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Business owners conflicted about opening doors amid COVID-19 pandemic

Mark Furukawa has been waiting to reopen Dr. Disc after shutting its doors in March. He had the chance to welcome customers back into his record shop on Tuesday, but decided to wait.

“I want to feel confident I’m making the right decision, the last thing I want on my conscience is somebody getting sick as a result of coming into the store, that’s the bottom line for me,” he told CBC News.

With an inventory intensive store on Wilson Street, Furukawa said he would be unable to consistently sanitize the thousands of records in his store.

“How do I make sure I disinfect all of the records between visits? I’m not going to open and say you can only look at the rock alphabet or isolate a certain area of the store, that doesn’t make sense,” he explained.

Mark Furukawa, owner of Dr. Disc, told CBC News he will wait a few more weeks before reopening. (Evan Aagaard/CBC)

The Ontario government allowed some businesses to reopen on Tuesday in an effort to slowly loosen COVID-19 restrictions.

Businesses have been starved of income with many closing during the pandemic. 

Some entrepreneurs are thrilled to try and regain momentum in their stores, while others still feel it’s too soon. And customers still seem to be cautious about shopping.

The list of reopened businesses includes:

  • Retail services that are not in shopping malls and have separate street-front entrances with measures in place that can enable physical distancing, such as limiting the number of customers in the store at any one time and booking appointments beforehand or on the spot.
  • Seasonal businesses and recreational activities for individual or single competitors, including training and sport competitions conducted by a recognized national or provincial sport organization. This includes indoor and outdoor non-team sport competitions that can be played while maintaining physical distancing and without spectators, such as tennis, track and field and horse racing.
  • Animal services, specifically pet care services, such as grooming and training, and regular veterinary appointments.
  • Indoor and outdoor household services that can follow public health guidelines, such as housekeepers, cooks, cleaning and maintenance.
  • Lifting essential workplace limits on construction.

Humaa Chohan, owner of Huma Botique, said her store is open but they have yet to see a single customer because no one knows they are open for business. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Humaa Chohan, owner of Huma Botique on Concession Street, said while her clothing store reopened on Tuesday, she didn’t see a single customer.

“No one knows we are open … many stores around are still closed,” she explained.

The manager of Modella Ladieswear on King Street West was eager to turn on the lights and get back in the store.

Stephanie Tomlinson said she missed seeing her co-workers and customers. So far, she has seen her teammates, but not as many buyers.

“We’ve had four people that have specifically stopped at the door, read our notes on the door, looked really intently in the windows and walked away,” Stephanie Tomlinson said.

“I’ve had one customer. I wasn’t expecting this first week to be inundated with lots of people, but I’ve already had a lot of phone calls because we sent an email to all our customers letting them know we were back.”

Troy Thompson, owner of G.W. Thompson Jeweller & Pawnbroker Inc., said business boomed on Tuesday when the province allowed some stores to reopen. (Bobby Hristova/CBC)

Troy Thompson, owner of G.W. Thompson Jeweller & Pawnbroker Inc., said his store has been open the entire time. Still, it struggled, with sales “taking a kicking.”

To his delight, businesses boomed on Tuesday when the store reopened. Some customers had to wait outside the shop on King Street East before entering.

“We wanted to reopen because if we were closed this whole time, bills still carry on … hydro doesn’t go away, you still have to pay,” Thompson said.

With only three to four people in the store, staff greeted them while wearing protective face shields. Thompson said it feels like a “new normal.”

“Even today, you didn’t know what to expect and wanted to make sure everyone is doing things safely.”

As businesses in some provinces reopen, they are taking new steps to promote physical distancing. Health officials say the threat of COVID-19 hasn’t gone away.  3:55

Tomlinson from Modella thinks some people are still too afraid to shop, but thinks business will pick up with time.

“I totally understand that. We’ve determined as a staff we don’t want to live in fear,” she said. 

“It doesn’t matter if we open today or two months from now, we want to be able to show our customers by leadership of the fact we’re here … it’s going to be positive.”

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