Coping With Covid: Thru The Eyes of a Caledon Bookstore

Written by Patti Foley

As we have navigated this process of living with COVID-19 we have viewed “getting to a new normal” through a palpable mix of fear and relief.

Have you wondered what is life like on the other side of the fence? What does “being open” look like for your realtor? your hairdresser? your bookstore? your dentist? your library? your crucial community services and charities?

Join Just Sayin’ Caledon as we talk to those exact people about what “the new normal” means for them, and how their lives now revolve around preparing to engage with the rest of us. Next in our series is Donna Forster from a long-time favourite Caledon book and toy store Forsters Book Garden

JSC: How has COVID changed daily life at Forster’s Book Garden?

DF: After doing business by curbside service and delivery, we re-opened on May 19 with reduced hours to reduce exposure. The front desk is now sporting a glass shield and we are, of course, wearing face coverings. We are disinfecting the books and shelves regularly and have had to spine all the books (so no displays or covers facing outward). This reduces surface area for the virus to possibly land on, and it makes it easier to maintain our disinfecting schedule. To further ensure our customers’ safety we invested the extra funds for a new bank machine that is capable of “tapping” to reduce the necessity of touching its surface.

JSC: What protocols are in place to protect staff and clients as you slowly re-open?

DF: We have hand sanitizer at the front of the store for everyone’s use and we clean all surfaces regularly. We wear masks or face shields and, as mentioned, have a glass partition across the front desk. Customers are welcome to touch and examine products but we ask that any products they have touched and are not purchasing be left aside so that we can clean them them before putting them back on display. We have not been bringing our family dog Sterling in because the jury is still out as to whether or not petting a dog could leave the virus on his fur to be potentially carried elsewhere. We miss him dearly and he misses all the people he is used to seeing at the store.

JSC: In what ways has COVID impacted the functioning of your business?

DF: We are doing more business via our website than ever before as some people just know what they want, or are content to “browse” virtually. Those who need to touch and feel books and want to enjoy that familiar book store smell before they buy were out of luck before May 19, but now can come in to do so. It just doesn’t look as pretty without the displays, but safety is our priority. Walk-in traffic has reduced as people are not exposing themselves unnecessarily. We are still offering curbside service for people who do not want to come inside, and we can make recommendations by phone if necessary. We communicate with customers via phone, website, email and sometimes Facebook, as well as in-store.

JSC: Has this situation sparked any new ideas/projects?

DF: We are promoting new products on social media more than before. And we are selling made-in-Canada face shields for those who cannot wear masks or like the idea of another layer of protection.

JSC: Do you see some of these new ideas staying with you permanently?

DF: The tapping bank machine will stay. We will continue with our social media campaigns. Maybe the world itself will discover that we can all slow down a little. We hope that people who have now shopped less “out of town” will continue to see the benefits of shopping locally and will continue supporting their local business community.

JSC: Any other challenges or news you would like to share?

DF: The government has helped (if landlords agree to participate) with a rent rebate for landlords whose tenants are experiencing at least a 70% drop in pre-COVID19 revenues. However, that is an issue if your business is down substantially, but not enough to meet the 70% threshold, and you are perhaps having difficulty paying your rent.

Also, we would like to say to our customers that, however you are choosing to business with us right now, we are, as always, very grateful for your patronage.

In order to accommodate those going back to work in Stage 3, we have changed our open hours to TUES TO SAT. 12-5pm. Orders by phone 905-951-1501, email or via our website can be done anytime.

Stay well, everyone!

About the author

Patti Foley

Having spent 25 years in Bolton, Patti remains an advocate for Caledon. As a former Regional Councillor and a long-time community volunteer she is passionate about communicating information about its issues, news, events, people, non-profits and businesses.

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