What to expect when you’re expected to reopen


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Business never quite stopped at Katrina Tessier’s kid-friendly play café, Scout Coffee, even as COVID-19 public health orders limited her café to takeout and delivery only, and left Tessier working seven days a week as the shop’s only employee.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 02/05/2020 (831 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Business never quite stopped at Katrina Tessier’s kid-friendly play café, Scout Coffee, even as COVID-19 public health orders limited her café to takeout and delivery only, and left Tessier working seven days a week as the shop’s only employee.

Now, as Manitoba begins easing back public health restrictions and slowly re-opening the economy this week, she recommends businesses make slow changes, stay patient and find creative ways to meet customer needs.

“The advice I would give is don’t overdo it. Go slow,” Tessier said Saturday. “I feel like people will be understanding. I think it’s better to take it slow and not push too much just because you can.”

Scout Coffee shop owner Katrina Tessier advises other business owners to take things slow upon reopening and not overdo it. (Mike Sudoma / Winnipeg Free Press files)

On Wednesday, Premier Brian Pallister announced Manitoba’s economic re-entry plan, which could see some businesses, including restaurant patios, golf courses, health services and much of the retail sector opening as soon as Monday.

Despite the rush to re-open economically, many health and safety measures — such as crowd limits of 10 people and the two-metre physical distancing bubble — remain intact, posing a potential puzzle for businesses looking to jump at the opportunity to bring in much needed revenue.

For Tessier, staying open despite myriad necessary public-health restrictions has required ingenuity and a “survivor-type mentality,” she said. Over the past several weeks, half her store’s revenue came from a newly stocked website selling puzzles, kites and activity books for her customer base to bring home to their kids.

Jeff Martin, owner of Alter Ego Sports, says businesses should put plans in place and realize that things are going to evolve quickly. (Daniel Crump / Winnipeg Free Press)

“It’s figuring out what your general following might be interested in,” she said. “It’s trying to figure out what do these people need right now; maybe having to adjust your business a little bit or broaden it a little bit doesn’t necessarily hurt right now, and it doesn’t have to be something that you keep forever.”

For Jeff Martin, owner of Winnipeg bike shop Alter Ego, finding ways to meet customer needs through a pandemic has been stressful, and he expects that will be the case for many business owners trying to re-establish themselves in a new normal.

“We’re dealing with kind of our usual spring business, but having to operate with limited staff and limited customers in store,” Martin said Saturday.

Golfers in Manitoba must only have one person in a golf cart at a time, follow social-distancing protocols on the greens and not touch the flagsticks in the holes. (Keith Srakocic / The Associated Press)

Alter Ego saw a spike in business this past month as Winnipeggers stuck at home rediscovered their love of cycling, but restrictions on store capacity meant only four customers could be in-store at a time, and Martin has found himself navigating long lineups of impatient customers and overwhelming online orders.

“For a lot of us, we get to work at seven in the morning and we don’t leave until seven or eight at night,” he said.

Staff at Alter Ego have stocked up on gloves, sanitizer and masks for the city’s gradual re-opening. The bike shop smells like cleaner from the sheer amount of sanitizing that gets done, Martin said. Business has been steady though, and Martin expects many other retailers will soon be in the same boat, facing the reality of Manitobans’ renewed desire to shop.

“It’s going to be really hard because I think there’s pent up demand for all kinds of businesses and services,” he said. “Prepare — put plans in place and realize that things are going to evolve not on a daily basis, but on an hourly basis.”

For Harry Brotchie, president of Lakeland Golf Management Inc. which owns courses in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, the plan is to stagger course openings over the next two weeks to ensure there’s time to work out the kinks.

As vice-president of the National Golf Course Owners Association, he has been in talks with other jurisdictions and government officials to stay as prepared as possible for the summer’s uncertain sporting season.

“As an association we were hoping golf would be considered one of the first to open,” Brotchie said Saturday. “Golf can certainly be perceived as open air with the ability to social distance better than other businesses.”

Brotchie’s five Manitoba courses will open between May 4 and May 15, and he expects to have to make amendments over the course of the next several weeks as each new course opens up.

“It’s a learning experience for everybody. The protocols are changing and we’re just hoping people will respect the requirements the government has put in place,” Brotchie said.

Courses will abide by government regulations — one person per golf cart, social distancing on the greens, reduced capacity on the driving ranges and flagsticks that must stay untouched in the holes — but Brotchie is hopeful the summer season will continue to bring business, and that golfers will be amenable to the new rules.

“Overall it’s progressed as quickly as we ever hoped for. We just hope the first experiment will go well and people will be understanding,” Brotchie said.

At Scout, Tessier said she was able to adjust to the new expectations over time and the days eventually became more and more predictable.

“Take it slow, find that new groove, and don’t worry about it too much,” she recommended. “Just do what you’re comfortable with and people for the most part will understand.”



Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers

Julia-Simone Rutgers is a climate reporter with a focus on environmental issues in Manitoba. Her position is part of a three-year partnership between the Winnipeg Free Press and The Narwhal, funded by the Winnipeg Foundation.


Updated on Monday, May 4, 2020 7:12 AM CDT: Removes reference to museums and libraries

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