In My Opinion: Community support critical to survival of local small businesses, writes Beach Village BIA chair

Beach Village along Queen Street East was one of the first areas in Toronto to receive CafeTO approval for expanded patios earlier this year. With the provincially mandated move back to a modified Stage 2 to stop the spread of COVID-19, Beach Village BIA Chair Marg Gillespie says local support will be critical to the survival of small businesses.


If you are like most people, 2020 has proven to be a very difficult year on many levels.

We have had to stretch ourselves in many different directions to make our lives work in a way that allows us to maintain some sort of balanced lifestyle and productivity.

Our businesses along Queen Street East in the BIA (Business Improvement Association) have also been impacted beyond anything we have ever seen before.

Never would shopkeepers believe that they would be mandated to close for upwards of three months or more, depending on the business. But it happened!

Instead of waiting to see what was going to happen, most of our business became creative and innovative.

Very quickly, many businesses built e-commerce websites, provided collective online auctions, dropped off items to people’s porches and went back to grass roots of connecting with their customers personally and safely.

It is true that we lost 13 businesses during this time but more importantly, we also welcomed 17 new ones.

This pandemic was not going to win in our community.

As things started to officially open, the BIA worked very closely with the City of Toronto and our Councillor, becoming the squeaky wheel, and getting things done as quickly as possible.

All our summer planting were was completed, with 30 new planters added so that every block was beautiful.

We opened our own online shop, where businesses and residents can buy face masks and shields, with all proceeds going back to the businesses of the BIA.

The Beach(es) was also one of the first BIAs to receive the CafeTO approval for restaurants to serve on the street. Seventeen restaurants participated and many of our real estate businesses decorated the patios to make them fun and appealing.

Most recently, we commissioned artist Elise Goodhoofd to complete a vibrant, and unmissable, 50-foot mural on the west wall of Beachwood Flower Shop, that welcomes people to our neighbourhood.

All the businesses are continuing to adapt to the changes that our government mandates (social distancing, and mask wearing, disinfecting and last call) to keep our community safe while continuing to meet all your retail, restaurant and service needs.

The harsh reality is that many of the businesses you rely on are struggling, and with the recent move back into a modified Stage 2, many are fearing the months to come.

They have not been able to recoup what was lost during their closures and are worried as we move into the colder fall and winter months, when sales typically drop because we are hibernating.

We recognize there are other easier shopping options out there that come directly to your door. But it is imperative if we want our Queen Street Businesses to survive, you are critical to its success!

Please, when you decide to shop, start on Queen Street East.

If our community supports their local independent businesses, especially during the next six months, we will maintain our vibrant, eclectic, and healthy Main Street.

From all of Queen Street East, stay safe, and shop local.

Marg Gillespie is the Chair of the Beach Village BIA.

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