An emotional video of a small business owner in Toronto’s Leslieville neighbourhood pleading for her shop and others to reopen amid the coronavirus pandemic is gaining a lot of attention online.
“I just had a full on breakdown because I heard we’re not allowed to reopen in Ontario. Every single person that I talk to feels the same way,” said Yael Malkin in the video, tears streaming down her face.
Malkin opened ‘Brows by Yael Shop’ on Queen Street East nearly two years ago.
She said she is losing around $15,000 a month since the shop, like other businesses in the province, had to close its doors due to COVID-19.
“It’s just desperation and it’s helplessness and hopelessness and you just don’t know when this is going to end,” she said.
Before the pandemic, Malkin and four employed artists, who do microblading, permanent makeup and other high-demand cosmetic services, were booked solid.
The pressure of remaining closed for several months is becoming overwhelming.
“Folks like this have sunk a lot of their savings in, they want to restart, and they’re having such a terrible time, this is not a unique story that we’re hearing,” said Toronto coun. Paula Fletcher.
Fletcher noted she has heard from many business owners in the area who are pleading for rent relief and a freeze on commercial evictions.
“So that’s happened, but the thresholds to be able to take advantage of it are so low you basically can’t have had your business open at all,” said Fletcher, adding, “The provincial and federal governments have not worked well together for Main Street.”
Malkin said since she posted her video online, she has heard from owners of many neighbouring businesses who said they will not be able to afford to reopen.
“I’ve had someone reach out to me and say their business, a family business of 63 years, had to be shut down,” she said.
By baring her soul in the video, which has now been viewed more than 15-thousand times online, she said she hopes she is giving a voice to other small business owners like her.
“I’ve had people from this street, we’re talking blocks apart, tell me that they had to shut down their businesses … if stores like LCBO and stores like dispensaries and stores like Costco … if they are able to make money, why are we sitting quietly? Why are we not able to open our businesses? Of course, within guidelines,” she noted.
Despite the losses, Malkin said she is determined to open her doors, as soon as the province allows her to.
“The effects are going to be so long term and they’re going to be so devastating,” she said. “Open us up. If it can be done in a safe way, if we can follow protocols and everyone is safe that way, then just let’s open up. Let’s get people’s lives back on track.”