East Toronto businesses from fashion boutiques to dog-walkers/boarders deal with ongoing impacts of COVID-19

Ione Burns of Lovabulls Pet Care has been adapting her business due to the impacts of COVID-19. Photo by Erin Horrocks-Pope.


Like the rest of the world, the East Toronto community is feeling the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Schools have been shut down, families are adjusting to isolated living and many businesses have had to close their doors to loyal customers.

Scarboro Music, in business since 1972, closed their doors on March 17, after Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced a province-wide state of emergency.

“We felt the need to stand up in our community and say ‘stay home’. The risk of the disease spreading was getting worse,” said Josh Dieleman, Scarboro Music’s sales and marketing manager.

“We felt we needed to help flatten the curve so we did the one thing we could do and closed up.”

In addition to closing the retail store at the corner of Victoria Park Avenue and Kingston Road, Scarboro Music has stopped its in-person music lessons.

“We decided right away to take our lessons online, as well as our weekly jam session we run at the store,” Dieleman said.

The team at Scarboro Music is working very hard to deliver online content, he said. Teaching staff are creating videos that are “informative, educational and fun for everyone.”

Making the shift to online content has been a learning curve for all businesses affected by the provincially ordered closure of non-essential services.

Daphne Nissani, the owner of Boa Boutique, has been using the shop’s Instagram account to stay in touch with her loyal customers and to bring people together as an online community during these difficult times.

Boa Boutique’s Beach location, at 2116B Queen St. E., shut its doors to the public on March 16.

“We have been doing online auctions and virtual trunk shows,” Nissani said. “These have been possible with the help of our suppliers and innovative thinkers. The most important part of the success is the spirit and the gratitude people had for the distraction”

Unfortunately, not everyone has the ability to move their business to an online platform or shift to a work-from-home setup.

Ione Burns is the founder of Lovabulls Pet Care, a dog-walking and boarding service primarily working out of the Beach and Leslieville areas since 2018.

With the closure of off-leash dog-parks in Toronto that was announced on March 25, Burns has been thrown an added curveball in trying to maintain her business.

“We can no longer go to off-leash parks so we’re getting creative,” said Burns. “We either bring them home or take them to open spaces like the beach.”

A large part of why Burns’ clients chose Lovabulls is the service standard of allowing for off-leash playtime and socialization with the dogs.

Burns counts herself lucky to have a yard with a space large enough for this playful crowd. Many who run dog-walking services may not have the resources to adapt to the recent off-leash dog park closures.

With so many people staying home due to isolation policies, Burns has been facing a loss of work.

A large portion of income for Lovabulls is through boarding services. Due to travel bans and cancelled trips, all boarding requests have been withdrawn.

“I’ve had cancellations either for the reason of social distancing or for the fact that clients are home and they don’t need me.”

Burns has made the shift for Lovabulls to provide contactless service in response to concerns about COVID-19.

“I pick the dogs up from the back yard and then drop them off again in the backyard. Or clients just send their dogs outside the front door and they run to the car,” Burns said. “We don’t even hand over leashes anymore. I have my own leashes that I put on the dogs.”

Before COVID-19 began to affect business for Burns, she took out roughly 15-20 dogs a day, now she is only taking out 10.

Though Burns has been creative in adapting Lovabulls in every possible way she can think of, she is worried that she may need to close off her service at some point in the future.



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