WINDSOR, ONT. -- Small business owners in the retail sector are pleased to see an end to the province’s stay-at-home order on Feb. 16 and a return to business, even at a limited capacity.

“It’s been a tough year. 2020’s been very, very tough,” says Dan Orman, owner of Freed’s of Windsor.

Even with online and curbside pickup, business has been way down, Orman says.

The adjusted rules come into effect next week, even if the region remains in the 'Grey-Lockdown' zone, according to Ontario Premier Doug Ford.

Getting back open — even with a limited capacity of 25 per cent permitted inside the store, Orman says it will be good for his business and the general public.

“Can’t wait to get started. I’m ready,” he says. “Having been closed since the middle of December has put such a pall not only on our store, but the whole city,” he says. “We need some positive news and this is the first positive news we’ve had in basically over a month.”

It’s a sentiment being echoed by other small retailers across the province — frustrated over the inequity of being largely shut down while big box stores remained open.

“I do think there are ways we can keep everyone open and not just the big boxes, for reasons like people need to make a living and need to put food on the table for their kids and for their families,” says Sylvia Sleiman, the co-owner of Windsor Beauty Supply.

She wants to see all businesses, not just retailers, reopen next Tuesday.

“Everything that is made for mental health, beauty, gyms, food, everything we love that keeps your blood flowing, they cut us off of,” she says.

And that wish may come true.

Windsor-Essex County Health Unit medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says there could be more good news for other businesses looking to re-open.

“Right now, based on our case rates, we are in the red zone, unless things change in the next few days before the provincial announcement,” Dr. Ahmed says.

That means gyms, restaurants, salons and other service providers would also be able to open with limited capacities, as laid out in the provincial reopening framework.

Rakesh Naidu of the Windsor-Essex Regional Chamber of Commerce says the current stay at home order has dealt a crushing blow to small businesses which need to reopen safely — and stay open — to stay afloat.

“We can’t afford to go back into grey. It’s been devastating,” says Naidu. “It’s squarely on our shoulders to ensure that we are keeping the numbers low. It will help everyone in the businesses, everyone in the business community by ensuring that we are taking the utmost precautions and care.”

Dr. Ahmed says the province is likely to make a final decision about which colour zone Windsor-Essex will enter on Friday, ahead of the long weekend.

More information on specific restrictions in the red zone is available here.