Businesses hustle to open
Low case counts and high vaccine rates have prompted the province to initiate the first step of the Roadmap to Reopen ahead of schedule.
As of Friday, retail can open with limits on capacity, and outdoor dining is permitted with up to four people per table, (exceptions for larger households). Step One also allows for outdoor social gatherings and organized public events with up to 10 people, religious services, youth camps, camping, and outdoor venues and attractions, all with restrictions in place.
This means that Creemore businesses and patios will be starting to open this weekend.
BIA president Laurie Severn, of Heirloom 142 and the Lagom stores, said the announcement has taken businesses by surprise.
“We thought we had a few more days but we’re trying very hard to get our stores open for the weekend,” said Severn. “I think everyone’s working really hard to do what they can to open between Friday and certainly by next Tuesday. Most people are very happy to be opening… to start the summer and see their customers again.”
She said, based on the last few weekends, there has been an increase in the numbers of visitors and with the limited capacity, she hopes customers will have a little bit extra patience. For smaller stores, the capacity may be capped at one or two people, depending on their square footage.
In the next week or so people in the downtown will start to see the emergence of a new lavender decor theme.
“We’ve seen a positive trend in agri-tourism in the region over the past few years and we’re seeing success from farms that are attracting visitors who are interested in learning more about farming practices or nature, and just being able to enjoy the outdoors,” said Severn noting the success of events like Dairy Day hosted by Miller’s Dairy, and the growing popularity of lavender farms.
“This year, we are using lavender as our theme because we have noticed a significant number of people visiting Creemore after taking part in the tours at Purple Hills Lavender Farm. So we’re hoping to entice those visitors to extend their stay and come to Creemore’s downtown for shopping and dining.”
She said the goal is to offer an excursion that are socially distanced and outdoors.
“So in lieu of events this year, the BIA decided to dedicate some of its resources to making the downtown beautiful with our lavender theme,” said Severn.
The BIA has drawn on the talent of locals to arrange for planters created by Rural Roots, which contain lavender and a selection of purple flowering plants, and artist Ruth Ann Pearce has created original artwork for materials promoting BIA businesses.
The BIA has also had success with a program that saw 12 new Muskoka chairs sponsored by businesses and individuals. The lavender coloured chairs will display a sponsorship plaque and will be located throughout the downtown, encouraging people to have a seat and stay a while.
Severn said they add to the theme and the beautification but also serve as extra seating for restaurants serving take-out, and people waiting to go into stores.
“We think it’s nice because we’re at limited capacity in stores and on patios, and there’s a lot of take-out dining so people need places to sit around town. We think this will be a very nice feature for the pleasure and comfort of our visitors, and add a pop of colour to the downtown streets,” said Severn.
Cheryl Robertson of Creemore House of Stitches called upon a group of quilters who volunteered to sew bunting for each window at 34 businesses in the business district using the line of lavender fabric she stocks at the store.
In addition, businesses are encouraged to pick-up the theme and incorporate it into their menus, or run with it however they see fit in terms of offerings and decor.
“We are working really hard to make the experience pleasant for residents and visitors this summer so it encourages them to come back, and shop local,” said Severn.
Trina Berlo photo: Ann Huskinson (from left), Marlene Gilmore, Cheryl Robertson, Gail Martens and Dawn Craven (absent) have sewn dozens of strands of bunting in the lavender motif for Creemore BIA shops.