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‘They need us to survive’: Small business owners feel impacts of COVID-19 pandemic

Mugsie Prodor at Red Ribbon on March 13, 2020
Mugsie Prodor at Red Ribbon on March 13, 2020. Morgan Black/Global News

The new coronavirus has triggered a domino effect that’s beginning to impact small businesses.

Co-owner of Filistix, Ariel del Rosario made the decision to close the University of Alberta location following the cancellation of classes on Friday.

READ MORE: University of Calgary moves to ‘remote learning’ after classes cancelled at several Alberta universities Friday

“Just on Friday morning it was a huge drop in traffic, a huge drop in sales. It is a very real issue now that our flagship location is closed. That pays the bills,” del Rosario said. “We’ve been part of the university community since 2011. It’s hard.”

del Rosario said the business took difficult steps to mitigate health and financial risks.

“We’ve decided to layoff our staff, based on assurances from Justin Trudeau that small business employees will have access to employment insurance without delay,” del Rosario said.

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“That gives us some peace of mind that the government will be taking steps to take care of employees.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Trudeau announces economic aid package to help Canadians amid outbreak

The restaurant’s downtown location, currently taking part in Edmonton Downtown Dining Week, is still seeing dinner reservations and a lunch crowd.

“We just received three reservation requests on Friday. I couldn’t ask for anything better. It shows that Edmontonians know restaurants are taking steps to mitigate risks,” del Rosario said. “It’s still early in all of these COVID-19 developments. We will see how it goes. We’re preparing for a busy weekend.”

The situation facing small business owners has led some customers to seek out local shops to help support them during an uncertain time.

“They need [us] to survive. I really want to help them,” explained Rose Gray, who picked up lunch at the downtown Filistix. “I love this place. I really think it’s especially important now to support them.”

Gray said she knows a few people who are putting their dollars towards helping Edmonton shops.

“My friend is buying gift cards from local businesses as well.”

de Rosario said knowing Edmonton customers are spending money to help businesses stay afloat offers some reassurance to an ever-changing situation.

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“The worst-case scenario is that we will no longer be able to operate. I mean, we have to prepare for that. But we are taking steps internally to make sure our staff is being taken care of,” del Rosario said.

“It’s going to be a little bit scary. This is our livelihood.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Edmonton cancellations and postponements due to COVID-19

Edmonton boutique Red Ribbon has offered free shipping for customers to shop from home.

“We are trying to encourage social distancing,” said store manager Mugsie Prodor. “We are working with this challenge. It’s just a bigger challenge than normal.”

Customers are also welcome to shop in-person at the High Street Centre shop.

“We are practicing cleanliness here. More than ever, we have hand-washing, soap, all the stuff for people to wash their hands whenever they want,” Prodor said. “Customers aren’t always sure what they should be doing, so we are also asking people to educate themselves. Every hour it seems like something changes.”

Prodor said receiving shipments of items from overseas has also been a hurdle for the business.

“It’s getting harder to get things from far away.

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“So, we are encouraging people to support those who are right next door to you too. That means your local shop or your neighbour.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: 29 confirmed cases in Alberta; school closures not recommended at this time

del Rosario said he will remain committed to his customers, for as long as the bottom line allows.

“As long as there are people on the streets, in the area, people going to work, we will continue to be open.”