There is no doubt that 2020 was a challenging year for Main Street businesses, and the storm is not over yet.
As 2021 begins, and a provincewide lockdown continues, many local businesses in downtown Grimsby are looking at ways to weather the storm over the coming months, and find ways to get back on their feet when restrictions begin to ease.
Chris Mindorff and his wife Laurie Didyk-Mindorff opened Station 1 Coffeehouse seven years ago on Main Street as a way to contribute to the Grimsby community.
Now, Mindorff said, the local coffee house is looking to do what it can to keep its doors open and remain viable as the economic realities of lockdown sink in.
“As a member of the community, you feel like the lockdown is the right thing to do; as a business owner, you think, how are we going to survive? We are operating on less than 10 to 15 per cent of our volume, and we employ 15 people,” he said.
“As we look ahead to the rest of the year, post-lockdown, we are as optimistic as most that maybe by the summer and fall, we will start to feel like things are getting somewhat back to normal.”
In the meantime, Mindorff said businesses like Station 1 will need support from both the community and the town if 2021 is going to end on a stronger note than 2020 did.
“It is not a given that we are going to be strong and vibrant, so we need help.
“The town was great last summer when it came to quick approvals on our patio extensions, so that would be helpful. We are going to see if we can do that again, and make it a little more permanent.”
Along with the Main Street patio extension, a pilot project the town implemented last summer to allow both restaurant and retail businesses the opportunity to set up shop outdoor, Mindorff adds local businesses on Main Street could use some immediate financial relief when it comes to property taxes.
“I would like a concerted effort to see what can be done in the next two months to make sure that local businesses are stronger because there at least half a dozen businesses that have opened and then closed on Main Street.
“We could use some help financially when it comes to property tax relief. Property taxes have gone up fourfold since we started seven years ago, so that is killing us.”
Luca Vitali is the owner of Casa Toscana and said one of the biggest losses for Main Street since the start of the pandemic has been the foot traffic on the street, something he hopes the town can address in 2021 before Main Street undergoes extensive water main work in 2022.
“I would love to see the town flourish, I would love to see Main Street back to normal business. I would like to see the market coming back. These are all things that we are missing.
“We are missing people coming to the market, walking by with their dogs, shopping downtown; we are missing all the downtown events, so we are missing business.”
Vitali said he is a strong proponent of having Main Street closed to traffic during the summer to increase pedestrian traffic, and along with Mindorff, agrees the town should consider allowing extended patios for the 2021 summer.
Vitali also seconds the idea that local businesses will need some financial relief in the meantime to stay afloat and weather the lockdown, adding that property taxes remain a burden for many businesses just hoping to keep the doors open.
“I think the town has to start thinking about finding some property tax relief. I know they will say it is not up to us to lower or defer the taxes, but if there is a will there is a way.
“Hopefully 2021 will be a better year.”
By: Bryan Levesque, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Grimsby-Lincoln News