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New Durham Region business struggling to get through COVID-19 challenges

New Bowmanville hat store impacted by COVID-19
WATCH: While recovery is being looked at across the region – a business owner in Bowmanville is struggling to keep afloat. They opened in February, only weeks before the pandemic hit.

A hat store in Bowmanville, Ont., is one of many across Durham Region struggling to stay in business during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But this particular shop opened just weeks before the pandemic, forcing the owner into a difficult position just as they were getting started.

READ MORE: Durham hotline helps residents amid coronavirus pandemic

“It’s been tough,” says Shane and Marianne James, owners of Little Buck.

“We went through a six-month renovation and we kinda thought that was the nightmare, then we had to shut down.”

The couple opened Little Buck — a hat shop for kids — in February. They’ve given thousands of dollars to the NICU unit at Lakeridge Health and had already established a good online presence.

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But when the pandemic struck, everything changed.

READ MORE: Bowmanville, Ont. family business gives back to NICU at Lakeridge Health

“It was a good February,” Marianne chuckled in an interview with Global News. “Then March kind of hit and that is when our trade shows start.”

The trade shows were canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite having their first brick-and-mortar store, and having been online for the past two years, selling at trade shows was a critical part of their business. They’ve seen major losses with the cancellation of future trade shows.

“You’ve got the booth fees that you’re not getting back, plus the revenue that you planned on or kind of forecasted to make from those shows,” the couple said.

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On top of that, they don’t seem to qualify any government assistance programs, either.

“There’s nowhere we really fit in,” says Marianne, who runs the store on her own.

“We usually take all our revenue and invest it back into the business. We don’t have employees; we don’t have a payroll.”

READ MORE: COVID-19 hits tourism businesses, costing Canadian cities millions in revenue

If you look down the main street of Bowmanville, it’s a similar story there, too.

Mom-and-pop shops are closed, waiting for some kind of good news that they can open back up soon. Clarington, Ont., Mayor Adrian Foster says they are working with businesses.

“We’re barely just starting to speak to business owners now,” Foster said.

“What we need to understand is who the most vulnerable businesses are first, then find out what we can do for them. We’re just in that process.”

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Ontario government releases guidelines for businesses to reopen safely

The James family says that while they think they’ll be okay, after already establishing an online presence, they wonder how comfortable customers will be with going back out when the economy opens back up.

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“What’s going to be the mindset of the consumer coming out of this? Are they going to want to get out because they’ve been cooped up and start flocking? Or are they going to be worried about there being a second wave?”

A thought that is likely going through many owners’ heads as they try to figure out how to get through to the other side.

Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Ottawa working to help businesses ‘hardest hit’ bounce back after COVID-19
Coronavirus outbreak: Trudeau says Ottawa working to help businesses ‘hardest hit’ bounce back after COVID-19