup. I’ve cancelled my book and film club events until we know it’s safe…I can’t expect people to shop for nonessentials when they’re worried about paying their rent or their bills.”
Nosko said she’s been encouraged by messages on local social media encouraging people to shop locally and support the merchants in the community during this difficult time.
“But in reality, the local businesses were already precarious because of how consumers generally shop online or at big retailers,” she said.
“This for some is the nail in the coffin. Not the first, but the last. My heart goes out to them. Will this do me in? I don’t know. Amazon is increasing sales as we speak. They are hiring. Their stock is soaring.”
One of her concerns is that for people in self-isolation, they will come to depend on online shopping and this will take a toll on local businesses over the long run.
“Consumers will solidify their online shopping habits, both because they will have been conditioned and comforted by the convenience of it during this sequestration. And when the cloud lifts, many businesses might not even be there if they feel they want to buy again in their neighbourhood,” said Nosko.
She added that along with the community support, she also appreciates the efforts of local politicians who are backing small, neighbourhood businesses. “I’ve been very grateful for the support from our (Beaches-East York) Councillor Brad Bradford who has been trying to help the local businesses from the moment he stepped into office.”
Nosko said she has to keep a positive frame of mind when looking towards what will come next for her business as well as others in Toronto.
¨There is a next stage coming of an economic crash that will be a test for us all. We’re all in this together. I hope we make it through. If residents of Toronto wanted to, when the COVID-19 crisis is passed, they could shift entirely over to local and build their neighbourhoods back up. Let’s see what happens.”
She said she plans to still be in the community once the crisis has passed. “My business is about being a book store but also about being an experience,” said Nosko.
“If this passes sooner than later, then music and art will be back with exuberance in the garage behind the store. Hopefully the community will support the musicians and artists that are all without income right now. I have a full line up already booked.”
The tune for one of the Kingston Road Village’s newest stores, Sessions Cannabis, is a bit different as they have been seeing a slight increase in the number of customers recently.
“We are open and have seen a slight increase in sales at the Kingston Road store in light of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said the Sessions media team in a statement. “Like most things, people are likely stocking up on items they may want to ensure they have should they need to self-isolate and that can include cannabis. These are also stressful and uncertain times. Our customers are looking for something to help them escape the stress.”
Along with serving walk-in customers, the store is also accepting pre-orders online to help people move through more quickly. Sessions is also taking a number of steps to make sure safe cleanliness and social distancing standards are being met.
For Dave Brown at Fearless Meat, take-out orders and delivery are now what’s on offer.
That has always been a big part of the restaurant’s business, but now it is all that can be provided. Along with the takeout, delivery can also be had from Fearless Meat through services such as Uber Eats.
In a statement on Facebook, Brown said Fearless Meats is committed to helping those who are most vulnerable as the city deals with the COVID-19 crisis.
“Seniors, pensioners, and Veterans in need are welcome to a free takeout 6oz certified Angus Beach Burger or breakfast sandwich and coffee until this crisis passes,” said the statement. “We are Torontonians and Canadians who are going to show the world just how we come together and help each other in the face of any crisis.”
— with files from Alan Shackleton