WINDSOR, ONT. -- With public health measures escalating to a lockdown for the second time inside a year in Windsor-Essex to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, businesses are again nervous but, more prepared for what’s to come.

Ahead of the Monday shutdown, businesses like Café Amor and Art on Ottawa Street in Windsor are ready to revert to takeout and curbside pick-up to keep the lights on as Ontario’s ‘Grey-Lockdown’ public health protocol bans indoor and outdoor dining.

"Now that it’s very cold, it’s going to be a bigger challenge," said Amor Hernandez, who owns the coffee shop along with her husband. "We’re nervous and we’re just trying to do our best."

The first-time business owners opened their doors on July 24.

The coffee shop enjoyed outdoor service and more curious passersby during the summer months but, with the new lockdown coming during the wintertime – Hernandez says the coffee shop will be leaning on its neighbourhood regulars and social media to reach more customers.

"It is tough financially," said Hernandez. "On Ottawa Street there are a few new businesses, and we need as much support as we can get."

Hernandez says they expected the lockdown would come with COVID-19 case counts climbing in the region and believes the mom-and-pop shop can be resilient through the next pandemic-induced downturn in business.

While the Ottawa Street newcomer experienced a slowdown in business through the ‘Red-Control’ public health measures, Hernandez hopes government programs become more accessible to help keep the doors open for businesses playing by the rules.

"I heard a lot of positive comments about Ottawa Street, how it was kind of dead before and now it’s reviving, it’s reinventing itself and it’s all because of the new businesses, small businesses like our business," said Hernandez.


Lessons learned

While bars and restaurants as well as cinemas, salons and gaming centres are all being ordered closed, retail stores will be able to remain open with restrictions for in-person shopping.

Capacity is being limited to 50 per cent in addition to mask-wearing and physical-distancing mandates.

For the Canadian Tire store on Walker Road in south Windsor, the second lockdown is expected to be a much smoother experience than the first.

"We are fully set up that we can completely go to an online-only business if we have to," said Rebecca Perrin, the store manager. "We learned so much in the spring that every way that we would run it, it will be better than it was at that point."

One of those changes will be a new admittance policy.

As of Monday, Perrin says a ‘no mask, no entry’ rule will be strictly followed.

"Previous to now there [have] been medical exemptions but, we have decided we will be no mask, no entry," said Perrin. "We are happy to shop for you, we are happy to lead you to our e-commerce site and to do curbside pick-up but, we want everybody in the store to have a mask on so that our staff is safe and the rest of our customers are safe."

Perrin adds more staff is being brought in this weekend as well to manage store capacity as an influx of shoppers are expected, looking to stock up ahead of the lockdown.


Staying optimistic

Some business owners are caught in two minds heading into a new lockdown.

Hernandez is resigned to the measures as a necessary evil to curb the spread of the deadly virus.

"We are glad that we are going into this 'Grey' zone but, at the same time, as a business owner, it’s very, very challenging," said Hernandez. “We have to be more creative.”

Perrin says Canadian Tire changed its Black Friday Day sales strategy to remove 'door crasher' offers to avoid large crowds and instead moved to week-long sales to better spread out the shopping to allow for physical distancing.

Hernandez and her husband will be looking to tweak the menu to better entice takeout orders, including more combo options.

Despite the economic struggles, Hernandez continues to approach the situation glass half full.

"Attitude is all that counts," said Hernandez. "In a really bad situation like this, if you don’t have the best energy, the positive attitude, it’s very had to make it through. I’m positive, absolutely, that we are going to make it."