Manitoba non-essential stores adapt while COVID-19 surge prompts closures

Brian Tkachyk misses the customers who would walk into his Wall Street antique store out of curiosity.

“That’s the part you miss, that’s the fun part: meeting new people, new, interesting people,” Tkachyk said.

Like thousands of other businesses selling goods deemed non-essential under Manitoba’s latest public health order — put into place midnight Friday as COVID-19 cases surge to record levels in the province — Tkachyk can no longer allow people into his shop, Brian’s Corner Antiques and Thrift.

Instead, he’ll have to rely on online sales.

He said he prepared more for the latest iteration of a lockdown — the spring shutdown was more worrying.

“When the pandemic first broke out it was a little tough because it came from out of nowhere,” he said, noting he took advantage of a provincial gap funding program which has allowed him to breathe easier amid the strict orders that will leave his door shuttered until at least Dec. 11.

Now, he’s going to try to make some sales online — selecting choice items he thinks people might want to buy, then using Kijiji and social media to hawk his wares.

“If you put your mind to it, and put the work into it, you can make up for it quite a bit by online sales, but me, personally, I prefer the walk-in, that’s the way I built the business from the get-go and that’s the way I’d kind of like to keep it,” he said, adding he thinks the holiday season will still be a boon for sales.

“Under the circumstances, I do what I got to do.”

But the Manitoba Chambers of Commerce warns the shutdown is bad news for small retailers at large.

“This is a real challenge for small business, having to move to more of an online platform rather than having the bricks and mortar. The best thing we can do is to get this under control and allow these businesses to open their doors again,” said Chuck Davidson, MCC president and CEO said.

“It’s a lose-lose for everyone in Manitoba right now and it’s a win for the Amazons of the world.”

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